Lessons From The Cleft

I mentioned in my last post that our third child was born with a unilateral cleft palate and a unilateral cleft lip nearly 13 years ago. We were church planters in Montana at the time. Our son’s birth with the defect was a tremendous surprise, may I even say a shock, since ultrasounds had not indicated any problems.

My wife and newborn had to stay in the hospital for a few days longer than is usual for a new mother and baby because of the baby’s eating issues. Cleft palate and lip babies have difficulty nursing and the doctors wanted to monitor his food intake and weight.

During those first days I asked the Lord many questions about why our son had been born with the defect. Our first two children had been born completely developed. Was this judgment on my sins, my wife’s? Did environmental factors have anything to do with it?

One morning I was driving to the hospital to see my wife and new son. Again, I was asking the Lord, “Why was he born with a defect?” Then, the LORD answered me. In my spirit, yet as if  I was hearing audible words, He asked me, “Do you remember the blind man in John 9 that the disciples of Jesus brought to Him for healing? Their question was, ‘Because of whose sins was this man born blind? His parents or his?’ What was His answer to them? He said, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ ”

The LORD said to me, “Nathan’s birth with the defect may have been a surprise to you, but it was not to me. I created Nathan this way and I gave him to you with the cleft for a reason. Accept My will, trust Me, rest in Me, and let Me receive the glory.” The relief and confidence and sense of anticipation regarding His will and activity that flooded my spirit was overwhelming. The weight of question and worry disappeared. It was if the Bitterroot Peak in my rear-view mirror vanished. It was powerful!

The LORD has displayed His works and glory in our son in many ways since that day in July 1996.

We returned to Texas when Nathan was six weeks old to receive medical and surgical care from a cranio-facial reconstruction specialist and his team in Dallas. When we moved back to Texas all we knew of the doctor was his name, address, telephone number, and date of our first visit. Today, I can share with you that in God’s sovereignty our son was referred to, and has been cared for, by one of the world’s foremost cranio-facial reconstruction surgeons! The specialist is Kenneth Salyer (retired December 2006). We are now under the care of the physician who was Dr. Salyer’s associate.

Our son has had a total of five surgeries, several orthopedic appliances (mouth pieces), and several sets of ear tubes. We are, even now, preparing for another set of tubes. We will have one or two more reconstructive surgeries before he is man.

Over the years the Lord has given us the opportunity to minister to and pray with other families, at the hospital, Ronald McDonald’s House, and in our community, who had and have children who were born with defects and health issues. A father from Tupelo, Mississippi cried in my arms over the condition of his daughter. My wife has ministered to international student wives who have given birth to cleft palate and cleft lip babies. Through it all we have been able, by God’s grace and in His Spirit, to comfort others with the same comfort with which God has comforted us (II Corinthians 1:4).

Our son’s birth with a cleft palate and cleft lip was a shock to us. It caused us a great deal of concern and sadness when we thought about the surgeries and discomfort that he would have to go through, both physically and emotionally. But, it has taught us much about the Lord’s sovereignty and greatness and the mystery of His will and thoughts which are said in Scripture to be very deep. We know more today than ever the truth that He works all things together for His glory and the good of those are His and called according to His purposes.


“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28


Learn more about Dr. Kenneth Salyer and his medical practice by visiting the website of International Cranial Institute in Dallas. You can read about Salyer under the “Meet the Surgeons” heading.

Also read an article here about Egyptian twins who were born joined at the top of their skulls and separated by Dr. Salyer and his team during a 33 hour surgery.





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2 Comments on “Lessons From The Cleft”

  1. Teresa Says:

    Thank you for your words of hope and encouragement. Our third child was born with a cleft lip and palate and our first two were not. It has been quite a journey for us. He has just had his first lip surgery. I am in awe of how God has carried us through this. But I am so thankful for your words. They are exactly what we have and are going through. Thank you for writing this and for helping me feel less alone. God is good. He is so good.

  2. tangiblethoughts Says:


    My wife and I will be praying that all of your son’s surgeries and corrective procedures will be successful, and that through it all, you and your family will know and experience the Lord’s peace, comfort and grace.

    God can, and will, use the medical-surgical issues that our families are going through to teach us much about His sovereignty, grace and provision.

    I especially pray that your son and mine will both know the Lord much more intimately because of what they are going through. And that they will be stronger Christ-followers and bolder witnesses for Him as a result of the Lord’s activity and care in their lives.

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