God's Big Answers
It was late at night as I quietly sat in my small chair, listening to the muted humming of the monitors, the hushed conversations in the hallway, and the rhythmic puffs of air that allowed my son to breathe. It was in that dark room that I found myself feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. And, honestly, I didn't like it.
For the past twenty years, I had been the tough one. I had helped my son survive heart attacks, seizures, surgeries, pneumonias, and a life of severe handicaps and challenges. The more we went through, the tougher we got. And although things were never easy, as a Christian I knew they would always turn out okay in the end.
But this time things were different. This time our problems felt just too big.
Learning Through Pain
My son, Aaron, was no stranger to challenges. As a result of a childhood brain injury, he was completely dependent on others to meet his daily needs. The beautiful thing about Aaron, however, was that he was truly a beam of sunshine. With curly red hair and a face full of freckles, his smile was a gift he freely shared with everyone he met. As Aaron's mom, I quickly learned important lessons. I learned that everything took way more time and energy than I originally planned. I learned that handicapped parking spaces were never wide enough. And I learned that our lives were always one step away from chaos.
As a Christian, I also learned important spiritual lessons. I learned that God was faithful. I learned that God had my back. And I learned that his plans were, ultimately, bigger and better than anything I could ever imagine.
A Diminished God
I contemplated these lessons as I sat in Aaron's darkened ICU room. Even though he had been admitted into the hospital with a chest cold, things had escalated and he now was struggling to adapt to a new tracheotomy tube. In other words, from this point on, Aaron would have to breathe through a tube in his throat. This little tube was single-handedly taking away the comfortable and meaningful life he had grown to enjoy. Because his group home was not set up to provide advanced tracheotomy care, he would not be allowed to go back to his friends, his specially painted room, or his loving caregivers. And if that wasn't bad enough, the state of Minnesota wouldn't pay for another group home and was making arrangements to send him to a nursing home over 100 miles away.
Whichever way I looked at it, Aaron's future felt hopeless. No matter how hard I prayed or how loudly I complained, there was simply nothing I could do.
Looking back, I can see that my problem was not a lack of faith; it was a crisis of scale. I believed that God was faithful and he loved Aaron, but when it came right down to it, I did not believe God was big enough to solve this. My undersized perspective was not a new revelation, but rather the result of an ongoing process.
Without me noticing, my view of God had slowly and quietly diminished. My days had become more structured and pre-planned, and my relationships had become more predictable. With the help of technology like iPhones and Facebook, I had begun to act like I actually had some control over my little world. The good part was, as long as I didn't take too many chances, I was confident we could make it through the daily challenges. The bad part was that as I tried so hard to maintain control, I ended up simply reducing and flattening the truly awesome, uncontrollable parts of life.
Whether it was the way I compacted rich relationships into little text messages on a screen or compressed the Creator of the universe to fit within my allotted 15-minute quiet time, I had traded in an understanding of an awesome, deep, and exciting life for something a little more artificial and a little less big. And here's the problem with a life that is controlled and a God who is manageable: When things fall apart, there is nowhere to turn. When God is too small, my problems are simply too big.
During Aaron's hospitalization, relentless feelings of worry and sorrow drew me to the Old Testament book of Job. I believe Job was faced with the same challenge of trying to regain control of his little world. As he sat for days mourning the loss of his family and his possessions, he undoubtedly felt overwhelmed and didn't know what he was supposed to do to make it stop hurting.
Certainly his friends tried to explain why things happened and what should be done about it, but the real beauty of the book comes at the very end. After his friends turned silent, Job turned his face toward heaven. The answer God gave was not about theology or a list of things for Job to do to fix things. Instead, God responded to Job's distress by describing the size of his creation (see Job 38-41). God reminded Job of how truly awesome God himself was. He reminded Job that it really was a matter of scale.
As Aaron's stay in the ICU came to a close, I began to see things differently. Instead of cornering social workers, guilting group homes, calling prayer lines, Tweeting prayer requests, and flooding Facebook with prayer updates, I began to rest in the arms of a mighty God. I spent long walks in solitude, worshiping and meditating on the powerful God I serve. And you know, the bigger my view of God became, the less I worried. The more I saw his majesty, the more I saw his hand at work. And the more I acknowledged his power, the less I agonized about my options.
Aaron eventually moved down to a facility that was far from my protective arms. The beautiful thing was that Aaron was in God's arms. When my sweet son died unexpectedly on a sunny afternoon one month later, I once again ran to the God of the universe. I knew that he was big enough to help me through the dark days to come.
The thing I have come to realize is that when I start to feel overwhelmed, that's when I need to be reminded of who God really is. After all, the God who put the mountains in place, arranged the stars in space, and counts the hairs on my head is the God who I can trust. When it comes to my Christian faith, scale really does matter.
By Peggy Kendall
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