Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Human Frailty

First it was a stomach bug - the kind that many erroneously refer to as "the flu." Donny was the first to wake up feeling "hungry" and requiring a change of sheets shortly thereafter. Several days later, Don and I suddenly had stomachaches. Even Hayden had a few episodes of vomiting, though he managed to escape the fever and fatigue that plagued the rest of us. By the grace of God, Lydia was sweetly content and stayed healthy even when both parents were miserable. And miserable I was, at least during those intense moments of insurmountable nausea. Truly, it is humbling to find oneself utterly incapable of doing anything other than lying limply on the bathroom floor.

The next Friday, I told Don I was seeing spots. Only it wasn't really spots; it was a strange wave in the lower right corner of my vision that would not go away, even when I tried taking my contacts out. And when it finally stopped, my head started to hurt. I always have frequent migraines when I am not pregnant, but this visual disturbance was new - and quite unwelcome. I spent the weekend battling a migraine with rest, cold packs, medicine, and prayer.

Then yesterday, Hayden woke up from his nap in a fit of coughing. Judging by the barking sounds echoing from his room, I was sure he had croup. After a night and day of sleep punctuated by fits of dry coughing, Don took him in to the doctor. Apparently his breathing troubles were more serious than I thought. The doctors advised taking him to the hospital by ambulance. Tonight he is in the pediatric ER, having his breathing monitored to make sure he gets enough oxygen to avoid passing out. I am home, holding down the fort with Donny (who thankfully, seems to be fine) and Lydia, who has been fussy with teething pains all day. Currently she is trying to eat her entire fist, and seems quite angry at her inability to do so.

These three back-to-back interruptions of health have disrupted our schedules and my grandest intentions of getting anything cleaned, organized, caught up, or otherwise accomplished. They have forced me to sit on the couch, rest in my bed, or snuggle some feverish little body while contemplating the frailty of our human existence. Yes, I admit, I am a frail, mortal person. Each migraine or bout of nausea reminds me that I am not the capable supermom I may, in the far recesses of my mind, imagine myself to be. And besides this exercise in humility, illness brings an opportunity to practice unselfishness, especially when it is a loved one who suffers. I saw it displayed by my oldest son who willingly did his brother's chores this morning, and by a sweet daddy who gave up his comfortable bed to spend one night being coughed on by a restless toddler and the next confined in a pediatric hospital room. Amidst the inconvenience and outright pain, there is some good to be found.

I am so thankful to live in a time and place where we have access to medicine, doctors, and even hospitals when we need them. I am thankful for the prescription that helps me recover from migraines, and that unlike my great-great-grandmother, I do not have to fear that my baby will die from a cough or fever. I am thankful for my own and my family's health that we so often take for granted. If nothing else, sickness reminds us of how precious a blessing our health is, and how wonderful it is to be well.

But more importantly, I praise God for the viruses, the migraines, and the painful conditions that force me to become more like Him. I thank Him for the opportunities to grow in love, humility, and selflessness in the face of suffering. And though my fleshly discomforts may be all-encompassing during those moments of agony, I must thank Him for more than restoring health to my physical body. I was a sinner, a broken and diseased soul destined for a place of torments that make migraines and vomiting seem like a tropical vacation. And just as I cannot save my body from death and disease, I alone am incapable of saving my soul from hell.

Yet God, in His infinite mercy, chose me to be one of His own. He lovingly lifted me up from the bathroom floors of this sinful world and breathed new life into me. As a loving Father, He holds me close to His side. There is no supplement, no prescription, no miracle cure that can do for my body what God has done for my soul. He has saved me in order that I might spend eternity with Him in a place where there is no more sorrow or suffering or death.

My body is weak. One microscopic germ can take down my entire family. But there is One who is strong, and He can use these inconveniences to remind me of His power and greatness and love. He heals my brokenness, inside and out. Praise the Lord!

I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!"
But what can I say?
He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
because of this anguish of my soul.
Lord, by such things men live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.

Isaiah 38:14-17

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