Matter of Heart
Last night provided some quiet reflection as I prepared to meet this morning. This day, January 25th, looms ahead on the calendar every January as a sort of milestone that needs to be passed. A day I need to put behind me before I can breathe in a fresh new year. Its a day of remembrance characterized by pain. So much pain!
And as I reflect on all the heartache, both physical and emotional, and can glance back 7 years later at all the redemption and good thats come of it, the nagging question still remains……why pain!?
What is pain?
Medical professionals identify pain as our brain signaling us that something needs attention. A crippling or imobilizing reaction to an injury that prevents us from doing further harm by ignoring the problem. Pain can debilitate us, but ultimately, its regarded as a protective measure.
Certainly pain comes in many forms.
Pain of the body. Physical injury. Illness. Handicaps. Disabilities.
Pain of the heart. Seeing your child in rebellion. The loss of a loved one. Emotional devastation of a break-up.
Pain of the soul. Unresolved resentment. Antagonism toward God. Spiritual misguidance.
So can the same be said of emotional and spiritual pain that is said of physical pain? Could there be a protective redemptive power in pain, that God uses to shine a spotlight on the problem and allow us the opportunity to address it, in an effort to protect us from continuing in a way that will inflict more damage?? The pain of broken relationships can leave our heart susceptible to the overwhelming, unconditional love of God. The pain of anxiety and fear shows us that the things which we put our faith in are shakable, and cause us to consider the claim of Christ to be sufficient for all our needs. The searing pain of loss leads us to ponder the promise and hope of eternity. Pain has the potential to turn our hearts toward healing in Him….or embitter us.
Pain heightens our senses. Nerves send signals firing. Blood rushes to the location of an injury. Our body reacts in a complicated, intentional way to address a problem.
Ignoring those senses puts us at risk of further damage being done.
The incomprehensible answer to the question of why, seems to be that pain is for our good. Its not a popular concept. We want to embrace all the goodness of life and only the good. But pain can be the key to unlock the deepest places that actually need healing! Tho its rarely identifiable in the moment, many of us can look back and see that it is the times in life that we’ve experienced the greatest degree of pain, that we’ve sensed the love of God most acutely.
There may perhaps be no greater pain than being a parent and seeing your child suffer.
I vividly remember the sense of profoundly wishing that I could take the place of Evie in all that we watched her endure her first weeks in this heart journey. Undoubtably, the physical pain would have been more bearable than the emotional trauma of helplessly watching her agonizing and struggling for survival.
I remember the seemingly barbaric tactics that were used to sustain her at times.
~ The stimulating after surgery, wound still raw, to try and get her “revved” up and fighting for her life. Passivity would prove fatal, so they needed her to cry and cough up the debris from surgery in order to clear lungs. They would insert suction tubes to pull out junk and jostle her around a bit to get her agitated. Seeing a baby, intubated, vocal chords paralyzed, visibly “crying” but no sound coming out of their mouth can be nothing less than torturous for a parent!
~ The respiratory therapist would come round the clock whether Evie was awake or finally resting peacefully. She’d lay Evie – chest over her cupped hand – and pound on her back for several minutes to help expel mucous and secretions in her lungs. This is a couple days out from surgery. Broken breast bone. Stitches. Infected wound site.
~Evie struggled to maintain a normal, sinus heart rhythm and several times, slipped into a dangerous tachychardia. Her heart rate skyrocketed past the 200’s. We watched the nurses try an unconventional maneuver to try to “shock” her heart back into a healthy rhythm. They immersed Evies face in ice water for a couple of seconds. (gasp!!!) Child kicking, flailing, smothering. Oh the trauma! But this is a means they’ve seen effective on many babies to trigger a healthy heartbeat and avoid the next step – stopping the heart with medication and restarting it.
