Thursday, May 30, 2013

He Feels Our Pain

Just a little over 21 years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about what really matters in life.

Let me paint a picture for you of the situation:
  • 8 months pregnant
  • working night shift--and short on leave time to use for my maternity leave
  • moving to a new rental house--in which we were painting the nursery
  • living far away from any family
  • living paycheck to paycheck
  • squabbling about money and moving and painting and everything!
Valentine's Day was celebrated with my husband and 3 year old son, Scott.  We had a peaceful dinner and we enjoyed our first quiet evening in a few weeks.  However, the evening ended badly as Scott became very sick with some sort of stomach bug.  Being small, he naturally wanted his Mommy to hold him and take care of him, so I skipped my usual evening nap and stayed up with him.  By 10:30, when I should have been leaving for work, he was much sicker and throwing up every 5-15 minutes.  I called to let them know I wouldn't be in; feeling guilty about leaving them short-handed in such a last minute kind of way.  Within 30 more minutes, it was clear that something was very wrong--Scott was crying in pain and still heaving about every 5-10 minutes.  The decision was made to take him to the ER.

We must have looked pretty pitiful when we arrived, because they took one look at Scott and found a room for us to lay him down in right away.  After an examination, some blood work, and an x-ray of his tummy, it was clear that he was severely dehydrated and something was very wrong.  The pediatrician on call came in to see us and explained that they suspected Scott had something called an "intestinal intussusception" (part of the bowel telescopes up into the adjacent bowel) and that he needed to have IV fluids, an NG tube, and a Barium enema to confirm the diagnosis.  I was so happy to have a diagnosis, I didn't stop to think or ask about what would happen if the diagnosis was confirmed.  Scott was admitted to the hospital and his hell began.

He whimpered through the IV stick, too weak to even cry anymore, but when they put the NG tube down his nose he found some energy and cried out for me to  "make them stop, Mommy--please make them stop".  The nurse part of me knew they were taking good care of him; all I could do was just stand at the end of the bed and watch--it broke my heart!.  The transport person arrived to take him down to Radiology for the Barium enema and my energy gave out.  My husband Dave told me to sit down and rest--he would go with Scott for this procedure.  They left, but I couldn't rest; I paced the hallway and prayed.  They returned about 30 minutes later and Scott was asleep, but his Daddy was visibly shaken.  Once Scott was tucked into bed and IV lines and NG tube secured, Dave told me what had happened.

As Dave waited outside the door of the Radiology suite Scott was in, he heard Scott scream--a horrible, pain-filled scream.  A begging-for-it-all-to-stop kind of scream.  All he could do was stand there and wait.  It seemed like hours, but it was probably only 5 minutes or so, and the screaming stopped.  Dave told me it was like he could feel Scott's pain in his gut.

It turned out that the same procedure used to diagnose an intussusception is sometimes what fixes it. The Pediatrician told us later that if that had not worked, Scott would been taken by ambulance to the Children's Hospital for emergency surgery.  I was glad I had not known that as I paced the hall--ignorance can be a true blessing!

As I sat in that room that night, I kept looking at that pitiful, but peaceful, little boy in the bed and thinking about how much it had hurt me to see him hurt like that; how much it had hurt Dave to listen to his cries for help, knowing he could not do anything.  Scott's suffering was like a knife piercing our hearts, because we loved him so much.

God loves us that way and more.  He feels our pain as acutely as we do and He longs to be able to make it all stop; to be able to make it all go away.  When Christ walked on this Earth, he demonstrated such intense compassion for those who were sick, forgotten, despised, mourning, and lost.  He found them along the roads he traveled.  He touched their wounds.  He forgave their sins.  He cried with them and raised their dead.  He experienced betrayal and abandonment, but never gossiped or retaliated.   He felt their pain and carried their sins and never, ever complained.

