It’s hard to say if last week was the best or the worst week we’ve had in a long time. I got some great belly laughs from Jem, and we made some definite progress in his nighttime sleeping. All week, my family was giddy with the excitement of keeping a big secret, and on Friday night we all drove to College Station for a surprise engagement party for my youngest sister.
And yet in the midst of it all my heart was heavy with dread and fear as I watched my phone for word from other dear ones with a report from their long hours with their child in the hospital waiting room. We were impatient for answers, even as we wondered if we could possibly bear the answers when they came.
It’s been two full years since I’ve been counting gifts, two years of giving thanks to a good and sovereign God for baby kisses, warm breezes, cool sheets, sweet melodies. I’ve given thanks for my parenting failures, shame over selfish words spoken, and tears for the baby we didn’t take home, trusting that even these ugly-beautiful moments were shaping me to be more like Jesus.
I’ve pressed as hard as I know how into the belief that God is great and God is good in all things, in ALL things. His eye is on the sparrow and he’s numbered the hairs on my head and Jesus alone holds the keys to life and death, and His will IS done on earth as it is in heaven. Yet I’m still left speechless in the face of a term like “pediatric oncologist,” and I remember that it is no easy thing to live in a world where a person can make a living battling against cancer in children’s bodies.
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Those happy moments–those easy-to-spot gifts like baby coos and drawings taped to the refrigerator and new rings sparkling on left hands–shine like diamonds in the midst of our days. And we receive those sweet gifts with thankfulness, but we can only really enjoy them when we believe…really believe… that the best gifts, even the gift of life itself, aren’t enough to live for. If life is merely hoping the happy moments outnumber the sad, we should crumble with despair.
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me
I read an inspiring blog by Russell Moore that challenges us to change the way we think about our place in the cosmic story: “Let’s talk about eternity. But it’s no mere ‘afterlife.’ Instead let’s start thinking of this little puff of time, the next eighty or so years, as what it is: the pre-life.”
We do well to remember that we live in the shadows now; that the glittering moments of joy are just glimpses of the life what will one day be ours. Sin and brokenness is meant to make us groan, to remind us that we were never meant to feel at home here in the muck.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
Thanks be to Jesus, who became one of us, who suffered body broken and heart betrayed, so that our own suffering would not be in vain. We cling to him when the happiness turns to tears, and the miracle of his presence brings joy even in the midst of our suffering.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
I pray for years of innocence and safety for Abby and Jem. I pray for a long and happy marriage for Leslie and Reggie. I pray for healing and comfort for my precious ones who are sick. But I don’t know what tomorrow holds for any of us, so my hope and confidence can’t be in temporary happiness and restoration; my trust in God can’t be contingent on how quickly he restores me to happy circumstances when tragedy strikes. He is writing a greater story than we can possibly glimpse from within the shadows. And I can trust his goodness and generosity, because whatever else he does or doesn’t give to us, he’s already given us the most priceless gift: the guarantee of life in his presence, now and forever.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
July 15, 2014: I wrote this post in response to receiving news that our (then) nine-year-old niece, Amanda, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. You can get the ongoing details of her story at the Team Watson blog (written by my sister-in-law Sandy).