Today I am feeling a bit like Job. Not because I am suffering, (I would have to lose a lot before I was willing to compare my suffering to his), but because in the midst of my circumstances (and my son’s), God took the time to give me a little attitude adjustment. Not only that, but he had the audacity to use my son, who was in the middle of a major allergic reaction.
Yesterday we were at church, getting ready for (and participating in) our Christmas service. Things were going really well. Worship was just so incredibly on point. After that I shared a song and really felt the Spirit ministering through it, I was getting really excited for whatever was coming next.
Did I say whatever? Because maybe I should have qualified that whatever a little bit. I sat down, drank the last sip of water I had at my seat, and got up to slip out and get some more. I have been fighting off the respiratory flu bug that’s going around, and my throat was DRY.
I made it to the back of the sanctuary, where my husband sat. I was alarmed to see that, while I was hearing his “Don’t Panic” voice, I was seeing his, “Now is the time to PANIC!” face. I looked down at Joshua, still thinking about my water for the moment, and noticed his face was a bit red. I looked up to Jeff for more explanation and then my alarm registered enough for me to take a second look. One eye, swollen almost all the way shut. The other eye, decently puffy. Hives on cheek and forehead, groggy looking boy. Jeff informed me that Joshua had an allergic reaction, he wasn’t sure to what, he only knew it was not something he ate, and was pretty sure it was that something had gotten on his skin. Joshua had been struggling to breathe, and Jeff had given him a whopping dose of Benadryl (in hindsight, we are both pretty aware that if there is a reaction this big in the future, it is an appropriate time for the Epi-pen. We’ve never had to use it yet, so that line between Benadryl and Epi-pen has seemed pretty confusing till now).
Anyway, we ushered him to the fellowship hall, I walked and prayed while holding him for a bit, then he only wanted Daddy. He was getting rather unnerved by the fact that we kept taking very close looks at his face. Joshua has some sensory issues, and I think the whole thing was a little overwhelming for him. Multiply that with Benadryl grogginess and it was a sure recipe for overwhelmed and irritable boy. Boy who could hardly keep his eyes open. That last part worried me. The Benadryl doesn’t ususally hit him so hard, but he usually only gets one teaspoon and this time he got 2. But the swelling was coming down, and he seemed to be having an easier time breathing. Just couldn’t stay awake and was “sad (his words).”
We decided that we should go home, where there was less going on and it would be easier to keep tabs on him and make sure things continued to progress in the right direction (less swelling, more oxygen). While I got our stuff into the car and Jeff held Joshua, I was praying. Fussing, really. It went something like this.
“God, I don’t even know what to pray right now. We are supposed to be walking out our healing…we’ve been doing this for almost three years and we really haven’t seen any indication that his allergies are reversing or anything. I’m frustrated, and discouraged. I want to see him healed. I want him to be able to play and not worry if something nearby could make him sick or worse. I want to know that this is going to be over, at some point.”
Now, it is true, none of Joshua’s allergies have been reversed, yet. But, we have seen improvements in his digestion, in his growth, and he is in pain a lot less frequently. There is definitely healing taking place. But in the drama of the moment and in my panic I conveniently neglected these details and honed in on the fact that we’re not at the END of that healing journey, yet. As we got Joshua into the car he cried out, “No! I need more church.” That made me second guess our decision a bit, so I asked him, “Do you want to stay here at church?” And he said, “I can’t stay.” So we went on home. He was asleep before we even started the car, and his snoring was nice and even. Nevertheless, we didn’t say much on the drive home, I’m pretty sure we were both listening to him breathe.
He woke up when we got home, and we nestled him into the easy-chair, and I sat with Alliyah for a bit who was needing Mommy (and a nap). Then, I just felt really strongly that I needed to sing over him. I was remembering a word and some instruction given to me, that I need to be singing over him and speaking life, and this was one of those moments I just began to feel it was really critical.
