My son runs towards me yelling these words. Towards me, and away from the bathroom.
Few words get me moving so quickly as these. Immediately I switch from relaxing on the couch mode to super-ultra multi-tasking mode. I leap towards my son, scoop him up in my arms, and begin my lecture, "Honey! If you have to throw up---" toilet seat up, kid in position, "go to the bathroom first, don't---" Lysol, paper towels, "come running to me first--- Oh, honey." The lecture is silenced by compassion. The child looks up at me in between heaves. His world has utterly changed. He has come face to face with pure evil, and its name is "stomach flu."
One by one, the six children succumbed to stomach flu last month. Each one insisted that mommy be present and involved when the heaving was happening. So there I stood, time and again, next to the toilet, rubbing backs and murmuring words of compassion.
I hate sick eyes. Sad, sick eyes looking up at me, begging me to make it stop, or at the very least to explain why it is happening. I could do neither, so I sighed, prayed, and rubbed backs. My ineffective, weak hand could not stop the violence that attacked my babies' small bodies. I gently encouraged, patted, and assured the little ones that it would be over soon.
What was the point of that, really? Why in the world was it necessary for me to be there with them every time? Why did they want to hear those words that I could not fulfill, those mere wishes that they would get better soon? Why was it necessary for me to crawl from underneath my warm covers, stand with them through the heaving and the crying, and maintain some sort of hopeful and comforting attitude through it all? Why did they want my powerless hands to comfort them when they could not take away the sickness? Yet they insisted on it, adamantly, making clear that messy consequences would follow if I even hesitated for a moment.
It made me think of another situation I hate even more than I hate stomach flu: when evil, the kind worse than stomach flu, attacks me or people I know. I hate when I know of someone facing an enormous trial that I can do nothing about. I hate when my heart breaks with theirs, and when I feel so utterly powerless to do anything about it. I hate the helplessness so much that sometimes I am tempted to say nothing, do nothing, and ignore it if I can; to stay under my warm covers and simply comfort myself with denial.
I remember when my daughter's brain tumor was making her terribly sick and nobody knew what was going to happen. I hated being the person that reminded everyone of this huge, sad thing, the family that was suffering so much that anyone who knew about it couldn't help but wonder, "Where is God and why isn't He helping?"
Yet I also remember being comforted. I remember those who allowed their own hearts to be pierced as they shared the burden with us. Those who let themselves love my little girl, and us, even though it hurt. Those who were there with a meal or a hug or an offer of help. Those who dared speak a word of encouragement. I remember, through those seemingly small things, I was comforted.
I was comforted because what was given to me was not simply a cheerful pep-talk or unfounded optimism. I was encouraged by those actions that reminded me of Him, by the words of encouragement that were echoes of the Truth of God's love for us in Christ. It is all too easy to forget the love God has shown us in Jesus, the peace and forgiveness and grace we have in Him, when we are suffering. God knows this about us, and in His mercy, He sends people into our lives during times of suffering to remind us of these things. He sends His Word, His Sacrament, and words that echo the love He gives there.
Mere words cannot take away the sadness of this life. They cannot turn heavy boulders into feathers, they cannot make the sun shine in the pit of hell. But God can do all of these things! In Christ we have a hope that will not put us to shame; even if the worst should happen, our God will be victorious, and we will be OK.
Because we are in Christ, we can join with those who are facing hardship that we cannot relieve. We join with them by bringing them in prayer to God, and bringing the encouragement we receive from God back to them. We can take the hands that tremble into our own, and look together to the God who
Come Lord Jesus.
(reblogged from 1/21/11)