In the last two weeks, my son has had two choking episodes serious enough to warrant medical intervention. Sunday the 23rd I took him to the ER and this afternoon I took him to the pediatrician and I have already been on the phone with his Pediatric Gastroenterologist about scheduling another esophageal dilation (you can read about the first one here). It's a terrible truth, but both he and I are used to his choking episodes - they come frequently enough that we know what to try and how long to wait and what to expect. But what I didn't expect was that G would need another dilation so soon. It was a little over 7 months ago that he had the first one and I guess I expected it to take longer to return to Cooks Children's Hospital. Perhaps I hoped that we wouldn't actually need another one, that somehow we would be an exception to the rule of children with TE fistulas. But here we are, again, waiting to be scheduled. AGAIN.
I realize the naivete of my surprise. Without any conscious thought, I had assumed that I and my family had gone through enough suffering; that somehow, we had reached the limit we would need to undergo and that would be that. That naive inner voice soothed me with pretty lies "you've lost a cousin to a car accident, you've had ex-boyfriends overdose and die, you've experienced heartache, your father has had cancer, your grandmother has alzheimers, your husband is in jail, that's enough, there's no more, that's enough..." And oh I wanted to BELIEVE those lies! I wanted my cup to be full and for the uncaring universe to notice and say "that's enough for her." I know full well that my cup may be full, but there is no real mechanism to halt the cruelty of suffering in a person's life. What is that the Bible says? That the rains fall on the just and the unjust? Sometimes those rains are gentle and sometimes they are a deluge. And there's no point in being mad or surprised by them; they just are.
Even the Bible bears this out. Sometimes, we faithful forget how narrow the focus of the stories of our Bible truly are. We read LOTS of stories of miracles and supernatural interventions, of pillars of fire and healed lepers and frantic demons. But in truth, those moments of relief, of healing, of intervention, are happening in the midst of a GIANT WORLD where 99% of the suffering that happens goes on uninterrupted. For every little girl that rises again from her deathbed, the rest of the dying little girls are buried. That's why Jesus' ministry wasn't really about the miracles he performed, but the Kingdom that he was helping to bring in. The Kingdom of God is the place where little girls live and babies never have birth defects, and sons never end up in jail and marriages never suffer from adultery. The Kingdom of God is the place where no one's cup of suffering is EVER full and where GOD is the mechanism by which we are all blessed beyond measure. And the Kingdom of God isn't really here yet, so any expectation we have of escaping suffering is ignorant and idealistic. That's why the writers of both Old and New Testament told their audiences to expect suffering, to persevere through pain, to walk with each other through loss and grief. Sometimes God intervenes, that's true; but mostly it seems, God doesn't. And that's a truth we don't like to embrace. Even Jesus asked that the cup of suffering would be taken from him. And it wasn't.
So here I am AGAIN, waiting to schedule a medical procedure for my 2 year old son. So here you are AGAIN, in whatever form your suffering will take. Whether it will be in the bodies of your children or in the hands of your spouse or in the laws that governments hand down or the random unpredictable savagery of nature, suffering will come AGAIN. And a naive expectation of escape from that will only hurt us MORE. Things fall apart. That seems dark, and it is dark, but there is light. Suffering makes you hold happiness so much more carefully; pain makes pleasure all the more sharp; and grief underscores the precious rarity of joy. And the brokenness of this world makes us crave so much more deeply the coming Kingdom of God where suffering is no more. Where all little girls live. Where no little boys ever choke on cheeseburgers.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come....