About two weeks ago Armageddon hit the Gavenda home, in the form of a stomach bug. It rampaged through our household until it had taken each of us down in its wake, and even cycled back through to hit 2/5s of us again. As the first pukey, poopy day came to what Peter and I hoped was a close we plopped down on the couch and looked at each other. “Happy Valentines Day.” Neither of us were sick yet. But we each had the foreboding feeling that we knew what was coming. We had seen our future. No amount of Lysol or denial was going to stop it.
We had canceled our reservations to go out for a nice dinner. Valentines Day is over-rated anyway. I would much rather shower love on pathetic, sick and stinky babies than partake in a pressure filled, orchestrated holiday. But never-the-less, we have not had a date in 8 months so we were looking forward to it. As we sat on the couch debating what to order for Take-out Valentines Dinner we couldn’t help but laugh with dread, you know the kind of laugh. The one that hurts a little. The one that has sounds like a laugh but the face resembles more of crying. In infants this is actually referred to by Scientists as “The Laugh-Cry”. The clenched jaw, the nervous squinted eyes, the tears forming in the corners of your eyes, the smile that gives way to a sour frown before you force it back into a trembling half smile. We knew we might soon be eating our last meal. So we debated. Was there anything that we really had been meaning to stop eating. We chuckled about the How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall goes to town on jalapeño poppers when Lily has food poisoning, suspecting he knows his fate. This was his chance to eat healthier because he would never want to eat another jalapeño popper after the stomach storm he was about to endure. Peter asked what restaurant I wanted to get food from. I have no few options that are gluten free anyway. I didn’t want to sour myself to one of my go-to meals. We decided on dry spaghetti and Gatorade. Romance at its best, people.
Oh the fear that set in.
It got me thinking about real fear, not just “oooooh craaaap. In the next couple hours each of us are going to be racing to the bathroom to do unspeakable things. Oh, and it is your turn to clean up kid A because I just finished up cleaning kid B and C.”
The events of the past year and a half or so have left me gun shy, to say the least. Peter comes home with his shoulders slumped and I assume he was fired. My mom calls before 9 am on a Saturday and I assume someone is dead or dying. My body and my spirit are constantly bracing for the worst, for the next inevitable blow. I don’t like living that way. So, I have really been practicing focusing on Jesus. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by what is coming or what is happening or what might happen, I say one word to myself out loud “Jesus.” Just Jesus. In moments like that it is all I can say. All I want to say. All I need to say. Give me Jesus.
It has helped me to surrender my fears. We have lived (or are living) some of our worst fears right now. My parents and in-laws are facing some of the worst that this world can dish out. And the worst part is the fear of knowing what looms on the horizon. How can we live knowing? How can we shake that fear? Jesus. Just Jesus. That is the only remedy I know.
I think I have done an okay job at not being paralyzed by the fear. God has prepared me for a time such as this. He is worthy of my praise and worthy of my trust, regardless of what I feel, regardless of what is going on around me. I know that. And I have done an okay job at living it in light of my dad’s diagnosis. But once I got thinking about real fear, I realized something not so okay about myself. God graciously showed me that I am not as surrendered and trusting as I should be. When it comes to our finances-okay, my health-okay, Peter’s job-okay, my parent’s health-okay…and so on. But there is one area where I have been drawing the line, as if I assume God can’t, or won’t cross it. “God, I know you are going to bring about what is best in this. I know you are going to carry us through as you have promised. I know you will equip us to do your will and have given everything we need for life and godliness. So, I know that you will make us able to do what we need to do when it comes to Dad’s diagnosis and our new life. BUT, God please don’t let anything happen to my kids. I just can’t handle that. It would just be the thing to put me over the edge.”
The fear is still there. I am basically saying, “okay God, you can have all of my life because I trust you and I know you will bring everything about for good-BUT you can’t possibly bring about harm to my kids for good-at least not enough good to make it okay with me. So I trust you, but only to a point. I know what I can handle and that would just be too much-too much for me…no actually, too much for you. You couldn’t carry me through that. It is too much. So the puck stops here God. Here is the line. Take it all. Do what you will. I praise you. I trust you. But only to a point. Only to this line. The one right here. The one I hid my kids behind. Bring on all the crap, all the stuff that hurts but makes me better stuff, all the stuff we won’t understand until we get to heaven stuff, all the praise you in this storm stuff. But not my kids. Don’t touch my kids. I will stay right where I am in trusting you when it comes to my kids. No growth. I am going to box them in, box YOU in and pretend it works that way. You can have every part of me, just don’t let me kids get sick or die. You could never bring enough good out of that. You could never heal that hurt. I would crumble into more pieces than you could ever piece back together. Okay? Do we have a deal? Thanks.”
It is hypocritical. It is ugly. It is messy. It is real. So yeah. That is what I am working though. I have felt like Jacob wrestling with God the last couple weeks, as I hashed through my thoughts, challenged my pride and broke down the boundaries I had put up. I am not quite there yet. I am almost there. I am to the point where I think I would be there if I needed to be there, but I just really don’t want to be there. Although I know it does not matter what I say. He is God. He will do what is best, whether I am on board or not.I am getting there. But I am not there. I am allowing God to work in me. I don’t know what “the best is”. I am praying that what is best is to keep my family in tact-just the way I like it. And I am praying that I squeeze them tightly, but hold them loosely-that I love them the way God called me to. And I am praying for Grace for today.
And I am ready, with Lysol in hand, to fall to my knees and pray, when the best gets hard-really hard. That is the most I can do right now. When the best seems like the worst. When His grace doesn’t seem like grace at all and the joy is hard to come by. I will wrap myself in Truth, steady myself with Faith, step forward in Trust and whisper-shout (maybe even laugh-cry) His praise. Jesus. Just Jesus.