The Journey, Sixth Overlook: 11,680 days

“It was not thirty-two years,” he said. “I just asked myself, ‘Can I feed Oliver today?’ And the answer was always, ‘Yes I can’ ” (POTP, p. 13)

For roughly 11,680 days, Oliver’s parents fed him 35,040 meals. Love keeps no record of wrongs.

You’ve heard the clichés, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Or, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Leadership seminars are loaded with breakout sessions about tackling long, grueling projects and maintaining enthusiasm. We know what Oliver’s parents went through… or do we?

After 26.2 miles, the marathon is over, allegedly accompanied by grand sense of accomplishment. If you are masochistic enough, you can attempt to run, swim, and bike 140.6 miles to complete the Ironman triathlon. After 8 – 17 hours of nonsense you get that same euphoric sense of accomplishment, and more than two weeks of recovery time. In 1998, Japanese engineers decided to build a bridge. 12,828 feet and 10 years later, the Akashi Kaikyo was finished. 10 years of toil, but what incredible pride those guy’s must feel in casual party conversations.

But what if the journey didn’t end with a great sense of fulfillment? What if today might be the last day of your struggle… or the first of 20,000? A read a question, apparently attributed to Martin Luther, that gives me pause.

If God told you the world would end tomorrow, but told you to plant a tree today; would you do it?

Toil without reward. 26.2 miles with no finish line. 12, 828 feet to the middle of nowhere. This is the life for many caregivers in the world today. My heart’s burdened for the parents of kids who, because of Autism, might never be able to reciprocate the relationship. What must Oliver’s dad have felt on day number 9,240 after “getting nowhere” for the previous 9,239? This kind of love is counter cultural. It’s uncommon. It tells us something.

Peter Singer tells us something too. The New Yorker called him “the most influential philosopher alive.” He’s a philosophy professor at Princeton University and he obviously never met Oliver’s parents.

In his book, If God is Good, Randy Alcorn shared some of Singer’s thoughts.

We shouldn’t declare children alive until twenty-eight days after birth, allowing parents time to decide whether they wish to dispose of their children without legal consequences. (1)

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would… be right to kill him. (2)

Had Oliver or Caedmon been born in Singer’s hospital; they wouldn’t have made it 28 days.

The atheist and/or the evolutionist have no explanation for the De Vinck’s response to Oliver. They have no answer for Le Arche and Henri Nouwen’s experience with Adam. They have no better answer to the question of why my friend, Kevin, does the work he does at Rose Haven then they do for the question of life’s origin.

The skeptic often asks, “If God really exists, then why is there so much suffering in the world?” The reality of suffering disproves the existence of God, in their minds. But I believe they are asking the wrong question. Assuming their conclusion is accurate, that there is no God, suffering is to be expected. A lame gazelle in Africa is just lunch; an errant traveler, in cannibal country, is as well. The strong would be right to inflict suffering on the weak. Rape wouldn’t be criminal, it would be efficient procreation.

Christianity offers answers to the question of suffering, but let the skeptic answer this, “If God doesn’t exist, then why is there so much good in the world?”

Why did Oliver’s father get up every day and care for him? Why put his family through such meaningless unhappiness for 32 years? Why not just let him die?

Why would Dick Hoyt complete Ironman triathlon’s while pushing, pulling, and dragging his son Rick, who has severe Cerebral Palsy. It’s nonsensical. If Rick were a wildebeest, Rick would’ve been breakfast for a cheetah cub long ago.

Why would fireman die for total strangers? Why would the strong give their lives for the weak?

I’ll tell you why, God exists. You may not know Him, but listen carefully, goodness is singing His song. The 11,680 days that Oliver’s parents cared for him were notes in a symphony to God’s existence, but it’s not the original recording.

Tomorrow, Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. A couple thousand years ago, the strongest of the strong lived, and eventually gave, His life for the weak. He too spent about 11,680 days offering love to people who didn’t reciprocate. His service was rewarded with one of the most brutal forms of death-by-torture that our species ever conceived. Those who followed him sat in stunned silence, believing they just built a bridge to nowhere.

Why would He do that? Why walk around for 33 years teaching and telling people He’s God, only to be put to death like a common criminal? Where’s the ticker tape? Where’s the adoring crowd?

The book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, provides the answer.

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For the joy set before Him? Umm… He died on the cross, there’s no breath before Him, much less joy. What was He looking forward to? Did he just plant a tree, 24 hours before His world would end? Actually, yes He did.

The Bible tells us, three days after He was crucified, Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected. He came back from the dead. He breathed oxygen again. A dead man was literally walking. All those years of claiming to be God and explaining He was the Messiah were confirmed. He was Jesus, the Christ. The Savior.

