We sat in the exam room, waiting to hear about the earache and the oh-by-the-way, as-long-as-we’re-here add-on of the frequent pottying issue we’d developed over the past month or so (just to clarify, the issue was my child’s, not mine, and I’m writing about it this way because I don’t want to divulge that child’s identity).
The earache was the real reason we were at the doctor appointment. The earache was the usual childhood ailment we didn’t usually experience, not like those friends who had come to expect them from their children. The bathrooming thing, that was probably a minor bladder infection or something, a weird developmental stage of some kind, nothing to get worked up about.
When the Doc listened to our symptoms, he zeroed in on the thirst and frequent trips to the bathroom. He said that it sounded like common symptoms of diabetes, but that it could be something else. He checked the ear and confirmed it was an infection that antibiotics would clear up easily. We got to pee in a cup — quite the novel experience for a child. The urinalysis would be quick and they’d get the results that us while we waited.
Next scene: doctor talking about going to the children’s hospital, telling me we had to go today, plan for staying a few days, him looking concerned and sympathetic. Something about the urinalysis results being a pretty sure thing, saying we have diabetes. I would have listened more carefully except that the top of my head had come off and was spinning about 18 inches above me. What could he possibly be saying?
This isn’t about my child being diagnosed with Type 1, insulin dependent Diabetes. This isn’t about the life-altering implications of it or about the way we’ve dealt with our new reality. This isn’t about the every-single-day requirements of living with Diabetes, the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental repercussions it slaps on a person, on a family. This is about the twisted jump my thinking did in the face of crisis.
In the moment the doctor left the room, having just informed us the symptoms sounded indicative of diabetes (which he said very causally, all, “Please pass the potatoes.”), my brain did a weird thing. As soon as the doc walked out, I heard a voice in my head tell me that I’d never thought to pray about my kids NOT GETTING DIABETES, and if I prayed now, would it be enough lead time or was it too late for God to protect us? Quick! Pray that we don’t have diabetes! Maybe if you pray before the results come back, God will change them as they’re processing!
Follow the line of thinking:
- God listens to our prayers. (True)
- Prayer impacts the world around us, influences both the circumstance around us AND our own state 0f being. (True)
- We’ve been invited to pray in all circumstances, to cast our cares on the Lord because He cares for us. (True)
- God uses us as His agents in the world. Not to say that He can’t accomplish what He wants done without me, but if I choose to, I get to be a conduit for communicating His love to others. (True)
- I’m supposed to pray about everything. (True-ish…I GET to pray about everything, but I’m not REQUIRED to. There’s no punishment involved, or at least I say that’s what I think…until further down this numbered list.)
- I forgot to pray about something, specifically that my children would not get Diabetes. (True)
- Therefore, because I didn’t pray for them NOT to get diabetes, one of them got Diabetes. (False)
- It’s my fault that my child has diabetes. And it’s God’s fault too. (False…or it is?)
Too late for God to protect us.
Too late, because I didn’t pray specifically against diabetes.
And because God’s chosen to use His people as His agents in the world, it’s not His fault — his hands are tied, man. What’s He supposed to do? This is just the way things work.
But these are the ways He made them work, aren’t they?
This kind of thinking speaks to deep pictures of God I might not be aware I have, ways my thinking gets twisty and influences my attitude in ways I could be unaware of.
Do I believe that God has my best interests in mind, even if that means discomfort while cultivating these best interests?
Have I accidentally decided that comfort is a Biblical value?
Do I think God is active in the world, in my life? Or have I decided He’s distant, leaving us to our own devices?
Have I decided that there ought to be a pay-off to following God, some member’s club discount or a card you can show to get a pass from difficult life circumstances?
Maybe, if I endorse the non-Calvinist theological position that God doesn’t preordain every single detail of our lives, but I like to still think there are some things are set in place for us, it follows that the big things were assigned to us in a heavenly game of spin the wheel?
The trouble is, if I’m required to pray against every bad thing that could happen to my family, then when something bad does happen, which it invariably will eventually, it’s my fault. The problem with that is it gives me a control-freak condition, and any accident or circumstance that goes awry could be paralyzing to my faith. Everything’s only good when it’s good, and when it’s bad it’s bad infused with guilt because it’s my fault it happened. Too much power corrupts the mind and heart, even if it’s initial intention was good.
At that instant, when the thoughts entered my mind, I knew if I heard someone else saying aloud what I was thinking, I would disagree with them, that I’d say something about how God doesn’t do these things to us but walks alongside us when they happen, that He’s the first one to cry for the child, to offer the comfort of the presence of the Holy Spirit as we work to find answers and support to our child.
I don’t know.
There’s a part of me that doesn’t need an empathetic God; in that moment I would’ve liked a God who takes the situation, says “Not today,” and goes and cracks some heads.
For all I know, that’s already happening. But the things that keep slipping through the cracks and coming into this world leave me with questions and an unwillingness to listen to simplistic answers that try to tell me all things work together for good, or that this must be God’s will. There’s got to be another answer I just haven’t heard yet. There’s got to be some middle ground between saying God can’t do anything, and God orchestrates everything.
So what role did my prayers play in my child’s diabetes? I can’t believe that my lack of thoroughness caused the diabetes. I’ll eventually return to traditional praying once I get over my shock and heartbreak (probably). Until then, I’m not thinking of creating a punchlist of all the other tragedies that could befall a family, and praying against those diligently. But maybe it’s not a bad idea. The thing I’ve realized is that subtle distortions can creep into my consciousness and it’s a lot work to identify and root them out, and this is not easily done during a time that’s already difficult.
Have you ever discovered a distortion in the way you think about God? What was it, and what did you do about it? What do you think about the role of prayer in health? Have you seen the results of prayer in a medical situation? I’d love to hear your story. Also, please remember that I’m looking for guest writers to post their story of medicine, health and wellness. If you’re interested, please contact me and we’ll talk details.