Being Seen

The day….well, it hadn’t gone as we had expected, and certainly not as we had hoped. That morning, it seemed that my daughter’s stomach virus was clearing out; by lunchtime, though, her fever had spiked again and her lethargy was at its worst. Her pediatrician penciled us in for an appointment that afternoon, and I did my best to keep her comfortable until we were to leave for his office.

We arrived at the doctor’s office a few minutes early, her body draped limply over my shoulder as I signed her in. Her fever was high and her eyes were rimmed with the grayish purple of exhaustion.

I went over her symptoms with the nurse and again with the doctor.  As he examined her, her uneasy eyes darted back and forth from this strange man to the familiar comfort of mama’s face.  I smiled to reassure her, but inside I ached.  I longed to scoop her up and place myself on the table, taking on everything her little body was feeling and setting her free from whatever it was.

And then the doctor said what it was: salmonella. It didn’t matter that my mind skeptically said, “What? No! Nobody actually gets salmonella!” No, my opinions on the matter were insignificant and before I knew it the doctor was running over the procedure for treating this different and yet strangely similar illness.

His most emphatic directions? “Push fluids. Really push them. She’s not dehydrated yet, but she’s on her way.”

And I – ever the compliant one – did just that. Or…at least I tried. My strong-willed daughter sensed the urgency of my pleas and dug in her heels. No amount of persuasion or buying of just what she wanted to drink or threatening what they’d have to do in the emergency room….no, nothing worked. She would not drink.

And I was desperate. I was scared. And I was helpless. The doctor hadn’t given me many directions, but the one he had insisted upon, I was failing at miserably.

The pleas and cajoling continued until my husband came home. I, exhausted from day after day of the sick roller coaster, finally snapped when she wouldn’t even try the special blue jello I had made at her request. I screamed. I yelled. I cried. I sent her to time out for her belligerent stubbornness. I had had enough, and I wanted her to know it. My heart still ached with compassion for my sick child, but my flesh was emptied of patience. It wasn’t my finest moment.

My husband, having been at work all day, was fresh on the scene and had a greater supply of compassion and patience in reserve than I did at that moment. He sat with her in the hallway, somehow getting her to drink more and more and more while I listened in from the kitchen, crying a puddle all over the kitchen floor.

“What is wrong with me,” I thought, “that I can’t even get my daughter to drink? Why can HE do it, but I can’t?”

The familiarly sinister whispers of my enemy spoke clearly through my tears.

You’re just not a very good mama. That’s why.”

“She likes him better. She always has. It’s that simple.”

“She’s going to have to go to the hospital, and it’ll be your fault. You are a failure.”

“You know, it’s your fault she’s sick in the first place. You took her to that pumpkin patch where she got this disease. You are the reason she’s sick.”

With every vile thought, my body crumpled lower and lower onto the kitchen floor. Tears flowed freely and I felt the familiar waves of despair. Oh, to just disappear….to just let a deep sleep take me away from this…..

My husband’s phone rang, his voice muffled as he answered it. And then, a few seconds later: “Sweetie…..the radio station is on the phone. They want to know if they can pray for you…”

And there, curled up on the mat in front of the kitchen sink, through the tears and my red, splotchy eyes and my runny nose, all I could do was laugh. All I could do was laugh hysterically – almost frighteningly so – because moments before, I had felt utterly alone in my desperation. I had felt invisible and useless as I tried without success to do something that should have been very simple. I was losing a battle that had sought me out, and I had been willing to let myself be defeated.

But then, in that moment, I knew I was seen. I knew that there, in a weepy ball on my cold kitchen floor, the God of the universe saw me….wept with me…..reached out to me. He cared enough to send someone after me….not just two thousand years ago on a hillside outside Jerusalem, but then, that night, as I sat there against the kitchen cabinets. God – through His Spirit – prompted someone to reach out to us, and they did.

So friends……I tell you that long convoluted story not to seek sympathy or words of encouragement from you. I share all of that to let you into a sliver of my struggle lately, and to show you how God saw me in the middle of that. I tell you all of that to remind you that whatever you’re going through today – whether you’re still fighting or you have given in to the tears – God sees you. In your least glamorous moments, He sees you. In the moments you wish you could erase, He sees you. In the moments when you feel like an invisible, insignificant failure, He sees you. You may not get an out-of-the-blue phone call from a radio station, but you are not alone. Do not think for a moment you are alone.

You are not alone. You are seen.

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