And as a mother, I stood by helplessly and watched. I couldn’t intervene. I couldn’t take her suffering. In the simplest, most helpless form, I had to trust. Had to trust that the doctors knew far better than I. That the measures they were taking, were inflicting pain, but ultimately for her good. And that to sabotage these painful procedures, I would be endangering and compromising her.
Would I trust God any less than I would trust these wonderful but nonetheless, human doctors who are capable of making mistakes? Who am I to shake an angry finger at God when pain seems unbearable? We want to short-circuit the pain. The pain that God allows in our lives does not always come with a compassionate, step-by-step explanation of the “whys” as did the aforementioned procedures Evie was forced to endure. (Trust me, had not our favorite nurse been holding my hand and explaining the method behind the madness in some of these, Id have surely intervened.) But the pain that God allows in our life can be far less explainable and the temptation is to believe that pain is something to be avoided. Because, we’re conditioned to believe that a loving God wouldn’t allow pain….right? But, would a loving doctor forego a procedure to cut a 6 inch incision down a baby’s torso, sawing through her breastbone to repair her heart because he didnt want to cause her pain? Would a loving doctor deny prescribing 15 oral medication doses a day because its unpalatable for a tiny baby? Would a loving doctor dismiss wound care because scrubbing a gaping sore will surely cause irritation and discomfort?
In a rational dimension, we justify these barbaric techniques because we trust the doctor. We have answers. We feel they are justified. And yet, these are men who are fallible.
Can the loving Father-heart of God who sent His son to die for us and reconcile us to Him be trusted any less?
There will be some answers to pain that we’ll never understand on this side of eternity. Some things just don’t make sense! Pain shakes us. It rattles us to our core. It strips off all pretense and leaves us raw and bleeding and broken and real. And in that vulnerable “realness” God begins to unveil the invisible cancers that are eating away at us because……He cares more about our wholeness and spiritual healing than our temporal, earthly comfort and preferences. The compassionate heart of God allows us to experience our need for Him. His motivation always, always to see us brought to completeness in Him. He unmasks the malignancies that have hardened our hearts. If we will allow pain to run its full course…..pressing into our Creator in a trust that won’t always come with answers, then and only then will we begin to glimpse the purpose in pain. The redemptive purposes in this undesirable gift. The severe mercy that stops at nothing to see our redemption and healing and reconciliation with God! Jesus is described as a man of sorrows. He knew pain
Ive asked for help on my personal Facebook page and wanted to put it out here to our sweet, supportive blog friends as well…..I need a little help with a project Im working on. 🙂
This coming week, we celebrate Evie’s 7 year “heart-iversary” and this momma has an idea. A little visual for her. A world map identifying all the places where people were praying for her along her heart journey.
So, if you remember…… maybe you were a recipient of this first email……or followed our blog early on her heart journey through the many tests and procedures…..or have come alongside us on this path……IF YOU HAVE PRAYED FOR OUR GIRL somewhere along the way, can I ask something of you? Would you kindly leave a comment with your name, city, state and country? Excited for Evie to have this little keepsake showing her the love and support that has been showered over her her whole life.
There is no greater joy than seeing this child living in a knowledge of Gods great care for her.
UPDATE! TAKE A PEEK AT EVIE’S PRAYER MAP HERE:
Awed by all those who have loved and prayed for her! THANK YOU!
Im not even going to pretend Im a soldier. First day of school is hard for me every. single. year!
I am “that mom“. You know, the one with mascara running down her cheek in the carpool line at drop off. “That mom” who is peering in the class window and waving at my kid after the bell rings. “That mom” who arrives 20 minutes before pick up time. “That mom” who wants a full report from the teacher (whom Ive run a background check on) at the end of the day on what friends my child made and what they ate for lunch in the cafeteria.
I’ll own it, Im that mom, so this isn’t entirely out of character for me…..but that being said, I think I need some Xanax before Monday! My Evie girl is going to school.