I began to sing, “There is power in the Name of Jesus, to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.” As I started to sing the bridge of that song (Break Every Chain), which says, “I hear the chains falling,” Joshua began to cry out. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard him yelling, “Yes,” loud and very long. I looked over at him, saw that he was not in any physical distress, and kept singing and hearing him cry out five or six times, “YYYYYYYEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!!” I stopped when he did, and just to double check what I was hearing (He was literally 5 feet away from me, I am honestly not sure why I asked) I asked him, “What did you just say?” He answered very matter-of-factly, “Um, I said, ‘yes!'” I said, “oh, ok,” and was about to keep singing the same song, when he piped up, “No, Mommy, don’t SING!” I thought surely he must be confused because he had just been agreeing with what I was singing a moment before. I asked why not, and he started singing, “Because I’m happy….”
He was done crying out. He was ready to praise it in (I know Pharrell’s “Happy” is not really a praise song, but we have definitely sung portions of it in church, and he LOVES the song). So then I sang “Happy” over him for awhile. At this point I had moved and AJ danced while I held Joshua curled up on my lap. And we sang happy. He was still my groggy benadryl-boy and he didn’t move much like he usually does, but he knew what he wanted to do in the middle of that moment.
Job’s lesson, at the end of his story, is that — while God will never punish him or be angry with him for asking questions — Job really can’t see behind the scenes to see what God is doing or know the purpose in things. Our view is limited, and God is working things out for our good to His glory. He is the one who knows the end from the beginning, not us. And more than that, through the life Christ lived on earth we know that God is in the midst of all these challenging things with us. And I got a very close-up view of how much I cherish my son’s life and desire for him to be well, whole, and with me. How much more so did God love and cherish His own son. We like to think that because He’s God and because He knew He’d have Jesus back in the end it wasn’t a big deal for Him. He just lent Jesus to us for awhile, right? But God created us in His image. If we are emotional beings, we can bet that God is, too. In fact, at one point in His earthly ministry Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and at another over the death of a friend…God is a God who feels things. And this feeling God sent His son to earth to be born in a grimy, stinky barn and live a life where He was rejected and mocked by the very people He came to save, where he would ultimately die on our behalf. This is what Christmas is. We celebrate that God bruised His own son for us without even getting a glimpse of how that must have felt for God, who identifies Himself as “Father.” I spent some time today just soaking all that in.
Joshua shifted my own perspective because I had forgotten that, in the midst of my panic, discouragement, and frustration; God was still God. He was right there with me. But Joshua hadn’t forgotten. He cried out to God, too, but then he knew it was time to shift from pleading to praise. God was holding Joshua even when I wasn’t. He deserved the glory before Joshua’s reaction, He deserved it during, and He deserves it now. Yes, God! Heal my son! Break the chains that this illness has on his life! But let’s not forget to praise Him. God, don’t let me forget to praise You. Even while I’m waiting for an answer, I will praise Him.
I know this post is getting rather lengthy but I have to add this update. The day after taking Benadryl, Joshua is generally excessively irritable. Tantrums every five minutes over seemingly nothing. Today he was totally fine. Just another day. He got along with AJ the same as usual (sometimes sharing with her, other times pushing her down, normal big brother stuff). Not only that, but every single allergic reaction he has ever had, the next day his diet has become more restricted. I think because of the hit to his immune system, those opportunistic gut-bugs gain a better foothold. They like sugar, so the only thing Joshua is willing to eat is bananas. He has restricted his diet down so many times in the past. At the moment we are waiting for our first appointment with a pediatric feeding program…it’s that bad. Recently he’s stopped eating anything but poultry. Before that it was only meat on the bone. He would eat neck bones, chicken legs, any kind of meat on the bone, but no burgers, patties, or meat that had been removed from the bone. But at least he had variety in the types of meat. Then just a few weeks ago he stopped eating pork and beef. Chicken all the time. The only veggie he would permit was squash fries. Tonight, he ASKED for bugers. And then he ate a whole quarter-pound burger. AND cauliflower. He ate cauliflower even though what he’d asked for was broccoli and I didn’t have any left. So instead of restricting his diet down further…he expanded it for the first time in months. I am sitting here today knowing that God is good…even when I’m throwing a pity party and frantically refusing to trust…God is good.