God’s promise of life after death and Jesus resurrection from the dead is the answer for why there is good in the world. There’s a joy set before us.

I didn’t choose to be a hyper-loving person. I was given a son and was overwhelmed. The moment I met each of my four sons I felt the same sense of unfamiliar, yet seemingly ever-present, love for them.

It didn’t matter what they looked like, they were a bit alien.
It didn’t matter how smart they were, they were totally clueless.
It didn’t matter how dependant they were, they were absolutely needy.

There was something wired into me that began pulsating the moment their tiny little lungs filled with Oxygen. Give them 28 days, or 28 years, and you couldn’t make me stop loving them. On second thought, I guess I did have a choice. I could have counted the cost and abandoned them. I trend towards selfishness, why would I choose to give my life to these ungrateful infants? Because God loved me first. He wrote the song I hum. He penned the chorus that’s so familiar. I’m not love personified, I’m love plagiarized.

Did you ever want to be chosen? Have you ever desired to be loved the way Oliver was? Have you ever wished someone would embrace you, with full knowledge of your scars? Have you longed to be accepted, without conditions? Have you ever believed that your life was a wreck, and hoped that someone would pull you from the wreckage, and just hold you?

This is the love that God has offered. This is the relationship that He desires with you. He died to prove his intentions and was resurrected to prove He could make good on His promise. You were worth dying for.

The truth is, we’re all Oliver. We’re all totally dependant. We’re all broken. We all want to be loved.

The love displayed by Oliver’s father is telling us something. It’s telling us God exists and He loves us. It’s telling us there’s purpose in suffering and value in life. It’s telling us there’s a joy set before us. It’s telling us about a God who loved the world so much, that He gave His Son to be brutalized and killed, so that anyone who would believe in Jesus could live eternally with Him.

What will you do with this irrational, counter-cultural love that God is offering to you?

I hope you will let Him love you. I hope you will live.

(1) Peter Singer, Rethinking Life and Death (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996), 217.
(2) Peter Singer, “Taking Life: Humans,”, excerpted from Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (NewYork: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 186.


  1. “Rethinking Life and Death” (Singer) was one of the books we just read at IMPACT 360… very interesting. Thanks for the thoughts!

    1. The more I learn, the more I’m glad you are participating in 360. You are getting such wonderful and relevant training. Gold Stars for Jim and Rebecca 🙂

  2. Ryan, you on spot on with your post. Just yesterday I was blogging with people about some new way that science has explained God. Needless to say it was a man-made analogy. The talk was the difference in “faith” compared to the science of “proof.” It always takes me back to the film “Contact” Jodi Foster played in. She is a scientist of astrology and she finds a sound out in space which they conclude is from another world. Matthew McConaughey plays the President’s religious advisor who falls in love with Jodi Foster. They have totally different views of our purpose and existence on earth. In one scene, Foster is arguing against the scientific realism of “faith.” Matthew McConaughey proves his point that she in fact believes in “faith” because he asks her to prove her love for her long deceased father. In that one instance she realizes that she can’t “prove” her love for her father to him. She can only tell of how she felt about him. She then realizes it is the will of the one she tells that they must have “faith” in what she says.

    This may not be a great way to explain faith, but for me, it gave such realism to an age old question. We all have a belief or “faith” in something, one way or another. My point, and one you so well explain in your post, is I may not be able to prove God exists, but because of the goodness He instills in us with the sacrifices He has made for my soul and the souls of all who believe causes me to know (through faith) that God does exist and therefore he is as real to me as though I have seen Him face to face.

    Your post about how Oliver’s parents cared for him have made me feel even more thankful for what God has given to me. Not my “normalcy’s,” but being able to see more clearly that we all want to be loved, have the need and desire for it. This is true of any person whether that person has Down’s syndrome, CP, or someone like me that is dealing with their own inefficiencies. I am not perfect. Even though I have sight, I am blind at times to what a wonderful world God has given me to live, love and exist. Oh God, may I learn more each day how to accept my inefficiencies and work to teach others the gifts you give all of us everyday. Oh Lord, may you show me how not to waste them, but devour them like a quench of a dying thirst. Please pardon me as I might not always know the right way to say what I am thinking in these posts, but I know I’m glad God gave me more than 28 days in which to figure it out.

    1. “Even though I have sight, I am blind at times to what a wonderful world God has given me to live, love and exist.”

      This reminds me of Jesus crituque of the pharisees at the end of the ninth cha[ter of John. It also speaks to the heart of this blog. We can be totally blinded by our own glory that we fail to accurately see the world around us. We overlook the bad, undervalue the good, and reject those who are different than us. Blindness indeed.

      Thanks for chiming in 🙂

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