I am sitting on the couch between Liam and Everett. Both of them have been battling a stomach bug since yesterday morning. I think (HOPE) we are over the worst of it, so we’re watching cartoons and snuggling, while they take tiny nibbles of saltine crackers and little sips of Gatorade.
Sick days are a terrible kind of blessing. I hate seeing my little guys suffer, but their illness jolts regular life to a screeching halt in a special way. Our world becomes much smaller and simpler, and my tasks are really clear. Everything else can wait while I tend to my boys—fill water bottles, rub their backs, disinfect everything, hold them after they get sick, throw in another load of yucky laundry, and repeat. While some of this can be a bit heartbreaking and definitely more than a little gross at times, I always feel a huge sense of privilege that I am the one who gets to care for them.
They are my boys, and I wouldn’t pass off any of this to anyone. I’m the one they want in their misery. My kisses and hugs are the ones that bring comfort. My words give them hope that this sickness will not last forever.
After Everett got sick yesterday, he proved he was like his mama in his need to verbally process what had just happened. He sat next to me as I cleaned everything up and said, “Throwing up makes me really sad. And I get more sad, because this is how I’m going to be forever. I’m going to be sick for the rest of my life.”
I hid my smile as I replied, “I know it feels like that right now, bud. But you’ll feel better really soon.”
In the middle of the night last night, Liam cried, “I think I’m dying, Mom.”
I rubbed his back and whispered the same reassurance, “I know it feels like that right now, bud. But you’ll feel better really soon.”
I have been a mama for nine years and ten months, and a mama of three boys for four years and nine months, so I’ve experienced many stretches of sickness with these fellas. But this time has made a different impression on me. This time has stopped me in my tracks and pointed me to Jesus with new understanding.
Because I recognize my own heart’s cries in my boys’ voices. I have been in a season of crying out to Jesus things like, “I’m really sad. And I get more sad, because this is how things will be forever.” I’ve prayed, “I think parts of me are dying, Lord.” Unlike my boys, however, I’ve said those words with shame. Shame over not having a better perspective after all this time when I feel sick after treatments; shame over still feeling anxiety and trauma leading up to CTscans; shame over feelings of hopelessness over a recent new financial blow; shame over how repetitive my prayers and worries sound—the same insecurities and struggles rearing their heads again and again.
The boys’ bout with sickness has shown me how my shame stems from the way I’m picturing Jesus’s reaction and the tone of his voice when he answers. I picture exasperation. I hear things like, “Caitlyn, why haven’t you figured this out yet?” or “Of course I’m with you. How could you doubt that when I’ve proved myself so many times to you?”
And yet, if I—in my sinfulness and humanness—delight in helping my boys when they are sick and weak, why do I think Jesus reacts so differently to me, his beloved daughter?
A Bible study I’m doing right now on the book of Jonah pointed me toward Paul’s discussion of perpetual struggle in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul talks about a “thorn in [his] flesh.” He writes,
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (8-10).
What if the Lord’s response to Paul, to me, was said in the same loving tone I use when I’m rubbing my sick boys’ backs? What if I heard his promise to have enough grace for me as the comfort it was meant to be and not an exasperated censure of my weakness?
These two days of caring for my sons have filled me with comfort. For now I can hear Jesus’s loving response. When I’m on my knees before him, he is rubbing my back saying something like, “I know it feels like this will go on forever. I know you feel like parts of you are dying. But all things will be healed and made right in my perfect timing.”
And when I come to him with the same old thorns in my flesh, he does not role his eyes. He wraps me in love. Because I am his girl, and he wouldn’t want me to turn to anyone else. He’s the one I want in my misery. His touch is what brings me comfort. His words give me hope that the trials of this world will not last forever.
May you feel comforted by the creator of the universe who tends to you like a mother tends to her sick child. May you know that His grace is sufficient for whatever you bring before Him. And may you trust that his power is made perfect in your weakness.