The house is quiet. Oh, glorious quiet. The first hints of light are streaking across the sky, the earliest birds beginning their song. Bleary-eyed, I try to gather my wits, my scattered thoughts. I try to focus my mind on the words I’m reading instead of letting them run in and out of my brain like a stream of water while I keep fretting over the days’ concerns.
I hear the faint creak of their door open, the hushed padding of feet over the floor. She always runs when she turns the corner and sees me in that chair, sucking her fingers, hair wild in every direction. Warm legs as soft as silk, long and scrawny, slide under the blanket next to mine. We sit there like that for a long time, me reading quietly (or aloud if she asks) and sipping coffee slow, her sucking fingers and cozied up, skin warming skin.
It’s one of my favorite times of the day, I think it is hers, too.
When I held her for the first time 4 1/2 years ago, my heart burst wide open in love. I know I’ve probably always struggled with fear, but a whole new world of fear opened up to me when I held that impossibly tiny, wrinkly warm little bundle. This kind of love–it’s painful. To love this much is be wide open to a world of unknown hurts.
We had perplexing growth/feeding issues with her from the start. She always seemed okay, never titled “failure to thrive,” but never really thriving either. Since she was my first, I figured a lot of it was normal. Still, the niggling fear that something could be wrong, that something wasn’t quite right kept nagging me. We pursued every medical option that could have been a possibility, never finding anything. I would push the feeling down.
In the dark of night, fears would loom heavy. Please don’t allow any harm to come to her, Lord. Please keep her healthy, help her to grow. Please help her to eat, to have an appetite. (It’s funny how in parenting, you have no idea the battles you will face. Never did I expect to pray so much over a child to eat and have an appetite and to grow.) The desperate and anxious prayers of a mother over her child would roll over and over in my mind as I would try to quell them and get back to sleep.
The feeling that something wasn’t right has never really gone away. My second and third born children have not had any similarities to her eating/vomiting/growth issues. Finally, at her 4 year check-up, we pursued some testing again.
It’s been a little over two weeks since we received her diagnosis: Celiacs disease. Finally it all makes sense. Relief flooded in at the same time as a whole new level of fear. I hung up the phone after receiving the phone call and my fingers flipped through pages desperate:
Sure, in our day, we hear a lot about Celiacs, and the gluten-free diet is a current fad diet. But to hear that my “perfect” little girl has an autoimmune disease–it shook me. That trippy weird slow-realization that falls over you that nothing will ever quite be the same again. A new normal will be found, but life as you knew it is over. Part of me wanted to tell myself I was being a big baby. This is awesome news, this is SO MUCH better than it could have been, there is so much to be thankful for. And all of that is true! Still, we are not ever helped when we push down our true feelings and scold ourselves for feeling that way. No, we are to run to the mercy seat with those feelings. We run to our God, who is a refuge for us and who urges us to come and pour out our hearts to Him, cast all our cares on Him, find mercy + grace in our time of need. We let ourselves feel what we are really feeling about this news/trial/difficulty and we tell Him. We pour it out in the safety of His company, the privacy of His all-knowing, already-knowing presence. We let Him get to our hearts, tend to them. If we don’t do this from the beginning, I think we risk hardening our hearts, cutting them off, and that is ripe ground for the seeds of apathy + bitterness to grow.
So when I was honest with myself, I felt betrayed. We had prayed and prayed that God would work in her body, heal her body. We had pursued multiple tests over the years. We had fought the issue when friends + family were all saying to let it go, that she was fine, just quirky.
What do you do when God allows the thing you have plead with Him never to do?
What do you do with that?
A few days after the diagnosis, we were driving in the quiet rain on our way to church. A flood of words came to me, and I scribbled them as fast as I could into my journal:
Sometimes the greatest gift God can give us is the gift of betraying us. The gift of the bad news. The unsettling, scary diagnosis. Because when our faith survives what we thought our souls could never survive–that is a gift worth more than gold.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
We are afraid of deep waters, resistant, and of course we would be. But our God is a perfect parent–our parent who is more about perfecting us than pampering us.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)
He will at various times in our lives lead us through deep waters. How else can He teach us, how else can He allow us to experience His everlasting arms underneath that keep us afloat?
The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
We resist the fiery trial–but it is only in the fire that our faith is really tested, proved, purified. It’s only when we come through the fire that we can know: this ground we stand on is solid. Real. Firm. Unshakeable. The mountains may move and tremble; He remains the same.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3)
We cannot hope to be unaffected by the brokenness of this world. We cannot expect not to suffer as His children the same afflictions and hardships common to man.
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5:45)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
But He will carry us. He will not change. He is good, unfailing.
Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us. Look at Christ: what hand did His Father deal Him? He was perfect, sinless. Yet He had nowhere to lay His head. He obeyed perfectly, was perfectly upright; yet He was despised, rejected by men. The very ones He created, the ones He came to rescue hated + betrayed Him, cried out for His blood. He plead with His Father to deny Him the cross, to take away that cup, but the Father did not. And Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)
Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us. Let’s measure His (immeasurable) love for us in the way He gives Himself to us unfailingly, continually–the way He remains with us. The way He carries us. The way He gives more grace. The way He gives us JESUS–and all the rich inheritance of promises found in Him.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
No matter what comes–our lives are hidden in Christ. Our future is secure. And it strikes me: this is the bi-focus of the Christian faith. What are bifocals? A pair of glasses containing lenses with two parts with different focal lengths. Our focus in the Christian life must always be bi-focal: at once seeing the present and also looking beyond the present, through it really, to the future. Let us look to our eternal future, our future grace and find strength in this moment of need.
“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord.
Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more.