Plenty of times since Olivia’s medical diagnosis, bad news has hit with gale force winds. Mostly, I’ve come up fists swinging. Or at least standing.
But at the end of today, I called myself broken, and I wasn’t wrong.
It was one of those appointments that you dread but know is necessary. For the swallow study, they mixed Olivia’s milk with barium and pointed a mammoth x-ray machine at her tiny, 4-year-old body. She laughed and kicked at the lead apron, and I watched the screen as liquid intended for the stomach escaped into her airway.
My mind had already spun through (and quickly rejected) a half-dozen “easy fix” solutions when I heard two words I’d been hoping never to hear.
I know that a feeding tube is not the end of the world. And, our pediatrician hasn’t yet said whether one is recommended.
But at the beginning of all of this, when we were only starting to understand the scope of what is meant by Peroxisomal Biogenesis Disorder, “feeding tube” got thrown around with other words like “degenerative” and “liver transplant.” Somewhere back there, I shelved all of those words–probably out of sheer need, I don’t know. But I think my mind wanted to put them all away–out of sight, out of mind. Somewhere different than right here and right now.
Today felt like someone reached up and swept a broom over a wall of shelves I’d tried to forget about. I found myself sitting among the rubble, trying to make sense of it all, helpless to put any of the pieces back together.
The technician was finishing the procedure. I busied myself gathering Olivia’s things and struggled to listen as the test results were relayed. Clasping my hands to hide the shaking, I tried to ask all of the right questions and then turned roboticly to follow the green arrows toward the hospital’s main exit.
Driving home with a smiling Olivia in the backseat, I cried for awhile and tried to pray but couldn’t come up with much. At home, I knew my husband was struggling too and that we needed each other badly. Instead of reaching out for him, I turned away and immediately hated myself for it.
Robert prayed, and then he made me get up off the couch and go to church. I sat in the parking lot until the last possible moment. Smiling half-heartedly at a few people, I found my seat and tried not to make eye contact with anyone.
Olivia made it through half of the sermon before she started to whimper. I had known she would be hungry soon. Still, my mind kept going back to the x-ray monitor and the fear that gripped my heart as I watched her food go down the wrong passage. The speech pathologist used the term “silent aspiration,” saying it could cause pneumonia.
In the church nursery, tears spilled down my face as I held onto Olivia and tried to listen to the end of the sermon over an intercom. I wanted, needed, to do something, so I tried again to pray:
“God, can you please send someone to stand strong for me, because I just can’t right now.”
My heart settled some, and I heard the Pastor’s closing question:
“What do you want this church to be known for?”
He began to talk about a God who is big enough, real enough and who cares enough to work miracles. Then he answered his own question by saying:
“When people need a miracle, I want them to know that they can find one here.”
I heard the pastor ask Robert to bring Olivia up for prayer, so I carried her through the foyer and met my husband at the door.
The prayer, along with a realization of God’s perfectly timed answer to my heart’s cry, washed over me. Peace came again, and I met the eyes of a church family of people who had gathered to stand in faith and offer strength.
Like a bone that must be reset, brokeness opens the door to wholeness.
The God who did not cause my pain is still wise enough to use it for His glory and my good. Only in the emptying of me can I find all the fullness of who He is.
Broken. Incapacitated. Falling apart.
Offensive words, all of them. Unless we consider what Jesus has always able to do with broken things.
The blind see and deaf ears hear.
Ragged relationships are restored.
Hearts too far gone are raised to new life.
When I have nothing to offer, He offers all that is needed. When I am incapacitated (void of strength), His power is working at full capacity. Even if I am faithless, He is still faithful (2 Cor. 12:9; 2 Tim. 2:13).
Jesus Himself modeled for us a pattern of emptying and brokeness, followed by victorious wholeness.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”–Philippians 2:5-11 ESV
Sometimes, we don’t need to break ourselves or even to pray for brokeness. We only need to admit that we ARE broken and in need of something we cannot get for ourselves.
Know that Jesus’ body broke so that we can have healing. He emptied Himself so we might invite Him to fill every broken place.