I wish I had a magic pill that I could recommend. At the moment the Lord has called me and my wife and children to suffer once again with the ailments of our eldest daughter.
Kierstin was a healthy child in the womb. She was everything you could hope for right up until her birth, near death, resuscitation and consequent diagnoses. Kierstin has Cerebral Palsy. She has never taken a step on her own. She has never spoken clearly without difficulty. She will never advance intellectually beyond the sixth grade (at 21, she might be at about a third grade comprehension level). She will never marry, or have a real boyfriend, she will never pursue a career and she will never be independent. Tough to write all of this out… she has had only two surgeries, thank God, at 7 years old, (for those with children like her you’ll understand) hamstrings, heal cords, and adductors were lengthened. She was then in a spica cast for weeks. Later at about 14 years old, due to her windswept legs she needed to have a thigh de-rotation surgery where they opened her left thigh up and sawed through her thigh bones rotated them and plated them up. We then had to commit her to a rehab facility an hour away while Trisha was 5 months pregnant for the next 4 months or so. That was difficult.
Oh, by the way I get it. There are worse cases out there. Much worse. To that I say… so what. Most people that say that are not the ones in the thick of the fight. Sometimes I wonder if the good intentioned think before they speak. I’m hitting the wall. So does it really help to know that there are people hitting it worse than I am? No… that hurts as well, those poor people! Or it seems like you have just dropped a mountain of guilt to the load we’re already carrying.
It does help to know we’re not alone. That helps more than you could possibly know. Hearing from people that are suffering and getting a word that it gets better or bearable is a wonderful salve. 1 Peter does this when Peter reminds his readers that there are others suffering with you and you are not alone. Hearing from those that are walking with you and love you and having a shoulder to lean on is immeasurable comfort.
Now we have entered a new phase of difficulty. In some ways it seems worse than the physical stuff. The Lord has increased my compassion for those suffering with mental illness probably one-hundredfold. Out of nowhere Kierstin has developed an unreasoning fear of death and going to hell. She is fixated and obsessing over this at times to the point of panic. It has stolen away the joyful and engaging person that she has always been. This from the girl that inspired the song “I’ll Run When I get to Heaven”. She knows that this isn’t like her. She knows something isn’t right. We have been to the medical doctors and ruled out physical illness, with blood tests, medicine interactions reports, etc… nothing. She simply fixates on going to hell. She knows it’s not true, that Jesus loves her and has promised her eternal life, she knows that God doesn’t lie, she knows that people are praying for her, but none of this seems to help. It all came to a head on a Sunday morning before church when Trisha found Kierstin’s face and hands covered in blood, wild eyed, panting on the verge of hyperventilation and chanting between labored and gurgling breaths that she was going to hell. She had begun to strike herself in the lip repeatedly until she gashed it open and filled her mouth with blood. This has been our world for the last month. No answers, no relief. She asks me to help her and I have nothing left. She asks when she will get better, when she will feel normal, when she will get past this, and I have no answer. Top it all off with the loss of sleep in her and us and you have the ingredients for a disaster.
So now what? We will seek a specialized counsellor that works with disabled people. We have begun a dose of new medication that may or may not help. What do we do when there is no relief? What do YOU do when there is suffering, and it seems like the Lord is calling you to suffer? This is my story, maybe it’s therapeutic to write it out. Maybe some of you will think that I am something of a weak and immature Believer. Well so be it, maybe you’re correct. However, I’ve been against the wall before. I’ve faced the giants before, I’ve failed before, more times than I can honestly count, I even failed this morning before coming into the office. I still don’t know how to help Kierstin. I will keep trying to find her the help she needs. She’s my baby after all. But how will I continue to walk through this valley of dead dry bones, how will I hold my marriage and family together? Read on my friend, read on…
· God is more than an idea
· The Bible is more than a book
· The Church is more than a place
These three things are the things that the Lord reminds me of and drives me back to. It’s His GRACE that shows me these simple truths. I thank Him for it, without Him I would surely give up. I have seen so many people forget these things and run away from God because He has called them to suffer. But God is good and suffers with you. Times like these the Bible opens up new vistas for me and it’s times like these, that the Lord works off the rough edges of my life. These are the times that the church universal comes alive in my sight. From calls, to texts, to messages and emails we feel the love of His body. Then there is the local church. At Emmanuel, when Kierstin was born, we found the shoulders, the strength and the wisdom that we did not have. Once again this magnificent body of Christ has come together to carry us, and to care for us. From babysitting and loving on our younger children, to offers of staying with Kierstin through the long nights, we are blessed.
So to my suffering brothers and sisters; run in the right direction. For those that can, hold them up and love them without adding to their guilt or grief.
Psalm 34:18 (NKJV)
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.