I was feeling good that morning, the sun was shining, I was humming a tune, and my new orange tote bag was just the exact right shade to nod a cheery greeting to the crisp feeling of Fall in the air. We had just got our little mini girl back to our home town hospital from her six week stay at a different hospital an hour and a half away, and I was fairly skipping across the parking lot with happiness to be back “home”. I twirled into the elevator and bounced down the hall looking forward to a few hours of rocking my girl and chatting with the new nurses. One step into the room, one glance at the IV sticking out of the fuzzy little head that hadn’t been there when I left, one glance at the machine with it’s taunting numbers, and my happy feeling slowly drained away and wafted silently out the door. No one needed to tell me I wouldn’t be holding a baby today. Instead, I would spend the morning listening to reports, staring at numbers, anxiously watching the little chest rise and fall, and waiting. Always waiting.
Waiting on God is hardly a fun experience. The longer the wait, the more exasperating the problem becomes. Like a rock in your shoe, an unanswered prayer can just rub and irritate and exasperate until nothing, absolutely nothing, captivates our attention like the problem. By and by, in will troop all of our human reasoning with cupcakes and streamers to help us have a grand style pity party all at God’s expense. If God would just hurry up, life would be so much better. If God cared He would solve this problem for me. If God was fair, I wouldn’t have to deal with this. If God was paying attention, He would have answered this prayer. If God really loved me, He would never have let this happen.
That morning snowballed until I found myself staring at the blinking red zero on the heart monitor, holding my breath as the little person turned a dusky shade of dark grey, and watching a cluster of medical professionals working themselves sweaty to keep my chubby ten pound ball of cuteness alive…just another day at work for them, every second an agony for me. Nothing to do but stay out of the way and chew gum. And wait. Five months. We’ve been at this for five months, and how are we still here?? With screaming monitors and asking the same old question. Will she make it? Or will she not? And she did.
As we round the corner to finishing up our sixth month with no end in sight, I feel compelled to share a few things about our journey. At the very beginning of this, I maintained that God had a plan and we were content to trust Him to work that plan. Back then I did not know anything that was to come. I did not know how it would feel to have a child that I could not care for, who I could not hold without permission, who lived in a world that I could only visit. I did not know I would come to dread driving to the hospital, again. I did not know that watching such a tiny little person fight so hard would break my heart. I did not know that I would start to measure time as “days since her last episode” or “days since we started this treatment”. I did not know that the sight of a perfectly healthy baby with no wires or monitors attached to them would stop me in my tracks with awe at how beautiful health is…that I would want to tell that mother not to take her priceless gift for granted. Like I had done. I did not know that watching a baby’s soundless cry is infinitely worse than hearing one wail for hours on end. It was simple to say I was trusting God back when I still shopped for baby clothes based on cuteness rather than how well they would work with IV tubes, blood pressure cuffs, g-tubes, and trach collars.
So, has God disappointed me? Have I lost my faith in Him? Do I think He has made a mistake? A hundred times, no! I hope you will believe me when I say it is easier to trust God now than it was back then…because now I have a much better taste of just how limited, how small, how helpless we little humans are. Trust in medical expertise, and you are sure to find its limit well before you thought possible. Trust in a person, and you will find failure. Trust in yourself, and you will find weakness. Trust in God, and you will find no end. No end to His wisdom, no end of His strength, no point of weakness, no faults, no failures, no desertion, no disappointment, no limits.
Faith is a tough boat to float, because it takes every ounce of control out of our hands. Faith doesn’t always look like a well dressed smile in a church pew. Faith doesn’t always look like a prayer answered the way we want. Sometimes faith is down right messy and ugly. Sometimes faith looks like tears, questions, and long waits for answers from a silent Heaven. Sometimes faith is simply standing still, the act of not quitting on what you know to be right. Sometimes faith is a trembling step forward in a blinding darkness. Faith is not our ability to be strong, it is our ability to be weak. To rest completely in the steady strength of a loving God. To say I can’t, but God can.
In hard times, we can choose faith, or we can choose to blame God. At some point we all will get that choice. Before I choose blame, I must be sure to check the evidence. Unfortunately, pain, death, and problems started with Adam and Eve’s choice in the very beginning, and they are here to stay. God did not choose for us to have problems, but, in His loving kindness, He prepares us with all the tools we need to face those problems. In this instance, our little family was prepared in every way possible for the event of having a premature baby well before the event happened. Every detail from medical insurance, to our house location, to the people He has placed in our lives, was perfectly and precisely ordered. And so, I cannot, not ever, accuse God of not paying attention. The evidence is overwhelmingly the opposite.
God has never stopped loving me, listening to me, or caring for my needs even when He is not taking my problem away. It would be a mistake to forget every kindness God has ever shown me, simply because I have encountered something I do not like. I cannot ignore my two completely healthy children to be angry about my sick one. For every trial I encounter, God has given a thousand other blessings that more than prove His love for me. Who can say that God does not care in the face of daily, hourly, proof that He does?
I wish I knew what the end of our story would be, but I do not. What I do know, is that God is everything He promises to be no matter how many things go wrong. I do know that no crises is a waste. How would we ever know what is to trust, if it were not for being without answers? How would we ever learn His strength if we never knew the end of ours? There is value in trials, there is “a table for me in the presence of mine enemies” (Ps 23:5) if I choose to see it. A trial merely means it is time to pull a chair up to the table, it is time rest a little on God’s strength, it is time to learn something off the menu of God’s goodness, it is time to fill up an aching heart on God’s love.
“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”;
You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time;
He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine.”
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.