|Photo by Evan Olson|
What is fear?
It can be defined as:
Our little boy underwent a 3 hour surgery on his ear this past Wednesday. Even though the outcome wasn't what I had hoped before, I am just so glad that he is here! I have felt giddy with relief.
You may or may not know that we lost a 4 year old son in 1996 due to a respiratory difficulty. You can read about our son here in this post. He has been with the Lord for eighteen years, now. That is so hard to wrap my mind around.
I was terrified of losing another child. I kept getting hit with intense feelings of panic and fear for 2 weeks before this surgery.
I tried my best to stand on different scriptures that came to my mind. My favorite one that I kept repeating out loud is, "I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save." (Isaiah 49:25)
But there was always a question in my mind. Will something go wrong? Will we lose him, too?
Our son has a genetic disorder that requires a lot of blood draws and medications, but this condition with his ear came out of nowhere and was not connected to his ( primary) genetic condition. I have to admit that I asked the Lord, "Really? Something else? I think one thing to deal with is enough." I think we can talk honestly with God and I do.
This present condition with his ear is called cholesteatoma and is a growth inside the ear. It had grown over the hearing parts of his left ear - not a good thing if you want to hear. The surgery entails going behind the ear and folding his ear down to remove the growth. The growth was bigger than the ENT expected and had destroyed some bone. He attempted to use cartlilage within his ear to build something for his eardrum to rest on. In 3 months, he will undergo surgery again to see if this surgery was successful. He has lost some hearing in this ear already. I am praying for a miracle.
My fears for him during surgery was that his primary diagnosis (the genetic disorder) can also cause problems with blood clotting. His ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist), his genetic specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals, his pediatrician, and a blood disorder specialist at Blank Children's Hospital, all spoke and planned this surgery together. They went over all the information that was available for his genetic condition, as it is rare. But even with all their expertise and knowledge, I was still terrified.
The Sunday before his surgery, I pulled into the long driveway at our church, and as I did, the thought came to my mind, "What if this was my last Sunday with him?" I knew that wasn't a thought that I should just sit and entertain, and yet, I couldn't seem to shake it. I looked at the church and the parking lot and prayed, " Please God, don't ever let me see this place with cars for his funeral."
It's the NOT KNOWING with God, I think. I know His character. He is kind. He is so loving with me. Yet, I've experienced the death of a child. I know it can happen.
I cried, I prayed, and I bargained. I pleaded and I prayed some more, I spoke scriptures out loud as I went about my day doing laundry and preparing meals.
I tried my best to believe.
I received a facebook message from my aunt Brenda. All of my memories of her will always circle back to these words - a cheerful faith. I don't think she ever thinks of the worst case scenarios. She is always bright and happy and believes for the best outcome. She wrote me and said that she was believing and expecting for his healing. Those words seemed to soothe my fears, at least for a time.
Just a side note -the truest form of love is simply standing with someone as they are going through a battle. We may not have an answer, but if they know you are there, it means everything. But they do need to know that we are there. We can't just assume that they know. That is something I must put into practice more myself.
A friend from church texted me that she felt the Lord had shown her that I was being tormented by fear, especially at night, and that she was standing with me in this fight. I think during this time, I was too wracked by fear and uncertainty to hear anything from God myself. This timely word from her during this time meant so much!
I found myself watching him all the time. My husband was out of town one night and he always likes to sleep with me on those nights. I woke up in the middle of night and felt such fear. I switched on our lamp and watched him while he slept. Then I got out of bed, grabbed my phone, and took his picture. The reason I did that was I knew I would want a photo of him sleeping. Just in case.
Just in case God maybe had a different plan. Just in case my plan and His plan didn't line up.
Those kinds of thoughts are tormenting. During the day, I tried to walk by faith. And it was faith - just the sheer faith of NOT KNOWING and trying to do what was right. But at night...the fear grew in intensity.
I wish being a pastor's wife came in handy at times like these. But it doesn't.
I had real fears. I discussed those very real fears with God. I told Him how I was feeling and that even though I loved Him, I wasn't sure about Him. I had no idea what the future held.
Everything I looked at was through this terrible lens of "What if?" What if I lose him? What if God does something I don't want Him to do? What if I come home and he isn't with me?
There is no money, or job, or ministry, or anything, that can take the place of a loved one in your heart. If you have experienced a loss, and we all have to some extent, then you know what I mean.
God didn't sigh and tell me to be strong and get my act together.
I believe He listened. And I always like to think of Him sitting beside my bed at night, especially when I am afraid, and just watching me sleep.
I never did receive any special answer to my frantic prayers. We brought him to the surgery center and played a game of Head Bands with him before they wheeled him into surgery. I stood and watched until I could no longer see his little blonde head from the doorway. I still just didn't know. And, as they say in the South, I was "plumb tuckered out " from worrying. Now it was time to wait and try and trust.
We waited two hours, then three. Then the doctor came back and said that he was in recovery. I was and am so thankful.
He is home and I am so grateful. We still have things to face and to deal with. But seeing his sweet smile and holding his hand has never meant so much.
I didn't get to experience that with the loss of our son, Alex. My last conversation with him was my last. I sang a little song to him that night and gave him a drink of water. He wanted to know what we would have for breakfast the next morning. I didn't know that those were the last words I would hear him say.
I think that is why these past few days have been like a gift to me. I didn't have to say a last goodbye. I can go up to his room and watch him sleep. I don't have to rely on a picture.
I do understand loss. I do understand if you are suffering through some pain that seems unending. If you are hurting today or feel depressed, I do understand - at least, in some measure. If I could, I would sit beside you and hold your hand and say, "You are not alone."
Sometimes we have questions. I have questions, too. I have fears and anxieties. I haven't reached a point with God of total and complete trust, as you can see.
A thought did cross my mind last week. If my worst fears were realized, what then? I told God the same thing his disciples said to him, "Where else can I go? You alone have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) There aren't any other options that I can see. At least, not options that I would want.
Whoever you are, and wherever you may be today, I bless you in Jesus' name. I speak peace over you - a peace that passes your natural understanding. Even though you may be like me and it's the not knowing that is making things so very hard, or you are experiencing pain, sorrow, despair, depression, or fear, I believe that God sees right where you are and hears the cries of your heart. I am asking Him to make Himself real to you and to whatever situation you are in. You aren't alone.
Our days really are beautiful. If you can look around and see your family around you, you are truly blessed. Everything may not be perfect, every solution to every problem may not be evident, but you are rich.
If you have lost a loved one, know that God is with you. Let him walk this pain out with you.
I read a book about a lady who had lost her husband and two little children in a plane crash. She said her healing came as she entered into their joy. I thought about that a lot after the loss of our son in 1996. When I focused on the joy he was experiencing, the joy of his being able to walk and run for the first time, his joy of seeing Jesus face to face, then I was able to grieve in a better way. I was able to see things from his perspective.
I bless each person reading and send you much love!
(Note: I actually wrote this several days ago right after our son's surgery. But last night I had the great privilege of hearing a lady's testimony who had been healed of Stage IV terminal cancer. During her long battle with cancer, she actually went to heaven and saw Jesus. Even after that experience, she was not immediately healed. It was a process. She has now been cancer free for 30 years. But something she said has stuck with me today. She said that after that experience of seeing Jesus, any suspicions of Jesus she had ever had were gone. I think that is what I was trying to articulate before I heard her speak. Those "suspicions" are very real to us.We pray, we believe, but then...what will He do? But I know that He wants to lay our suspicions to rest, including mine. He can be trusted with our lives.)
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