In my book Growing Room, I tell the story of Atlas, this grandson of mine. He’s fought hard since the beginning to take hold of life. Doctors informed his parents that this smattering of hCG would not be a viable pregnancy and there was only a 5 % chance of carrying it through the weekend, let alone to carry the fetus (if there was one) to full term. Calls commenced and prayers ascended for this unnamed, unseen, undetected life. At this point, this baby’s existence was like an imaginary number in math. We prayed through the weekend, through a long Saturday and an even longer Sunday.
Monday morning came, and my daughter entered the doctor’s office with reluctance and hesitation and most likely a tinge of fear. 5% is a daunting number because on the other side is the weight of 95% stacked against a hopeful outcome. We waited, our breaths caught at the entrance of our lungs, holding in a stillness of both anxiousness and eagerness.
As I held my youngest grandson a few weeks ago and last night all these memories pushed right up to the top of me, and they gently exploded, burst right open. I was overwhelmed and overcome. I gazed down at his sweet face so slack and round in his sleep.
I held the weight of 5% in my arms. I could feel the substance of Atlas, not only did I feel the impressive pounds of him but in his drowsy state he turned his head over on my chest and mumbled “Noni”—my name garbled from his sweet cheek pressed against my breast and the push of sleep.
The weight of 5% slept on me.
This powerful little personality, a barrel of a boy, whirlwind of never-walk-only-run, mischievous and stubborn and charming son of my daughter broke my heart cleanly into—opened it right up, so all the softness inside was exposed. There I sat, my arms wrapped around the weight of 5%.
Many would say that the pregnancy just hadn’t taken hold or it was too early to detect. No, the pregnancy was tested and confirmed. But numbers began to drop, to not multiply.
But God (one of my favorite phrases in Scripture).
He takes the human (educated, trained, experienced) projections and statistics of a less than slim percentage (the imaginary numbers) and creates certainties. Our God works with the less-than-good odds, the probably-not-going-to-happens, the slim-chance-in-hells and in his hands they become realities.
We often ask why God is not doing or does not act as he did in the Bible. Why don't we see such miracles? In that moment of holding Atlas, my arms wrapped around him, I knew I held a work, an against-the-odds act of God. An act akin to the reduction of Gideon’s army, David with Goliath, and an unlikely group of apostle men. Our God is not daunted by the 95%. No, he takes the 5% and multiplies it, increases it and grows it exponentially.
He always does more with less.
I held the exponential in my arms. I pressed my lips against the roundness of Atlas’ head; my body curved around him, my middle bowed to accept and contain his weight. I could feel the pattern of his breathing, slowed and even—inhale and exhale. I paced my breathing to his.
I was holding the 5% of God.
The answered prayers of so many. Encompassed in my arms was not only an answer but a compressed body of life, an abundant life. As I held him, my eyes closed. In the silence and screen of my mind, I could see his full-face grin, broad gap-tooth smile. I could hear his voice, words spoken unexpectedly in one so young. I curved my hand around his sweet head. I pulled him even closer. In his sleep he did not resist; I rejoiced. I lifted my other hand upward, lifted my arm toward Him. A silent praise. A wordless thanksgiving.
5% in the hands of God.
Give him your odds, give him your less-than-hopefuls. Give God that in which your faith falters. Give God the smallest of offerings. Give him the inviabilities, the unseens, and the unheards. Give him the impossibilities.
There’s a part of me that hesitates to write or suggest such—that God takes care of all the impossibilities and long-shots. Sometimes he doesn’t. For whatever reason, we do not see or experience the outcome we desire or expect. But those times do not negate the situations in which he does move and act. We cannot stop declaring HE DOES just because sometimes he doesn’t--or just because we are not aware of his movement or interventions.
In holding my Atlas-grandson, all the 5% chances become viable. And I understood through my grandson that God has the power to multiply by exponentials. And that power, according to his word through Paul to theEphesians, is at work in me.
Rarely do I embrace this power like Atlas. Atlas knows nothing yet of his questioned life. He knows nothing yet of the fight waged against and for him, and he knows nothing yet of the obstacles (a malformed kidney too) stacked against his little life. No, he just lives. This little boy grabs life with both hands—extracting from every link of DNA hope, laughter, and strong-will.
Atlas Jensen can mean either “strength of the grace of God” or “he carries the grace of God.” Either way, my Atlas-grandson is a testimony—a witness to the grace, the unfaltering and unfailing grace of God.
I held him in my arms, pulled him closer right into the depths of me. In my arms, I held a package of God’s grace. I breathed deeply. And my breaths, the vapors of them, were wordless paragraphs of thanksgiving and praise.