Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The care of Jesus

I'm sitting in a hospital room while my daughter is napping off pain between vomiting blood. We're here again. One more episode in a young adult life that is full of pain and pauses between pain.

When our daughter was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 16, we were relieved. Treatable, we thought. We knew the name of the joint swelling. We read madly, researched medical texts and folk legends, and asked a lot of people a lot of questions.

After a year of spiritual advisers, prayers for healing, and thousands of dollars of alternative therapy with an MD, she had lost her hip. Her first hip replacement was done at Children's Hospital.

The staff was caring and kind, but one asked, "What took you so long?" A rude intake doctor at Children's who predicted misery with conventional meds, the comments of Christian health professionals about the toxic drugs used to treat RA, fervent prayers for healing, and waiting for God to heal... those had delayed traditional medical intervention. We still don't know if that year kept her off dangerous drugs for her good. She might have lost her hip sooner with traditional meds. We don't know much about anything in this life of faith and illness, it turns out.

After that first replacement, I was deep-down, soul angry for a few years. I'd wake up in the mornings marveling that the docs had not said, "Oh, there is nothing to be seen. She has been healed!" instead of "The joint replacement went off perfectly." I didn't want a new platinum joint. I expected Jesus to heal the old one. I was truly disappointed. Lack of faith was not an issue. Understanding the ways of God was.

This time around, when there are lesions inside K's bowels as well as over her skin, I am feeling resigned rather than resentful. Resigned to a Healer who shows up in caring Presence rather than a physical touch. It's not that we don't ask for physical healing, along with many of our dear friends and prayer partners. Our family has no doubt that God has already paid for healing through Christ. We know it would take one kindly Word to make this disappear forever. We continue to plead with God for a miracle or a medical treatment to put this dread disease into remission.

In the years between, here is what we know for sure:
1. God is enough. When the boat is sinking in the deep sea, a word from Christ soothes the storm enough for survival.

2. Presence is preserving. Knowing God is near and that his people are praying brings the stamina we need to walk through each valley. When we are near our home, we love short visits from friends. Even FB comments are heartening.

3. The future is uncertain. This kind of see-sawing between excruciating pain and bearable pain makes heaven seem very sweet. Some day God promised a world without pain or sorrow. "No more tears." We long for that day, while enjoying the beauty of this world and its opportunities for ministry and life to the fullest measure.

4. Each of us has the unique temperament needed
for the situation. God knows how to use our personalities and training. My husband tenderly affirms our daughter, shedding tears while giving her emotional support and spiritual counsel. I am rational, strong, and unemotional in crises, so I do most of the care-giving when she needs hands-on help. I'll cry later, alone. Neither of us parents has chosen this way of dealing with the grief of seeing our daughter's pain and watching the years steal away a 'normal' life as a young adult.

5. It's not over until it's over. Until we die, we have hope. God's love comforts us, his peace surrounds us, and his foreknowledge filters anything that would overwhelm us.

Thanks be to God. That's what we know for sure.

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