Saturday, July 26, 2008
I have never claimed spiritual perfection, and am so far from it, I wouldn't even know where to start to fix my faults, errors, misunderstandings, disobedience and just plain mistakes. I trust God to handle it, and try to keep my heart open to correction. I am a pretty sarcastic person (though I tend to say those things in "Ranee" as Rich puts it, and tell him about it rather than saying those things to the people who spark the comments), and the best thing I can say in my defense is that I have learned not to be sarcastic toward people, though I still think the thoughts most of the time. However, I can honestly say that I am not bitter about anyone else's good. When someone gets a new job that pays better, a nicer house, a new baby, a windfall of money, whatever luck or blessing that befalls them, I am either happy for them because I know them or indifferent because it doesn't affect me. That's the range of my feelings about it.
I have never been bitter toward someone when s/he experienced good while I was suffering loss. I have never congratulated myself on being kinder/more spiritual and then turned around and thought that it was terrible that this other person I didn't like all that well didn't deserve the good when I was hurting so much. I have grieved with people over huge losses, even when I didn't care for the person who experienced the loss. When I was pregnant with Elijah and other people were carrying healthy babies, it didn't make me upset with them. When my son was in surgery and the NICU, I didn't hate the people who could carry their children home or wish we could change places. I did want to be able to take my son home and not have to deal with a medieval surgery on myself and his isolation and surgery at all, but I didn't need it to be at the expense of anyone else. Not even someone I didn't like.
Frankly, the only person I got upset at and bitter about was God. I figured He could take it. I grew a lot during that time, but it wasn't because I was such a pliable, easy going, happy in all my circumstances, give thanks in all things Christian. It was because I was suffering and grumbling to God and angry at Him and disillusioned and frustrated and sad and miserable and little by little, by God's grace, I saw my way out of it. God taught me much about my weak faith, my ideas of entitlement, my sense of perspective and frankly my smallness in this world. God was so gracious and generous with me, giving me the calmness and strength of mind to deal with each appointment and all the bad news and the approach of major surgery, even while I was growing more impatient and angry that He didn't just zap the tumor away so I'd need no surgery and my son could just come home with us.
I don't think I've written about this before, but as I walked the corridors toward Elijah in his little NICU bed, I would rail at God for the pain I was in physically from my surgery, for the ache in my heart for what my son was going through, for the injustice that my son had to be suffering. Elijah was born on the Monday of Holy Week. We went home Thursday and he stayed for another five days after that. The hallway that seemed so long as I hobbled along the wall, holding on to the side rails is actually quite short, which I see now that I'm not in so much pain when we visit.
One major turning point for me was when I was making that walk on Good Friday. Rich had the older boys at the park, so I could visit with Elijah for as long as I wanted. I made my slow and halting way down the hall, all the while complaining about the unfairness of my circumstances. This was after months of my anger at God growing for not healing my son before we even got to this point. I have never heard the voice of God audibly, nor had any visions and any messages I have that something is from God have been strong impressions at best. I am not someone who is convinced that what I see as God's direction is word for word the instructions He sent down. In that walk down the hall, though, toward my son, I had one of the clearest messages from God I've ever had in my life. It was around noon, the time that Jesus hung on the Cross on the first Good Friday, and I realized that I was walking toward my son who was healing while the Father had been watching His Son die. And I was griping about how hard my lot was. That was humbling. In fact, it was humiliating. It turned my heart right around, though, and it pretty much killed the petty, self-pity I had been encouraging in myself.
I have never, thank God, experienced the loss of a child. We haven't even miscarried, as far as we know. I cannot tell you how I would react in those situations, though I know the grief would be raw, and it would hurt more than I've ever hurt before. I think that our experience with Elijah, knowing he could die and be lost to us here, that we had no way of monitoring his health and life enough to prevent that, that even coming out of delivery safely didn't guarantee his life or good health, that even the surgery didn't, the recovery and being confronted with my own attitudes have changed how I would react. I hope so anyway.
We know how fortunate we are with regards to him. We've become somewhat well known in the circles of people who deal with these kinds of tumors, at last count there were three people named after our Elijah who have had this tumor, and we get lots of people e-mailing us as they are starting the journey we went through, and many people who have walked through it who have seen far worse outcomes than we did: permanent bowel or bladder malfunction, development problems that set their child back by years, losing their child in the hour after the surgery was successfully completed. Even the process we had to go through to get to the surgery seems easier than theirs was. We heard so many stories of doctors who tried to convince the parents to abort their babies. This never crossed the mind of our doctors, they saw a problem and worked the best they knew how to come to a solution.
The doctors and nurses who see Elijah when we make our holiday visits to the NICU with his presents for them are so delighted to see him, and it finally hit me as to why. Most of their patients do not end up as healthy and happy as our Elijah. It is a blessing to them to see their work finished in such a rewarding way. It is not always the case.