October 3, 2012

Two Voices: Which One Will I Believe?

“Beep!  Beep!  Beep!”  My alarm clock blares at an ungodly hour, sometimes even before the sun itself is awake, demanding that I leave the brief escape of sleep in order to face the responsibilities of the day ahead.  Even before my eyes crack open and my feet find the floor, my mind is already racing ahead to the list of tasks before me, a list that I know before I even start is way too long to complete.  A mother’s life is naturally busy on any given day, but add in the stress of having a child in the hospital, and the responsibilities soon become overwhelming, almost paralyzing.

My voice says, “How can I possibly do this?!  It’s too difficult!”

God’s voice says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)

My three-year old foster child has been in the hospital for several weeks now, fighting a series of rare, complicated infections that require, not one, but two teams of medical specialists who don’t necessarily agree on the best way to treat him.  Several weeks of packing my backpack with a water bottle, protein bar, clipboard of all my notes, and indispensible cell phone; driving to the hospital; and entering my little one’s medical world.

Because of his infections, he is on “isolation”, meaning that everyone who enters his room must be fully masked, gowned, and gloved.  His days are filled with masked strangers entering his room bearing sharp needles, yuck-tasting medicine, and other instruments of torture, at least in the eyes of a three-year old.  Although I feel helpless to change the situation in any way, I do my best to hold him and comfort him after each painful procedure, talk with the doctors about their plans to help him become healthy again, request his favorite food from the cafeteria, arrange and rearrange his few belongings, and give him his daily bath.  I almost don’t recognize the lethargic child who barely has enough energy to sit up.  As the days slowly turn into weeks, all I can do is read stories to him and sing him to sleep, praying again and again that God would heal his feverish, infected body. 

My voice says, “I’m so frightened! What if the doctors are right, that this illness could cause permanent damage from which he will never recover?”

God’s voice says, “Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic . . . for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you.”  (Deuteronomy 20:3)

I wish I could stay with him 24/7.  However, in an effort to prevent myself from becoming exhausted, well, more exhausted than I already am, I force myself to leave his bedside at the end of every day.  The frantic echoes of his screaming, “Mama, Maaaaamaaaaa!” as I walk down the hospital corridor is almost more than I can bear.  The guilt utterly consumes me.  But what else can I do?  I know that the other members of my family need me at home.

My voice says, “You’re not doing enough.  How can you leave your child alone in the hospital?  You’re not a very good mother.”

God’s voice says, “What does the Lord your God ask of you? . . . Fear the Lord your God and serve Him.  Hold fast to Him.”  (Deuteronomy 10:12 & 20)

I arrive home, mentally, emotionally and physically spent.  How I desperately long for a quiet evening to rest and get re-energized for another day at the hospital tomorrow.  Unfortunately, relaxing is not on the agenda.  The laundry has been piling up, the other kids are hungry – again, and the countertops are overflowing with unopened mail, unpaid bills, and unwashed dishes.  I look at the calendar, cringing that yet another day has gone by, putting my kids further and further behind in their schoolwork. 

My voice says, “How will I ever catch up!  Where do I even start?  I’m so weary.”

God’s voice says, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

One of my daughters has been asking me repeatedly for several weeks now to help her with a project.  But with the critical worries about my foster son’s health and the demands that this hospitalization is placing on my schedule, I haven’t made the time for her.  Ugh!  Here comes that guilt again!  My other daughter, in an effort to do something special for our family during this bleak time, decided to make a cake for us.  Unfortunately, it burned on the top and failed to rise.  What did she do wrong?  I have no idea, since I wasn’t home to help her figure out the recipe.  The self-condemnation just keeps piling on.  I finally crawl into bed, so fatigued that my bones hurt.  It’s just about that time that my son, the night owl of the family, decides to perch on the end of my bed and talk about his day.  I try to look interested in his ideas for a new invention and to be excited about the high score he won on his computer game.  But my mumbles of “Hmmm” can hardly disguise the fact that my eyes won’t stay open.  Guilt, guilt, guilt!

My voice says, “I’m a complete and utter failure.”

God’s voice says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with your head held high.”  (Leviticus 26:13)

And my husband, my poor husband.  I know he is facing difficult situations and challenging demands every day at work.  And to make matters worse, his job requires that he travel all over the world, taking him away from our family and completely confusing his internal clock.  I would love to discuss the critical decisions he is facing, and fulfill my role as his sounding board and confidante.  Even when we are in the same time zone, we often resort to communicating by texts and e-mails.  Neither one of us is able to offer the other one the support that we so desperately need from each other during this challenging season of our life.

My voice says, “Look at all the ways my family is being deprived.”

God’s voice says, “Rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 26:11)

How is it humanly possible to be in two places at once?  The people I love are at home, where I long to be.  Yet one precious child is in the hospital, where I must be.

Again and again my voice says, “This is just too hard!  There is no way I can do this!  God, did I make a mistake and misunderstand your calling to care for this child?  Did YOU make a mistake by giving me more responsibilities than I can possibly manage?”

God’s voice says, “He is the Rock, His works are perfect; all His ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”  (Deuteronomy 32:4)

I don’t know how long my little guy will be in the hospital.  I can’t possibly predict the long-term effects that this illness will cause.  I have no idea what impact this season of our life will have on the other members of my family.  But one thing I am absolutely certain of:  I must stop listening to my voice!  It is His voice that matters, the one that encourages, counsels, confirms, and strengthens.  The voice that does not change when the weariness, doubt, and guilt set in.  His words are not optional for me. 

His voice continually reminds me, “They are not just idle words for you – they are your life!” (Deuteronomy 32:47)

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