Reflections on the age old question of how a good God can allow disease and suffering in this world. This will be part IV in however many posts it takes for me to write about how God has responded to my questions over the last few years.
It would be a few months before I would find the right therapist and start in session. However, during those few months, though I wasn’t fully aware at the time, God began to speak and minister to me in a number of ways.
It began with some unexpected words I received from both Daniel and another person totally independently of one another. I had documented that meaningful encounter in a post last year, which began a process of softening my heart. I’ve pasted an excerpt of that post below, which I shared on Mother’s Day that year along with a picture of the necklace Daniel bought me as a memento of this experience:
Originally posted 5/14/17: Last month, when we were hit with all of our baby boy’s medical issues and I was on the brink of losing it, Daniel came into the room to share what he felt like was an encouraging word from the Lord for me.
Over the prior few weeks, there had been a bird trying to build a nest on the roof of our porch. Daniel actually had been annoyed by it because it kept falling apart and was making a mess. But that morning, the mama bird finally succeeded and was resting on her newly made nest. He was so struck and moved, and felt that God was showing him just how special, strong, and persistent He has created moms to be. He felt like it was a word for me, to encourage me. I went out to see it too, and for the next couple of days, it was encouraging to see this mama bird and how she worked so hard to prepare for and care for her babies.
Two weeks later, I was still dealing with the shock and post-traumatic stress from all that we dealt with that one week. I was feeling so disconnected from God. That day at church, they invited people up for prayer. I wasn’t feeling it but went to get prayer anyway. I didn’t share what I needed prayer for, just that I needed some. The person praying for me waited on the Lord for a while, and then prayed “This might sound weird, but instead of God the Father, I feel like God wants you to know His heart as a Mother towards you right now. God is also God the Mother, and He sees your heart. And I am getting a picture of a mama bird over her nest. It is a picture of you over your children and also a picture of God over you. He knows what you are going through, He understands. He loves you, and I pray that you will be able to expect good from the Lord again.”
It was one of those experiences where I knew God was reaching out to me; where not only was there too much coincidence for it to have been pure circumstance from two completely independent sources, but also where the imagery and words were so personal and specific to my situation – “to expect good from the Lord again” – that they touched my hardened heart in a deeply profound way.
Strangely enough, over the next few weeks and months, prayer after prayer began being answered, sometimes in ways beyond what I even hoped, as if God was indeed trying to show me that “Mother” heart – that He was taking care of me, was ahead of me, and was indeed with me.
The first was with the provision of an incredible nanny I could fully trust, that completely surpassed our expectations (you can imagine how untrusting I had become with all we had experienced). Our prior nanny had been wonderful but it had been a temporary arrangement. We were so fearful of the future leading up to her departure, as it was incredibly difficult to find a good nanny, especially in our case; we needed someone who could be vigilant and diligent enough for the severity of his allergies, while providing meaningful development activities, since his condition prevented him from being able to attend many enrichment classes. We were completely floored when a former preschool teacher decided to apply for our job.
Miraculously, around the same time, we also experienced some incredible developments leading up to his first year in preschool. As daycares were not an option for us given the special accommodations he needed, we were looking for a preschool – a challenging feat in its own right. (For those that may not be aware, the preschool scene can be very competitive in Los Angeles). We were stuck with an afternoon spot at our school of choice, that we felt could most likely accommodate his needs; generally speaking, morning spots were rare, usually reserved for siblings. Though we didn’t tell anyone in fear it would jeopardize his admission, it was problematic for us, as it would mean a whole class of students would already have been eating in the classroom earlier that day. We asked to be on a waitlist, which they put us on but warned us not to bank on, as it would be an incredibly long shot. All we could do was pray.
To our surprise, not long after the nanny development, we got a call completely out of the blue that we had indeed gotten off the waitlist. Against all odds, we were bumped up into the morning class.
It didn’t stop there. There were many additional measures needed to ensure my son would be safe. But God began to make it clear He was going ahead of us, as we were met with exceptional favor and kindness by so many people going above and beyond to help us.
Most notably, I was moved by the incredible kindness of his teachers. We had spent some time with them before school began to go over my son’s allergy plan. I was nervous going in, having to talk with a group of people I had never met before and also having been “prepared” by other allergy moms for the worst. I shared my heart and our journey with them – how we had discovered the allergies, the lessons we learned the hard way, and what he’d already been through in his 2.5 years of life. And though I was afraid it would be overwhelming, I shared honestly about what it took us on a day-to-day basis to keep him safe – among them, the hyper-vigilance; how we adjusted our lives to minimize traces of any allergen residue at home; preparing everything he ate from scratch; and of course, being prepared at all times to treat the reactions that would inevitably still come.
We shared our school-related list of actions we thought might help – ensuring kids’ hands were clean after eating, washing my son’s hands after he’d come into contact with surfaces other kids had touched, keeping surfaces clean, and making sure he didn’t eat anything unsafe. I also asked, in as humble a way possible, if there was any way they might consider keeping the room free from his allergens altogether, with the caveat that I completely understood if they couldn’t, since he was allergic to so many foods. They said they would think about what they could do and get back to us, as it wasn’t something they typically did. I was totally blown away to get a call a few days later, learning that his new teachers, who we had only just met, had advocated for us, deciding on their own accord to take it upon themselves to create a safe space for my son.
I cried. It was so beyond what I expected. Only a couple months prior, my son was already coming to terms with the fact that he was different, bursting into tears at a birthday party where we had to sequester him away when the food was brought out to keep him safe. To think that during this formative period in this first year of school, he would have the opportunity to feel included like a normal child – the thought overwhelmed my heart.
I would continue to be moved by the kindness of my son’s teachers and the staff as the school year began. The snacks served in class were all screened and safe for him, so he was able to eat with his classmates at the same table. Even the little touches, like this sign they created and the hand-wiping station outside the classroom, had such an impact, not just on his safety, but on our hearts.
I was also taken aback by the kindness of the other parents in our class. I was fearful of sharing that it was my son who had the allergies, worried we would become a target of anger and resentful complaints. But it was inevitable for the news to come out. To my surprise, I was met with compassion and empathy. Comments that it was not a problem at all. That they couldn’t imagine how hard it must be. That they were glad to accommodate, sure that I would do the same if it were their kid. Words of support. Genuine concern, especially after he was hospitalized again on his birthday later that year. I was humbled, amazed, and moved.
Most meaningful of all, it was a joy to start seeing my son slowly come back out of his shell again. He hadn’t been quite the same since that week of multiple hospitalizations, as it had been a traumatic experience for all of us, and he had grown extremely anxious and easily agitated. But he was slowly starting to feel more comfortable and happy-go-lucky again. For the first time, for just those few hours a day, he got to live like a normal kid. He felt safe. It was heartwarming to watch, and warmer my heart did become.
But it didn’t change the fact that I still had so many unreconciled questions in my heart.
To be continued:
Part VI: Some Emerging Theology on Disease
Part VII: Some Conclusions (Though Always An Ongoing Work-In-Progress)
Part II: Life In Constant Threat
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