When I was about 4 years old, I was hospitalized for several days because I battled with overwhelming anxiety. I remember the hospital room, the way I would watch out the door when it was open to see who was coming. They made me draw pictures and ran all kinds of tests. I saw a child psychologist as well, and the best part was that my parents took me out to dinner afterward and I felt very fancy. At the time I didn’t understand that something was wrong with me or that I was different from other kids. My stomach hurt all of the time. I used to make my father walk me around the house before bedtime to make sure that the stove was turned off, the front door was locked, and that my baby sister was breathing in her crib. I would worry for hours about things that could happen to my family, to my house, to myself. I vividly remember asking my dad what he would do in the event that someone broke into our house and tried to hurt us. Did he have some kind of plan? Was he strong enough to overtake a burglar if he needed to?
I worried at school. I worried that kids wouldn’t like me, that something would happen to my mom while I was away, that my sister would have to eat alone in the cafeteria (I actually broke the rules several times to sneak to the kindergarten side and sit with her until they would catch me and send me back to the second-graders).
I just worried. I never wanted anyone to feel like they weren’t “taken care of,” and for my entire life, this pattern has remained constant. When we were at Disney World recently, I walked into a little shop that I remembered from childhood. All the stuffed animals were on the same wall that I had pictured them on in my memories. I got so choked up remembering myself as little red-headed girl who stood in front of the Goofy dolls (he was my favorite), tenderly lifting one off the shelf and then feeling the overwhelming guilt that all the other ones would be sad because I hadn’t chosen them. I would look at their faces and try to decide which was the most needy so that I could rescue him. I vividly remember walking away with the “chosen” one and starting to cry because all the other ones must have felt abandoned.
I refused to come down the stairs on Christmas morning when I was 5 because I was convinced that Santa didn’t find me worthy of toys. I hid under the covers and cried and cried until my dad brought me some red and white pom-poms from under the tree to prove that Santa had come, and that he had remembered me. I have always had the feeling that I needed to be the rescuer, that I needed to keep people safe, that I needed to be good enough.
I have never been able to completely shake these emotions. They came with me to college, to graduate school, to marriage, to the delivery room, to the doctor’s office. To the ultrasound where I was told that my worst fears had been confirmed. They walk beside me in the daylight and wake me in the night. Fear wraps itself around me and refuses to let go. I can feel my fingers getting numb, my vision getting hazy, my breathing quicken, and I know it is upon me. But I believe now, years later, that this voice has a name, and he lurks in the shadows, waiting to devour. I feel that I have been in the midst of spiritual warfare as I have walked this path, and I have constantly had to silence the enemy with the only word that can. I utter the name of Jesus as I get into bed, as I cry in the night, as I sense the evil that Satan has tempted me to believe. Today he has sought me out. To paint horrific images of tomorrow, to shake me to the core, to tell me that my Lord has no power to intervene now. It is too late.
I have not made it out of bed today because I have so sensed the need to concentrate wholly on what I know to be true, even when I don’t feel it. A few hours ago, I talked to God about what I was feeling, and I begged mercy for my doubts. He reminded me gently of a man named Job, whom he loved and knew as a righteous, holy man whose heart was filled with His spirit. He allowed Satan to test Job, to take away what was most precious to him. Job walked through the depths of suffering, more than I can fathom. I opened my Bible to his story, and asked God what it was that He wanted from me today, on the eve of the day where I have been called to anticipate the loss of my sweet daughter. He spoke, as He always does. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to hear what He said in that moment, as I wept openly before Him in the profound wake of sadness that surrounds me.
I want you to praise Me.
He didn’t ask me to praise Him because He was going to perform a miracle, although He knows that I would. He asked me to praise Him because He will be the same tomorrow regardless of what happens to Audrey. Is that hard for me to wrap my heart around? Yes. Does everything in me want to protest letting someone else be in charge? Yes. It has been my mode of survival since I was born. My parents told me that moments after I was born, I lifted my head off my mother’s body and scanned the room. I was probably making sure someone was going to bring me to the right place and that the doctor was well aware of what he needed to be focusing on in that moment.
I have a history of not letting someone else “take care of things.” And now I am being called to praise the One who is allowing this season? Who has taken every bit of control from me? Lord, I can’t even read a book without a highlighter in my hand. I can’t let my children walk too close to the ice-cream man without hovering a foot away (although, in fairness, you would do the same if you met him. Seriously creepy….). Are you serious?
I sat in the silence. I closed my eyes and thought about who He is to me. What He has been to me, in the bitterness and in the joy. I felt like He was beside me, waiting. And in that moment, I felt myself rest. My mind was still. All I know is that without intending to, I smiled. It was the most ridiculous thing you could ever imagine, unless you know what I know. And I hope you do.
He is Lord. Only He. Not me, not Todd, not my doctors, not my parents.
We don’t know what tomorrow will look like, how it will be remembered ten years from now. We can’t begin to imagine the road that lies ahead of us, but I know that I will remember today as being a day that I trusted Him despite the hurt.
I want you to know, especially if you do not know the Lord, that He is real. This is not a fairy-tale coping mechanism that I rely on when I need to escape from reality. It is not something I do because it’s nice to have a place to dress up for on Sunday mornings. It is my fervent prayer that somehow I can manage in this post to find a balance between not alienating people and sharing my heart. It’s just that I don’t know how people get through things like this without Him. I can barely choose stuffed animals without having a heart attack, and today, because of Christ, I am filled with peace. I pray the same for each of you as you walk through your own life.
One way or another, our daughter will be healed tomorrow. Praise God with me tonight for this truth.
Your prayers, as always, are with me. God has allowed my burden to be shared with so many “strangers” that I am overwhelmed. This little girl has been loved deeply, richly, profoundly by many. Thank you. I know you will be with us tomorrow, and for that we are more grateful than we can express.
My friend Jess will be updating the blog tomorrow as things are progressing so that we can share specific prayer requests. For today, please pray that we will be able to hear truth above fear, and that we will rest in knowing that truth.
With much love and great hope,