There are thin places in life where bad and unthinkable are a beat apart. I first noticed this thin place when my 3rd child was admitted to the hospital as an infant. She had a congenital birth defect in her kidneys of which we were previously unaware. The awareness came to me as a thin place. One moment she was a very sick baby, suffering, weak, screaming, ailing. The next moment her very existence became a question mark. When we didn’t know how bad her kidney functioning was, when we couldn’t get the infection under control when we couldn’t get the fever down or an IV to stay in her frail, tissue paper veins, the worst became a glimmer of possibility. This is the thin place.
I entered this thin place for the second time this week. My second child, my funny, silly, exuberant, affectionate Finn couldn’t swallow his breakfast last week. When we looked into his throat it seemed as if a balloon had been inserted into his tonsil and was closing off his airway. 5cc’s were pulled from that abscess and both tonsils and adenoids removed the next day. I received an unsurprising strep throat diagnosis the day after that: Finn is our resident lover.
Yesterday his steady uphill progress from the tonsillectomy 4 days ago slowed to a halt. He had that look that all mothers know but can’t describe. It’s a slight glossing of the eyes, an extra dose of sensitivity, a sense of lethargy- and we know. So I buckled him up and called for an appointment on the way. They told me tomorrow, I looked back at my feverish boy vomiting into a Slurpee cup and I told them now.
When the doctor mouthed the words MRSA to me, I felt the whole room begin to spin. He used other words like staph infection, and strong antibiotics, in all sorts of reassuring tones, but all I could see was my baby, legs dangling off the table, cheeks inflamed with fever, dried throw up on his shirt: MRSA.
So I remained in Mom Mode as I had all week: Ignoring my own searing throat at 4am to comfort him. Finding the best doctors, sitting in traffic to commute to Orange County. We drove home and I got the antibiotics. I made a chart to keep track of two antibiotics at two different times (not to mention my own) on schedule. I stocked up on more popsicles, I did more laundry. I checked and re-checked his fever. I cuddled him and read more books.
Then the night came. Nighttime is the worst time when one is in a thin place. When I started to panic during the day, I simply thanked God for all the ways we were blessed: access to great doctors, quick antibiotics. Grateful that I could bully my way into the healthcare system, that we had a freezer full of otter pops. Grateful that I was on no ones time clock but my own, and I could stare at him all day and control every aspect of his care. And during the sunlit hours those sound bytes cover up the vulnerability of thin-ness. But at night I am exposed.
I laid in the quiet dark, mentally going over all his medications, retracing my steps for things I may have forgotten. I assured myself that I had done my very best, advocating for his care, being on top of a post surgical fever. I told myself that he would be fine. But deep down in the thinnest part, I knew better.
There are no guarantees. And all my hustle and bustle and control and even thanking God (forgive me) are all my ways of securing that which is not guaranteed. Because if I am good and I do the right things, everything will go my way. But that is not true. It seems almost especially untrue in God’s kingdom.
As I laid there, I thought of all the people I knew who had done the right things but the thinness had thinned until it broke anyways. I thought of my friends who had lost their only child when en route to the mission field. I thought of their goodness and their faith. If the worst can happen to them what hope is there for the rest of us? I had to confess anew that I do not understand God’s goodness. I know that its there and that its integral to His nature but still the world often feels like a crap shoot.
I felt the panic rising in my throat. I could picture Finn now, lying in his bed. What if he was reacting badly to the medications and I missed it? He just started them all, maybe he should have been monitored? What if he stops breathing? Who will be there to know? And the thin place became a cavern where I am no longer held up and begin to drown.
I began to pray but my prayers were fragmented and tangential and I could not focus my mind. I needed to touch him. So I crept out of my bed and tip toed into his. I slid my body in next to him and immediately felt relief. Finn sleeps like he eats like he loves. Extravagantly. His arms thrown in opposing directions his legs tangled in the sheets, his mouth wide open. He does everything like it’s the most enjoyable thing to do.
I am comforted by this normalcy. I hover my hand above his naked chest. I lay it down gently so he won’t stir. I feel the thudding of his heart. I remember immediately the first time the doctor found his heartbeat. I remember the tears stinging my eyes, as they did in that moment, as they do as I type. This body was once contained in mine.
My prayers began, desperate and torrential. Begging and pleading. Calling down and yelling up, please please please. I found myself in the best place to be when dealing with God. In need of mercy. I had no strings to pull. My Mom Mode would not get me into any doors here. God has the ultimate Mom Mode trump. He wins.
That’s when the peace came flooding in. God would not save Finn from death because I found the head ENT at the best Children’s Hospital in Southern California. God would not save Finn because He was so impressed with my antibiotic schedule excel sheet. God would not even save Finn merely because I begged Him to. God would save Finn or not save Finn because of His deep, eternal, never shaking, unwavering EXTRAVAGANT love for him. In my frenzy I had forgotten that there was Someone who loved Finn even more than me. And that love propelled God to do crazier things than driving to Orange County in rush hour. God loves my son enough to give up His own Son. God loves Finn enough to know every hair on his head. I finger one strand that is sticking up apart from the others and I think about the intimacy with which God knows and loves Finn. I think of him as being woven and spun in my womb. I become immensely grateful that God even allows me to be a part of it. And the thin place becomes no less thin. But it becomes less empty.