By now some of you have received my October newsletter which featured an excerpt from my colleague and co-writer Paul Batura’s new book, “Chosen for Greatness: How Adoption Changes the World.” In his warm conversational style, Paul, an adoptive father himself, tells the fascinating stories of sixteen well-known adoptees.
Included in the book are such familiar names as Apple founder Steve Jobs, First Lady Nancy Reagan, the inventor and botanist George Washington Carver and President Gerald Ford.
But the profile I chose to share in this month’s newsletter featured the adoption story of former Olympic skater and 1984 gold-medalist Scott Hamilton. In addition to their two biological kids, he and his wife, Tracie, have also adopted two children.
Scott’s story is an inspirational tale of how, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, an undersized boy from Toledo could grow up to achieve incredible success both on and off the ice.
Well, Scott is back in the news this week, but unfortunately, the news is not good. For today’s post, given his familiarity with the subject, I asked Paul to reflect and offer some thoughts on Scott’s diagnosis. Like the moral of all the stories in his book, Paul concludes that we can learn something profound from the life and times of Scott Hamilton:
For the third time in his life, the 58-year-old husband and father of four has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Having previously battled testicular cancer in 1997 and brain tumors in 2004 and 2010, the former skater has a wry sense of humor about it all.
“I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness,” he told People Magazine. “It’s six years later, and it decided that it wanted an encore.”
But Scott’s response to this latest medical setback isn’t borne of a glib comedic temperament. Instead, it’s rooted in his deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, considering the way Scott has managed the various tribulations that have beset him, I think there are five things he can teach us about the unpredictable twists and turns of life:
1. Adversity is often opportunity in disguise.
When Scott was a toddler, his parents became alarmed when he failed to grow at a normal rate. He saw numerous specialists and experimented with various diets, to no avail. It wasn’t until after he retired from skating that he learned his growth had been stunted by a benign tumor on his pituitary gland. He would later posit that had he grown to a normal size, he never would have succeeded as a professional skater.
The Lord often uses our infirmities for His larger purposes. Rather than only lamenting our lot, it is good to ask how He might want us to use our weaknesses to glorify Him.
2. Hardship changes us – it never keeps us the same.
It was during one of Scott’s hospitalizations that he encountered a nurse who challenged him to speak with God like a son to his father. This spiritual insight was transformational in Scott’s life and provided him with the strength to carry on.
The great challenge is to not grow bitter or compare ourselves to someone else when troubles come. Like exercise is to a muscle, so are trials to the believer.
3. Every day is a gift.
You see life differently when faced with the very real prospect of premature death. Scott has learned to not take any time for granted. “God doesn’t owe me a day,” he told his wife, Tracie.
Do you wake up and see the time before you as a blessing or a burden? Life is brief. “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow,” wrote James. “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (4:14).
4. We can’t choose our condition, but we can choose our attitude.
After receiving the difficult diagnosis earlier this year, Scott told his wife, “I choose to truly — in everything that we do — celebrate life.” He would later say, “The only true disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Isn’t that a remarkable and faith-filled response to difficulty? “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice,” wrote the apostle Paul. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
5. All is well.
Not every story this side of eternity has a happy ending. And according to Scott, while sad, that’s ultimately okay. “I’m good,” he said. “Whatever’s next is next.” To be sure, the former skater is not employing a cavalier, apathetic approach to reality. Nor is he dismissing the difficulties of illness. Instead, he’s affirming his confidence in His Heavenly father’s unfailing love.
“God is there to guide you through the tough spots,” reflected Scott. “Every time I’ve gotten knocked down, I’ve been able to get up. Skating teaches you how to get up, because you fall down a lot. I would urge anyone to weather the storm, because on the other side of it will be something great.”
One man. Three brain tumors. Five profound lessons. Thank you and God be with you, Scott Hamilton.
Thank you, Paul, and please join me in praying for Scott and his family as they navigate this latest health challenge.
Can you resonate with Scott’s approach to his illness? Have you been forced to walk the long and often scary road of deep physical, mental or emotional challenge? I would like to hear your story. How have you coped? Your response will likely minister to others.