The toddler and I were “reading” a super hero book this week, when he pointed at Wonder Woman and yelled, “naked boy!” I giggled and pointed out that she’s sort of wearing a swimsuit. It made me think about my desire, in real life, to be some kind of modern Wonder Woman. I strive to be present, loving, efficient, and, well, awesome at all things wife and mom. I also wouldn’t mind if I looked or felt like Wonder Woman in a swimsuit, but that’s a post for another day. But there’s nothing quite like tending to a sick kid to bring me back down to earth and assure me that this Wonder Woman thing is a fool’s errand.
Parenting through illness, regardless of a child’s age, has always been my parenting nemesis. I loath it. Some of you amazing moms come alive when you’re taking care of your tender sick babies. A friend of mine hates the sicknesses but seems to really shine as a mom as she snuggles her babies, nursing them gently back to health. Not me. At the first sign of sickness, I actually fight the urge to become angry at my poor children for having germs. It’s not my best quality, and I try valiantly to hide my loathing. Still, I don’t really want to snuggle, or kiss, because of the germs and because of the smell, and just, ew. Honest moment: I let (make?) my hubs do more than his fair share of the heavy lifting on vomit cleaning, Lysol application, and the other gross accouterments to illness.
We have been SO fortunate with healthy kids, a fact that I don’t take for granted. I send my deepest love and heartfelt admiration to my sisters who deal with much more severe, lasting, horrendous illnesses than we have ever encountered. But just like in all normal homes, sometimes illness happens here because kids share everything. Well, they at least share all the things you don’t WANT them to share. Not long ago it was croup: the cough that makes it seem like an errant seal, who is a real party animal, has taken up residence in your home. The barking kicks up at night and prevents parent and child from sleeping, causing exhaustion and sometimes tears because “It’s viral, and you just have to wait it out.” So we steam, and we rock, and we “nuggle” and use Vicks, and we subsist on milk (him) and coffee (me).
Where is Jesus in the crappy week of croup (or insert your ailment here)?
It’s tempting as a lifetime churcher to fall upon the usual platitudes, true or not-so-true, such as: He never gives us more than we can handle (I call shenanigans), rejoice in the Lord always (I’m trying, guys), or (my least favorite) there’s a reason for everything. I shudder at that last one, which is actually a poor interpretation of a scripture in Romans, especially when I consider my sisters who are enduring REAL trials. You know the trials I’m talking about.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I still think Jesus is present in my crappy croupy mess, but just not in the ways I often expect. Usually God is present for me through his people. He’s in the friend who drives over to loan me her humidifier. He’s in the five friends who each offered me a meal or a hand with kids or company and (can I get an amen?) adult conversation. He’s here even when I don’t feel it, usually in the form of a human being who gets down in the proverbial trenches with me. Does it make the croup better? Nope. Does it make me feel less lonely or afraid or tired? Maybe… maybe not. Still, I am thankful that God is so very unlike me since he continues to lavish me with Himself and with gifts from and through His people, while I trudge through this mess half asleep. And then I just keep putting one weary foot in front of the weary other foot.
If you’re in the midst of a sick mess today, please consider this your virtual hug from a friend. You may feel very alone, and I won’t tell you how you should feel. I won’t even tell you that you should just remember better that Jesus is with you in the mess, because I’m sorry, but telling people that truth when you aren’t in their mess is just not helpful. But! I will tell you that you don’t have to be a modern Wonder Woman. It’s such a relief to admit that I am weak and incapable of doing it all. Even when I feel less than spiritual (this may be the understatement of the century), I can still hear my weary soul let out a small cry to Jesus for enough grace for the moment, and somehow He always covers the need. Usually through His people. I’ve given up on being Wonder Woman, and I’ve found it’s much better this way!