When Monday rolls around, its going to be all “first day of school, new backpacks, sharpened pencils, put on your big girl pants and game face” pep talk going on in my head, but tonight…..tonight Im sitting in the quiet of my home with my melancholy musings raging!
Its different this time. Its harder. From the time I realized she was going to survive her first 2 years of life, I started dreading the day Id have to entrust her to someone else’s care. Last year I deliberated putting her in kindergarten. We were new to Bangkok and I knew the importance of making new friends. But the thought of having her away from me for 7 hours a day was incomprehensible. As I toiled over the decision to homeschool her last year or enroll her with the other kids, my dear friend asked if I would have regrets if I didn’t have one more year with her at home. That made it easy. YES! Decision made. She’d have a year at home with me!
Instead of school, I put her in a ballet class once a week. Friends for her, check. Stretch for mommy, check.
And I am SO glad we had last year. I think Evies “love language” is quality time, and time we had. Lots of it. But then it dawned on me somewhere halfway through this past year. One year wasn’t going to change how I felt. I was never going to be “ready”.
Its such an out-of-control feeling to let someone care for your child who has no idea….. no idea what she’s been through, what a miracle she is and what symptoms to look for. They won’t understand that she’s slower reading, but she has come so far from the days she had speech therapy to learn to talk because of the trauma that caused delays. They won’t know that she was “failure to thrive” and that the massive steroids she had to take to keep her lungs clear for years could have stunted her growth. They will just see a tall-for-her-age brunette and will be clueless to the fact that she’s a walking, breathing miracle. No one will understand her anxiety over silly things like storms that are PTSD symptoms triggered by feeling out of control as a repercussion of being forcibly held down for countless procedures and over 100 blood draws. She looks so…..normal. And she IS by the grace of God! But when you as a mom have held a fragile life in your hands and set alarms through the night for months on end to make sure that drug doses are administered at precisely the right time round the clock to ensure her tiny heart kept beating, then you feel a gravity of responsibility that is different than you feel with your healthy kiddos.
But I can’t hold on another year. To do so would stifle. Would impede her growth, her opportunity. The best thing for her right now is for me to release and usher her into a new stage. With JOY. With gratitude that she IS healthy enough and has come far enough that she is ABLE to go to school.
And I remember Ive felt this way before….listening to the echoing click of a team of doctors footsteps walking toward the surgery room with my wee babe being wheeled further and further from me down the stark white corridor. Its all I can do to keep from running after them and whisking my baby off the sterile stretcher. I want to hold and protect her from needles and scalpels and surgical saw blades. From scars and tears and pain. But to do so would be selfish and would obstruct the life saving surgery she needed.
This feels a little bit the same. What I want and what feels good is not what she needs right now. Im reminded once again that its not a team of renowned surgeons…..or even an institution or teacher I am entrusting her to….its God. Once again Im being asked to trust. To loosen my grip and release control….because its not mine anyway. Our kids are a gift, on loan. And to each parent, that responsibility looks a little different. I wish God had led us to homeschool. I wish we had the opportunity for private Christian school education. But we don’t. And God has provided another opportunity that leaves us in no doubt that He has led us to this. But even knowing God is in something doesn’t mean its easy.
Letting go leaves me with a very empty hollow hand. Letting go means I need to grasp a little tighter to Him.
So on Monday, Im going to take a deep breath and hand her over once again, entrusting her to Gods care, because truly, He loves her even more than I do and His hand is not too short to reach when mine cannot. And I might cry a little. But Im determined they will be tears of joy, that she is at this juncture. That God has seen fit to sustain her life and has a purpose and plan for her that He has already set in motion. Praying that our Evangeline, our “bringer of light” will shine brightly in this new place!
But!!…but if she says again when I drop her off what she whispered to me at bedtime tonight, then there might be an ugly cry!!
“Mommy, I don’t want to go because I just want to be with you. But, I will pray that you won’t cry if you will pray that Ill make a friend”
……puddle over here!!