My son, Zach, used to have a t-shirt that read: Jesus Loves You… But I’m His Favorite. Deep down, I felt that to be true, for myself. Surely, God had the whole world to love, but I was one of His favorites ;). We were tight. After all, He had seen me out of many tough spots. For sure, I had my own special place in His heart. I could struggle and fail, but in the end, everything would work out… not just according to Him, but also according to me.
Some would call this optimism… others narcissism ;).
My childhood (into adulthood) lenses had an abrupt splintering when I hit my first tragedy. When our firstborn struggled to live. I was not prepared. It would seem many of my life lessons were learned around that plastic isolette (incubator, we called it).
For the most part, Meagan had been born healthy. Small (2 Lbs. 15 oz.), but healthy. Once she was over the initial hump, the doctors said she merely needed time to grow. I remember sitting at her bedside feeling quite content with the direction things were going. Hard, yes. But she just needed time. A little time and she would be home.
During one of those afternoons, a new baby was wheeled in next to us. He had tubes and wires everywhere. It seemed he had an IV port on every hand and foot. Even across his head. My heart was sad for him, and I prayed a silent prayer. But I’ll be honest, it was a selfish sympathy I gave. One that said, “You poor thing. That’s so hard that you have to suffer like that. We are good, though, and nothing like that will happen to us. We are safe. We are going home. All we have to do is grow. But, you poor thing. I hope you get better.”
A distancing. A separation from the pain. From entering into where it hurts. A bubble of protection I thought could not be broken.
A few days later, Peter hung a scripture card on the side of Meagan’s isolette. It read: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:29). I secretly thought, That’s nice, but we’re good.
The next morning, the hospital called me before I was up. Things had changed overnight. Taken a turn for the worse. Meagan had contracted some intestinal bacteria that was destroying her gut. Destroying her body from the inside out.
When I got to the hospital, I barely recognized her. She was ashen and lifeless. Not the thriving little baby I had left just the night before. Everything changed. She would need surgery, they told me… life-threatening surgery for a two-and-a-half-pound baby. The odds were not good. Fifty-fifty she would even come out alive.
In a moment’s time, I was staring down through the glass of the isolette, my baby had a shaven head and five IV ports across her tiny scalp. And we were on our knees for her life.
My lesson was hard that day, but one I desperately needed to learn.
I was not, am not, above anything. Not IVs, not Necrotizing Enterocolitis, not Cancer, not Death. Nothing.
All of us suffer. Not because He doesn’t love us, but because we live in a broken world. A world so outside of His original plan. And in that world pain comes… through others (abuse, violence), through a creation affected by the fall (natural disaster, disease), and through ourselves (selfishness, denial).
Yes, Jesus loves me. He gave His life for me. He also said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” It is inevitable. We all face it. And it comes when we least expect it. But Jesus also said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:13)
Wherever you are today, whatever you face, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)