 “In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.” Psalm 22:4-5

I know He felt our pain that night.  The Father in Heaven watched us tenderly care for our son and knew in His heart what it was like to watch a son suffer.  He heard our prayers and spared us the worst outcome and helped us see true peace in the midst of our storm. 

Two days later, we left the hospital and headed home with our son.  He was weak and worn out and had lost about five pounds in two days--but he was healed.   As the three of us sat in the living room, my husband caught my eye and smiled.  I smiled back.  We were done fighting about money and moving and when to paint.  We looked at our sweet boy and realized that we had the most important thing in life right there in that room with us; there was complete agreement on that. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Self-Pity is the New Pride

I wonder what our biggest source of stress really is.  I think all of us would like to blame our stress "issues" on the hectic lives we lead with overloaded schedules, demanding supervisors, never-ending lists of things to do, etc.  This week I experienced a revelation about stress--most of it is not external, but rather it is internal and often has its source in pride. 

YES, our schedules are full and people are constantly asking more and more of us. YES, people speak to us in ways that hurt our feelings and ruffle our feathers.  YES, our environments are full of stressors.  But, how that stress is processed in our own body is a choice we make.  For many of us--for me--it is a pattern of choices and a lifetime of learned responses.  Some of those responses are healthy, but many are not.  The worst response I choose is to whine about the situation. 

Whining.  Anyone who has spent much time with a small child knows it well.  Some of us have raised it to an art form and it seems to resolve around the word "WHY".  Boy, do I hate to hear this word--but I sure love to use it sometimes!

Why is this happening?
Why am I here?
Why are they getting away with doing that?
Why did she say that?
Why can't I have a new _______?  (car, clothes, house--you fill in the blank)
Why are my children so difficult sometimes?
Why won't she be my friend?
Why doesn't my boss recognize my efforts?

Why.  Whine.  Maybe it should be spelled "whyne" so that we could more easily recognize what it really is--a constant cry for attention and pity.  When others don't, or won't, feel sorry for me, I have a solution.  It's called self-pity.  It is rooted in prided.

Pride?  Really?  I mean, how can self-pity have anything to do with pride?  Pride is being puffed up about oneself and boasting and bragging.  There's no way pride can be the source of self-pity; and yet, it is.  Consider this quote from  Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles:

Pride is not only giving ourselves too much credit for the good things in our lives, but also giving ourselves a lack of credit for anything.  If we see ourselves as superior to others, then we take the focus away from God and put it on us.  On the other hand, if we see ourselves as worthless and inferior, then we take the focus away from God and put it on us again.

It seems that pride, like so many things in life, has its healthy purpose and its unhealthy extremes.  I can put myself ahead of God by worshiping my success AND by wallowing in my failures.  Anything that takes my eyes off of God, and focuses my attention on myself, will end up coming between us in relationship.  Too often, as a Christian, I confuse humility with self-loathing or self-pity.  Self-loathing manifests itself through persistent whining about my circumstances and a focus on all of my mistakes.  Humility is manifested when I acknowledge my sin before God and welcome the redeeming power of His love to enter my soul and wipe away the traces sin left behind. 

The difference is the power source.  Philippians 4:13 assures us that we "can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us".   I John 2:16 warns us that "everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world."  What am I plugged in to?  Am I focused on the attention of those around me?  Do I crave recognition from others like a drug?  Am I hoarding responsibilities--never delegating or letting others help me--so that my co-workers or family will recognize how pitiful I am and feel sorry for me?  All of these choices represent a power source, but they all lead to overwhelming stress as I try to fuel myself with the recognition of other sinful people.  And, in the end, this choice can only lead to a sense of failure and discouragement.

God calls me out of this mindset.  He calls me to lay my burdens at His feet.  He promises lighter burdens and the possibility of being yoked with Him--that is, working side by side with Him--plugged in to His power.  And, God assures me I can do all things through Him and in His strength.  This does not mean I can do everything.  It means that everything I do in obedience to Him, will be infused with His power.