Monday, May 21, 2012

The cloud of sickness

Matthew 8:14-15 (NIV)

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
We are just coming out from under the cloud of sickness at our house. Stretching back about 17 days now to when Charlie came down with a fever that knocked him out for most of the weekend. He bounced back (just in time for an already-scheduled well baby visit) and then the fever came back again for Mother’s Day weekend. And as soon as he turned the corner back to normal, Max came down with his own fever. That was last Tuesday, and it wasn’t until after a day or two of prescription medicine that he finally started to stabilize.

Compounding the issue for everyone has been a remarkable lack of sleep for nearly everyone in the house. We’ve got a lovely combination of parents staying up late to try to keep up with housework (with only marginal success) and kids waking up early, either because of illness, limited bladder capacity or simply being unable to sleep through the sounds of a brother dealing with illness or limited bladder capacity. I suppose to make it fun we could place bets on which child we’ll hear first and within which hour.

It’s weeks (months?) like this that make me long for a newborn in the house again, because at least then you know what you’re in for. Every night I go to sleep in the happy delusion that the next thing I’ll hear will be my alarm clock, which is set for 7 a.m. And every morning I’m proven wrong. With newborns, there is no such delusion, and you learn to adjust. Of course, the more children you have, the more likely you’ll have to deal with one of them in addition to the newborn. And if you show me a parent who can be gracious to an older child who just wet the bed while doing a 3 a.m. diaper change for a screaming infant, I’ll set you up for a lunch date with my friends E. Bunny, S. Claus and T. Fairy.

Yet far be it for me to legitimately complain. So many parents deal with so many illnesses so much more severe than ours have encountered. After Max’s few days in the NICU, none of our kids have ever been admitted to a hospital. Outside of a few emergency room trips (mostly for allergic reactions to various things), I can’t recall one illness where I felt the need to pray for relief or intervention or healing.

I don’t pray along those lines for a few reasons. I believe God has bigger things to worry about, much like I don’t think he cares who wins football games. I’m sure God knows my kid is sick, and me saying, “God, Max has a fever” seems less worthy of my energy than offering praise for things I consider blessings. I’m aware of the obvious reasons kids get sick — and watching Jack and Max openly sneeze on every food item we have is an effective reminder — and I know these low-grade illnesses will mostly pass on their own, or at least after a few doses of antibiotics.

One of my absolute favorite hymns is “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” both for the music and the message. Yet I find myself many times, and not exclusively with illness, classifying my daily troubles as just facts of life, not “trials and temptations” that might make me “weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care.” I believe in taking things to the Lord in prayer, otherwise I’d not be writing this blog. But I sometimes struggle to find a line between what I should pray about and what’s better left unsaid.

This perhaps is a spiritual weakness of mine. The hymn, after all, does not urge us to take a few things to the Lord, but to “carry everything to God in prayer.” Jesus will bear “all our sins and griefs,” and I presume that really means all of them. It’s not like the checkout aisles at the grocery store limiting shoppers to 15 items or less. If you have 16 concerns or 160, God is there for you.

I guess I’ve got something else to work on. Here’s hoping I start to get the kind of sleep required to give such issues proper focus.

A prayer for May 21:

Lord, I thank you for a healthy family. We are blessed to be free of the serious medical concerns some of our friends encounter in their own lives or with their children, and I try hard to make sure I do not take for granted the relatively easy road we have traveled in our years together. I pray, though, that the people who face considerably rockier paths will find solace in you, and that I may sense opportunities to help encourage them to pray about their troubles. I also seek the wisdom to search for the things in my own life that I cannot handle on my own. Surely there are many, if only I would acknowledge my own weakness and burdens. Please continue to enlighten me. Amen.

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