We felt like there was no way out.
Every night for the next week, Allie worked herself into a frenzy. Susan and I would take turns trying to console her, but she screamed and huffed and puffed for six or seven hours every evening. My beautiful wife was a frazzled wreck. I collapsed, emotionally drained and physically exhausted, into bed every night. At the beginning of every day, Susan and I woke up hoping that this would be the day that things started to get better.
I began to hate my life. Will this ever change or is this going to be my life? I thought.
In the beginning, I had an attitude and posture of forgiveness and reconciliation toward the young man that hurt her. But now, it seemed like I’d have to forgive him all over again several times a day. I didn’t have it in me. I have a biblical framework that tells me to forgive. That is what I’m supposed to do, but I just didn’t know how it was possible. Matthew 6:14–15 says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
My theology wasn’t working for me anymore.
Our bedtime ritual
I sat on the corner of the bed in our bedroom in my sister’s house about a foot and a half away from Allie’s crib. I bounced on the bed as I held Allie to get her to sleep. This movement was the only thing that would work.
Before I started bouncing with Allie, the sequence of next moves were meticulously planned. I had to think three or four moves ahead at all times. The crib was arranged so I could, in one motion, place a sleeping Allie in the crib, gently remove my arms from beneath her. The g-tube that hung from her abdomen had to be held with precision in my hands so it wouldn’t snag. Not only would the pain wake Allie, but with enough sudden force, the tube could be snatched out of her stomach. An ambulance would have to be called, and a doctor would have to surgically re-insert the tube before she could eat or take more medicine. Because we were so new at being the caretakers of a special needs child, the pressure was intense. I stayed hyper-aware of her surroundings with every move. My final move would be to silently back out of the room without tripping or bumping into something.
After forty-five minutes of bouncing, I was sweating, but Allie was asleep. I mentally reviewed my list of moves. Then I slowly backed out of the room.
A creaking floor board breaks the silence. Allie is startled. She’s fully awake and crying.
“Ugh!” I shout.
I have to start over. I picked her up, sat on the bed, and started bouncing her. I was exasperated and mentally exhausted. I was mad that God would allow this baby to suffer and put me through taking care of her like this. She’s a quadriplegic, she’s got brain damage, and she doesn’t know why life is so painful. As I bounced, my thoughts turned to God and our ruined lives.
A friend in Jesus?
As I bounced, a verse from John 15 came to mind: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” I wondered where my friend Jesus went. Tragedy strikes. Life-altering, devastating catastrophe physically and mentally wrecked a little baby. My daughter’s life was destroyed. A young man sits in jail waiting for judgment on his life. The parents that love him are shamed. My wife and I are caught in a storm of pain, marital stress, and a hopelessness that comes from having no way to think about any kind of future. Each day is filled with more trouble than the day before.
Where is my friend Jesus? I thought. I couldn’t believe he could let this horrific thing happen to me; to us; to Allie. He has the ability to help, but didn’t. That’s the theological conclusion I came to. He stood on the sidelines and watched.
Can I overlook an offense like that?
Where would God be without me?
I started making a mental list of all I’ve done for God. I think I’ve done huge things for God — things most people don’t have the courage to do. I’ve faithfully left comfortable situations and sacrificed. Shouldn’t I be rewarded? Why does it feel like I’m being punished? Let’s see… I’ve planted churches, worked in Africa as a missionary, and even served in active war zones. “Jesus, I’ve done all this stuff for you! Why would you let this happen to me,” was the prayer I prayed mentally as I bounced, sweaty. I read my Bible everyday. In fact, I habitually read the entire Bible all the way through every year for ten years straight. “I know I’m not perfect, but I’ve been a good guy, God. What else do you have to work with?”
Allie was asleep again. I moved to put her in bed. As I leaned and bent over the crib, I leaned on her g-tube, and its valve snagged on the crib’s railing! Before I could adjust, the tube stretched and pulled her abdominal flesh and almost popped out of her stomach. Allie screamed as she woke up.
“Don’t you see this? I yelled at God. “She’s only A BABY!”
I sat back down on the bed with her and started bouncing.
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