The thing I heard most when I told people about Drue's ordeal at the park last weekend (for those who don't know, she was hit in the mouth with a thick plastic swing...by an 8-year-old who was throwing that swing...and lost, starting with the top right incisor and moving left, 5 teeth) is this:
Thank God it wasn't worse.
Thank God it wasn't worse.
The thing is, of course thank God it wasn't worse, but what about what did happen? What about the fact that I stared into the face of my 2-year-old for 6 hours, and it was pouring blood? What about the fact that at night, after I put her to bed, for three nights straight I cried myself to fitful sleep because in the quiet, all I could think about was the moment the swing hit my sweet daughter's confused and terrified face, the things she screamed as I ran her up the hill a quarter mile to the hospital, the medics strapping her into the ambulance while she cried, the gauze that she held up to her mouth all by herself to catch the blood that was pouring out. I could obviously go on.
What happened was traumatic, and no, I didn't spend my nights thinking about what could have happened. Now, days later, almost a week later, I have thought: Wow. If I hadn't shouted at her to get out of the way, she might not have turned, and the swing might have sliced her head open. Thank God it wasn't worse, yes. Indeed. Of course.
But those first few days...
You know, people say that suffering will make you stronger or that there is a greater purpose for suffering (why do people say these things?), and though I do have faith that there is a greater purpose and that I have a less than eternal perspective on things most if not all of the time, I think...well, what am I trying to say? I'm thinking, first: of things people shouldn't say to immediately suffering people. And I'm also thinking about when people say, "Suffering drives you to the cross of Christ." OK, but what does that really look like?
Because this past week, I have NOT been fleeing to Jesus. I have not prayed more. I have been angry more. I have been sad more. I have tried my hardest to be more self-reliant. And this is what I've come to: Maybe what people mean when they say that suffering drives you to Jesus is that, in fact, it's Jesus who comes to YOU in your suffering. Because that is what I've experienced, and it is crazy.
I have fled Jesus these last days, and yet he has come, through messages from friends near and far, through offered meals (we took one family up on a meal Sunday night and didn't realize just how much we needed it; we tore through those cheeseburgers like we were starving, because we were, because we'd forgotten to eat), through SO many friends offering to help in any way they could, through one friend's getting out of bed and throwing on clothes to go with me to the grocery store because I didn't want to be alone, through a Bible study that I dragged myself to but hadn't done this week, and lunch offered to us after, and through wisdom from another friend that really had an impact and has stuck with me like glue...(side note alert)...
I called her on a bad day (a bad day for her, so really, we were both having a bad day). But two days had passed since the accident, and she said lovingly, "Meghan, hindsight is 20-20. I know that. But these things, they're a way that God allows us to see our children differently. To love them differently. To parent them differently."
How right she was. You might think I'm hokey, but I could feel in my gut that her wisdom was straight from God. It's rare that I FEEL God working - that I KNOW he is there and that he just DID something. Are the caps helping make my point? And that was one of those moments. We were seeing Drue differently (we'd seen her bleed like a murder victim; we'd seen her bravery, her amazing resilience, among other things). We were coming around her and loving her differently. This is hard to explain, but we were - and are. We obviously were parenting her differently, at least for a few days, because all we did was love on her and let her have and do anything she wanted, while poor Paigey waited in the wings. These things my friend said were true. It was what I needed to hear. It was a turning point. I think I slept better that night, though I definitely still cried my eyes out and probably called my mom, who probably said, and I love her so, "We just thank God it wasn't worse."
Oddly too, this week I've seen my husband step out of a really dark place. I've, well, I don't have time to sit and analyze all that's been going on in my heart, nor do I necessarily want to put it out here for anyone to see, but the point is: once again, it wasn't I who did; it was He.
Some thoughts that I've been having the last 24 hours: Thank God it wasn't worse. Haha. But also, what if her short amount of suffering, and ours, has allowed us to grow closer as a family and to love and disciple one another better? What if Drue's losing her 5 front teeth is an act of mercy that is teaching her - and me - that beauty is not what the world says it is?
Drue has learned the Westminster kids' catechism question: Why should you glorify God? And answer: Because he made me and takes care of me.
I know that I've been wrestling with this question and answer, and I have to think that on some 2-year-old level she is too. She has had to wrestle with feelings that she's not had to previously. She is learning to eat and talk differently. But she is smiling, and it is an even sweeter smile.
I don't know how parents who are dealing with their kids having cancer do it. How parents who have lost children do it. I don't know. I know that our suffering has been MINIMAL. But that doesn't mean it isn't suffering, or hard. And yet, even when we try to be alone, we're not. We can't be. We are rooted in something eternal, who cares for us more deeply than we know and who doesn't let us go. I think of Psalm 1:3, "He is like a tree planted by streams of water..."
So maybe if I have a friend who is suffering sometime in the future, I have learned this: I will let God do the work he is surely doing, and I will do my best just to listen.
P.S. If you told me, "Thank God it wasn't worse," I still love you very much. It seems like an obvious thing to say. I get it. This is not a rant about how much I can't believe you said that. At least it isn't supposed to be. And after all, I've been thinking that very thought now.