Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Endurance

When I began taking Sylvie out and about, I found I loved meeting strangers. They would peek into her car seat and ooh and ahh over her, comment how beautiful and healthy she was, and begin reminiscing about their own little ones. I would smile and nod and for a few seconds, I could make-believe that my daughter was perfectly healthy, surgery was not on the horizon, and there was no such thing as congenital heart defects.

But who am I kidding?

I recently talked to two moms whose own children had open-heart surgery. One mom found herself in exactly my position, only four months ahead of me: her daughter was also diagnosed with TOF.

Both of them, without any prodding on my part, talked about the difficulty of living under with the knowledge of upcoming open-heart surgery. The waiting is grueling. Months are too big to comprehend, sometimes even weeks are too long to grasp. I find myself numbering days, hours, minutes. Do you know how many seconds are contained in a day? 86,400. I notice more of them these days.

One mother had something surprising to say. She said that once her daughter was in surgery, her husband and she cried tears of relief. They were so thankful the waiting was over.

Can you imagine living in such a way that a serious surgery in which they cut open your daughter's chest, sternum, and heart, and pump her blood and oxygen through a machine for six to eight hours becomes a relief?

This waiting is increasing our spiritual endurance. Learning to trust, learning to confidently wait. Learning to laugh, learning to keep living. Learning to banish worries and take each through captive. Over and over and over again; every second of every long day. 

As I mulled over all this a few weeks ago, a thought occurred to me (and all mothers will understand the ease in which we can take this mental leap): if I had had more spiritual endurance to begin with, maybe this wouldn't have happened to my daughter...

While tearfully grappling with my obvious deficiency a thought popped into my head; a sudden and contrary thought. Yet the nature of it was familiar enough for me to know that it wasn't me thinking this thought, but the Spirit of God speaking up; taking part in this relationship of ours. And he had something interesting to say.

Remember Corduroy?

Do you remember Corduroy? The small bear in green overalls with a missing button on one of his shoulder straps? He lived in the toy department of a large store and nobody seemed to want to take him home. I hate to spoil the ending of this lovely story for you, but someone does eventually take him home: a small girl with a big heart. Her name is Lisa.

And it was the last line of the book that the Spirit brought to mind. While Lisa held Corduroy in her lap and sewed a new button on his shoulder strap she said, "I like you the way you are, but you'll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened."

I have no idea if Don Freeman, the author and illustrator of Corduroy, understood the nature of God but I think the last line of his book perfectly captures one facet of his personality. God loves us just the way we are, but he continually uses the events of our lives to build up our strength of character so that we can be more spiritually comfortable as we encounter the trying events that will undoubtedly crop up during the rest of our lives. Right now, God is building up my spiritual endurance. It's not about deficiency or lack because no one possesses enough spiritual endurance to sail through life unscathed by bad news or terrifying events. No one is adequate. We all need fortification. The question is when and how.

An inspired man named James once said: "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." 

I know I'm not the only one waiting for something. I know I'm not the only one dealing with difficult circumstances. How are you responding? Do you numb yourself? Distract yourself? Talk about it? Think about it? Do you release yourself to it, let it take its natural course and see how the Lord will take you and and shape you, increasing your endurance until the perfect result is left standing? We are a drowsy race. The path of least resistance is to ignore, divert, forget; to sleep while 86,400 seconds pass us by over and over again. 

Each morning I choose whether or not I will live in the land of make-believe. Sometimes the reality makes me weep. Sometimes it doesn't. Regardless of the emotional response, I want to face it and see what the Lord can do with all of this. I want to be awake.

Because who doesn't want to be perfect and complete; lacking in nothing?

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