Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How This All Started

When my little guy, Ethan was born, my friend Lyssa gave me a congratulations card that included a Bible verse she had felt led to share. I almost thought it a little peculiar when I read it. The verse was Isaiah 43:1-3:

“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.”

I felt a little unsettled after reading it. Did it mean Ethan was going to be a fearful person? Then there was the note Lyssa had added, about the verse being for not just Ethan, but his parents, too. In the back of my mind, I wondered, “How could she have known?”

At the time, Lyssa didn’t know about the fears that had lurked in dark corners of my mind for years, but especially since becoming pregnant for a second time. She knew only snippets of my childhood, of a life saddled with inferiority and feelings of “not being good enough,” feelings that sprang in part from having a severely autistic younger brother. She didn’t know that I had wondered for years what the risk was for having a child of my own with the condition, and when I imagined the possibility, as with most people, my insides froze. She didn’t know, but God of course had something to say. God wanted to get a message across…a hint of reassurance for the storms ahead, because as the verse says, the storms will come. No matter what the situation – illness, separation, disability, loss – the storms will come.

For me today, I am living a Job-like situation, struggling to remember that Job did nothing wrong to deserve what happened to him, and that in the end, he received more reward than he could have dreamed. But Job feared came upon him.

My greatest fear has come to me. What will I do with it?

Ethan was always a quiet baby. He was always sleepier, less alert, and grumpier than his older sister, who was the first child, the midwife marveled, who had smiled at her at birth. He was all of those things, but not excessively slow. He reached all of his milestones in the normal range. He was late to smile but did smile. He didn’t babble back at me that much, but some.

There were little signs and you have to know it’s not that I was in denial. But it was so hard to figure out reality when I knew how often my fears had colored my perception of life. I am a natural worrier and worst-case scenario type. Throughout Ethan’s first year, I would wake in the night sometimes, paralyzed by fear. What if?? What if?? I know it wasn’t God trying to send me a message. Some would say Satan, tormenting me. Or my own thoughts. Maybe it was a bit of both. This is the part, looking back, that is so hard to understand now. Was there a chance God was gently trying to tell me something, but I was ignoring it and then getting myself all worked up with fear? But I know God’s best is not to live the way I was living. I think many worriers, and especially hypochondriacs, use the fear and worry as a way to protect or buffer themselves from surprise. There’s actually this subconscious idea that floats around: if I fear it, it WON’T happen to me. As I’m typing, a revelation is coming to me. My entire life I’ve been a worrier. My dad is a worrier, my grandmother worried to her grave. I’ve conditioned my life to worry as a way of convincing myself that I’m in control and that my worries can prevent things from happening. Maybe the only way to overcome that, is to worry and worry and still have what I fear happen to me. It sort of breaks the power of that thought process, doesn’t it?? Which would have been better – to worry for a year and a half, losing sleep, feeling tormented, and then get a diagnosis, or to enjoy life, laugh with my kids, get plenty of rest, and then get a diagnosis? The answer is easy.

Yes, so I see now the lies I’ve always told myself. And that helps me see that there is even more meaning to this than I understand right now. This situation with Ethan can transform my life in many ways…and may even transform the way I think, expect, and fear (or choose not to fear). I can’t help but feel grateful for that.

More next time.

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