Our family is in the midst of an achingly tense time; a time so full of fear and clinging and faith and worry that I’m not sure from one moment to the next exactly what I am feeling.
A time when the presence of God is so near as to be the truest of all truths.
A few days ago, our little six-month-old granddaughter, Beatrice was admitted to the hospital with strange symptoms. She’d had a cold, so Elizabeth thought perhaps her fussiness was an indication of an ear infection. When the doctor looked at her, he sent her straight to the hospital and she called all of us to pray.
After hours of tests and consultations and more tests, a Pediatric Neurologist broke the news: little Birdie has developed Infantile Spasms (IS), a rare epileptic syndrome that causes nearly continuous spasms in her brain. It is a dismal diagnosis fraught with what-if’s that are too frightening to contemplate.
For the first few days all we heard was bad news, followed by worse news. How could a simple cold turn into a life-altering, dreadful diagnosis so quickly?
But our family is not new to the world of broken bodies, of out-of-the-blue bad news. So we alerted friends to pray. Who in turn alerted their friends to pray. And word has spread, with hundreds, maybe thousands, letting us know that they have been awakened by the Spirit to battle in prayer for our little Birdie.
Right from the first word, I had that sense that this was to be a battle. That the enemy who invented disease was using this to test our faith and to shut down the beautiful voice of a little girl who is destined to grow up to be a woman this world needs.
And isn’t that what all illness is really about? An in-your-face challenge for us to blame God for something sin allowed? An attempt by all that is evil to shut out the beauty of a life created in the image of God?
So we have battled in prayer.
And suddenly the news started getting (a little) better. The MRI showed no damage to her brain so far, which means that they caught it really early. We all sighed with relief.
Brilliant specialists were consulted and a plan of action settled on. A plan that requires Birdie’s body to be flooded with massive amounts of steroids to stop the seizures before her brain suffers irreversible damage. The protocol is dangerous, but doing nothing is not an option.
So here we are: suffering.
Sometimes my prayers have sounded more like moans. Oh God…. please! Please don’t let the evil one steal our joy, our delight, our Birdie. Please!
At other times my prayers have been fierce and full of faith: No! Leave our girl alone! Not with our girl, you don’t! As if somehow I can redirect the disease in my direction, a warrior doing battle.
And through it all, I know my Father is weeping with me, with us. I feel His sorrow. My eyes soak in His Word and my heart leaps at His speaking.
Right away my soul stopped at the story in Mark 9. A little boy brought to Jesus by his helpless father. Remember that dad? He’s the one who said, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” At which Jesus immediately held out his hand to the child and not only stopped the seizures but restored his ability to speak.
I know now what that father felt. He watched his little boy convulse and then regress into an inability to express himself. And I cry out for mercy on our little one to find her voice and be who she is— and for all the world to wonder… to worship the One who made her as she is.
And then I think of the mamas I know whose babies have not been healed. I learn from their beauty, from the softness that comes in suffering. I learn from the wisdom won in the midst of dark days and endless nights.
And I read my own words, tested and tried and proven true through it all:
I choose to believe that God is good even though He didn’t heal me. That when life goes wrong and I suffer, He is with me. To join with the prophet to sing “He deal wondrously with us!” even when the wonderful life I expected doesn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. (from He Speaks In The Silence)
So I will pray and wait and hope for healing. I will do all I can to alleviate— or at least lessen— the intensity of the pressures my dear girl Elizabeth is enduring. I will cling close to the Savior, my Redeemer, the One who is coming soon to turn our tears into the purest perfume, a fragrance found only in deep trust. I will see the truth— that even in the midst of this, He is dealing wondrously with me… and Elizabeth and Brook and Duke and Scarlet… and little Beatrice.
From a heart that knows He is right here, right now,