Time to preach to myself, and maybe you want to come along?
Today ten-year-old Paul, three days into a cold, spiked a 103.2 fever. He did not take it like a trooper; he cried out wretchedly that he was dying, and that he'd never felt this terrible before. Surely, he surmised, I've contracted some terrible, fatal disease, to feel this poorly (too many missionary books this year, maybe?).
I've had experiences taking wretchedly sick children to the ER, only to have them perk up from pain relievers on the way to the hospital. So I debated what to do, but honestly, I was puzzled by that fever three days into a cold.
Beth, who is on an immunosuppressant drug, was the first to come down with this "cold", after a visit to the dentist last week. Even she didn't experience this level of discomfort; she had no fever at all.
So, yes, I was puzzled. I knew it was too late for flu, and that he didn't have a history of ear infection, and that the cough was more asthma-sounding than bronchitis-sounding. Maybe pneumonia? But what are the odds of that?
I debated back and forth and ending up taking him to the ER at 5:00 PM, after the fever was not brought down by ibuprofen. I added Tylenol before leaving, so by the time we arrived, the fever was lower grade. They found no secondary infections. The doctor concluded Paul's "suffering from some virus".. (Oh...you think so, Doc?).
New viruses come into the country all the time, he said.
So anyway...it was a gruelling parenting day, with emotions running high. Peter's OCD has been horrific, my Mary's fear of thunder and tornadoes has been very trying, what with our horribly dark and stormy weather the last three days.
Beth's arthritic ankle is very swollen, while both her arthritic knees look fairly good. Is the disease attacking the ankle with a new vengeance, or is this an auto-immune reaction to a virus?
Seriously, I felt like I didn't have a single normal child. They all have their issues and all of the issues stretch me. And I'm such a nervous person. Why would God choose me to mother children who obviously need a more emotionally-sturdy mother...one whose body doesn't respond to stress with migraines, and all-over body tension, and a faraway look in her eye?
Mary is eating less and just wants to sit with a blanket around her (sometimes completely over her) every time the skies look dark and stormy, and this is the third year of these behaviors. What can I do about such fear? I pray, I soothe, I cuddle, I coach. Nothing changes. She hid herself in her room because I mentioned taking Paul to the ER, and she didn't want a long van ride under stormy skies.
And my Peter, who has so much potential, so much energy, so much intelligence and passion, and yet on many days his OCD is so debilitating I don't know how he'll ever meet a grown-up goal. And the things that go through his mind are tragic. He's truly suffering and I don't know how to stop it.
I arrived at the ER after a 30-minute drive, most of it spent contemplating my children's issues. I felt so tense, so spent, hating my own weakness. I'm strong, but not strong enough. I persevere, but not without pain and doubt.
Tonight before writing this, I read this blog. And periodically, this blog is updated. Both women adopted children with special needs. With one child, the Reactive Attachment Disorder is so serious that even after a couple years, their new daughter can't experience love or bonding, and she's manipulative, conniving and volatile.
The other couple adopted many special-needs children, one of whom spent 15 years of her life in a crib at a horrible orphanage. She will never grow beyond the size of a six-year-old child, due to her diseased, neglected, malnourished, contracted bones. She had the physical skills of a three-month-old baby upon adoption.
So...what exactly am I lamenting about? Where is my strength? Where is my faith some days? Why am I considering myself and how hard it is for me?
I don't make these lifestyle contrasts to help myself feel more grateful, for gratitude shouldn't come through comparison, but from our awe at the New Covenant we have in Christ. I don't need thankfulness that's rooted in "at least I have it easier than they do."
It's the strength I'm thinking about here. I want more of it. More strength, more self-control, more long-suffering tendencies. I want to be able to assure the Lord, "Go ahead and make it as scary and as difficult as you want. Hold nothing back."
How do we get there? How did the adoptive families get there? How do they take on the responsibility of so many special-needs children...children who will exhaust them emotionally, physically, and financially, until the end of their lives? They will never be done. The children will never move out. Yes, the rewards will be glorious along the way--the Lord always writes glory into the story and it is beautiful--but that doesn't make the daily journey less gut-wrenching.
The difference between those parents and me? What is it?
They've learned to act in obedience and love without regard to the outcome.
Outcome is not their territory, but God's.
Tomorrow doesn't belong to them, but to God.
These children don't belong to them, but to God.
Success is not defined by them, but by God.
The strength doesn't come from them, but from God.
The love doesn't come from them, but from God.
The joy doesn't come from them, but from God.
The financial means don't come from them, but from God.
How can they do it?
By taking themselves out of the equation and putting God at the helm.
By losing their life to save it.
By decreasing so He can increase.
By living as a slave, bought and paid for Jesus Christ himself. No longer a slave to sin, but to Christ.
It's so simple, and yet without saying yes to very difficult things, we never get there.
The meaning in our earthly lives stems from the answer to these questions: What is the Christian destined for? Why did God save us?
Charles Spurgeon teaches:
He saves us for “His name’s sake.” What does that mean? I think it means this: the name of God is His Person, His attributes, and His Nature. For His Nature’s sake, for His very attributes’ sake, He saved men and, perhaps, we may also include this—“My name is in Him”—that is, in Christ. He saves us for the sake of Christ, who is the name of God. And what does that mean? I think it means this: He saved them, first, that He might manifest His Nature. God is love, and He wanted to manifest it. He showed it when He made the sun, the moon, and the stars and scattered flowers over the green and laughing earth. He showed His love when He made the air balmy to the body and the sunshine cheering to the eye. He gives us warmth even in winter, by the clothing and by the fuel which He has stored in the heart of the earth, but He wanted to reveal Himself still more.
He wanted to manifest His nature? And His nature is love? He wanted to reveal Himself?
God's will is to remove our own natures and replace them with His, so that as we become reflections of Christ, God is glorified through us. It is only in having our own natures removed, then, that we can fulfill our purpose. So the next question is...at what point are we willing to give up our own natures? At what point are we ready to surrender fully to Christ?
When the suffering is so great, that we simply cannot bear it any longer. We are ready then.
That's why I don't have easy children. That's why some things don't improve. That's why I'm poorly equipped for the task before me. That's why the happiness is fleeting, but the joy is deep.