The call came in to my voicemail around 10:45am, Wednesday, March 4. I was in the middle of leading my women’s cell, so I didn’t get the message until just after 12 noon. The message was from my son’s homeroom teacher who was with him that day on the school ski trip. There had been an accident on the slopes and my son was on his way to Boundary Trails Hospital, near Winkler. To make a long story short, he had broken both bones in his left forearm, requiring surgery, and I needed to get there ASAP!
Over the past two months, as we have prayed and let Jesus walk with us through the lengthy recovery and how to parent a hurting child, Jesus has shown me much about my own heart as a parent, as well as a few lesson about my kids.
One: Kids aren’t as fragile as we may think
As a parent I have always felt the importance of protecting my children. I taught them not to play on the road, I always made sure they wore their bicycle helmets (before it was a law), I was careful what movies I let them watch, made sure they ate healthy and nutritious foods, and the list goes on! Above all of that, I prayed for them regularly, giving them over to God. These are good things and I would encourage all parents to consider ways to protect their kids. But even with all sorts of wise precautions, I can’t remove all bumps out of my kids’ lives. As parents, we aren’t to remove all obstacles that are in front of our kids but rather guide them through them with our love and support, helping them go to Jesus in the midst of the challenges. So, when I couldn’t be there to hold his hand, Jesus held his hand as they wheeled him to the operating room. Throughout our hospital stay and the weeks following I have been able to see my son meet Jesus in the midst of his pain and fear. I learned how he is not as fragile as I had once thought, thanks to Jesus’ presence in his life.
Two: Real courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear
If there was nothing to fear we wouldn’t need courage and being courageous doesn’t mean that we don’t feel frightened. When we feel fear but still choose to go ahead and do what must be done, that’s real courage. Courage is persevering in the face of adversity and making the best of the circumstances. Courage isn’t always a boom, sometimes it’s just going forward when you feel like running and hiding. Watching my son face his fear of surgery taught me that there is no need to be ashamed of fears, for in the midst of fear one can find the greatest of courage.
Three: I need people
Being part of staff here at church people often ask me to pray for them. I love that part of my job, and I love that I can hold people up in prayer and petition Jesus on their behalf. But that doesn’t mean that I can do everything alone. I need the church community to be pouring into me too. When my son was in pain, when we were anxious and waiting for surgery, I emailed my cell group and I instantly had dozens of ladies praying for me. I can honestly say that I felt their prayers carrying me. We were created for relationships and especially in times of crisis, we need each other.
Four: You don’t have to experience something to walk with someone through it
I have never broken a bone, I have no idea how it feels to be in a cast for ten weeks or have my mother wash my hair for months on end. I don’t know what it feels like to be taken to the hospital by my teacher or to sit on the sidelines not being able to help my team win provincial gold. So, how am I to walk with my child through the struggles he is experiencing? How am I to connect with him and build joy in the midst of the sorrow and pain? For me, the key to connecting to my son was feeling his feelings with him, even if only for a quick moment. In doing this, I steadied him and helped him feel grounded, and he felt that I cared and understood. Through these past weeks, I’ve worked hard at this. I’ve acknowledged to my son that what he is going through is hard, that it’s painful, and that it’s even unfair. I’ve come to realize that when he’s feeling discouraged he doesn’t need a pep talk, he doesn’t need me to tell him that it’s going to be OK or that he’s going to be stronger because of it. And he definitely doesn’t need me to fix anything. Instead, he needs me to feel with him, to cry with him, to just listen, letting him tell me how he is feeling. When he senses our connection, he is strengthened, he doesn’t feel as overwhelmed and he gains the ability to endure a little longer.
Five: God speaks to kids at their level in language they can relate to
Part of having surgery is getting an IV. It’s pretty routine, but sometimes it doesn’t go as smoothly as it should. Unfortunately, my son did not experience it as routine. The nurses did their best to get the line started, but they just could not get it in properly. After what seemed like hours (it was probably only 20 minutes or so) of poking around inside his good arm, they gave up. Tears were running down my son’s cheeks as this was yet another painful experience. They would come back in an hour to try again. I knew that we needed to pray, but I also knew that often in times of crisis and pain it can be really hard to hear God so I told my son that it would be totally OK if he didn’t get anything in prayer. But that I would listen and pray for him. God gave me a beautiful picture from one of our favourite movies. Yes, from a movie! When I’m praying with my son I often get pictures of airsoft wars, snipers, shields, superheroes, and even scenes from his favourite movies. What better way for God to speak to a 12 year old boy! We talked about what I had received in prayer and we prayed together. Then, after the waiting had passed, the nurse arrived to try the IV again and she got it first try! What a blessing and answer to prayer.
The list of things that our entire family is learning through this experience keeps getting longer as time progresses. I’ve only been able to share a few short things that God has been continuing to show me as in the past few months. It’s so encouraging to walk with Jesus through the ups and downs of everyday life. Whether it’s an IV line, a moment of discouragement, a fear, feeling isolated on the sidelines, or whatever it may be, Jesus is there – He is near.
- Ask Jesus to show you how you are doing at walking with your kids through the challenges in their lives. For example, do you try to remove their challenges to protect them, are you distant and unaware of their challenges, do you take them to Jesus in the midst of their challenges, etc.?
- When your kids are going through a challenge are you there for them emotionally (what does that actually look like)? On a continuum where one end is allowing them to remain a “victim” and the other end is a combination of advice giving and lack of empathy (“suck it up princess”), where do you fit?
- Ask Jesus to give you 1 strategy in caring for your kids when they are hurting or going through a challenge.