Have you ever experienced a moment where it felt like scales were peeled back from your eyes and you could see something with absolute clarity? Or for you “Matrix” fans (not me!) you decide to take the red pill rather than the blue “to see how deep the rabbit trail goes”?
A couple weeks ago, I was blessed to see into a core reality, and since then, I have been amazed.
Nine years ago, I wrote about the beginning of our family’s medical journey with our oldest daughter in a column called, “Value of blood donation now clear” (May 19, 2009). What I didn’t know then—what only hindsight could tell me—is how that first hospital stay was only the beginning of a journey that still lingers.
When I went back to re-read that column in preparation for this one, I was reminded of this: “God doesn’t stop at sliding glass doors with ‘Emergency’ printed on them.” He goes through with us, right into the deep.
The amazing thing is, I had that revelation a few days before entering a Wichita hospital, and with it, the world of medical trauma. God knew I would need that reassurance in the stainless steel elevator taking us to a children’s wing with the sweet faces of childhood cancer patients adorning the hallways. He knew beyond that first hospital stay into what we would face in the next 18 months and into the coming years, and how many emergency doors we would enter.
Philippians 4:6-7 became my mantra: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Another thing that struck me as I refreshed my memory with my past column was this paragraph: “Being as smart as she is, my daughter quickly learned that bad things only happened while she was in her room. So, as long as she was out in the hall getting wagon rides, or playing in the pediatric playroom, the ‘blue ladies’ wouldn’t hurt her.”
That statement has turned out to be prophetic. Childhood trauma can manifest itself in many ways. For my daughter, fear became a near companion. The last several years have been spent uncovering the layers of trauma in her life that began when she was 1.
At this point, I feel like those details are better left for her to share if and when she’s ready. Even so, God has continued to use her story to teach me—and that part is free game!
Recently Hillsboro Elementary School held a youth track meet for its third-through-fifth graders. It was there that God again adjusted my eyesight. With the sliding doors, he had taught me something about his nature, but this time scales fell off in order for me to see his work.
I’ve always known my daughter was quick. She was gifted with fast-twitch muscles. However, in the past, she had always taken tiny, uncertain steps when running. She also kept her arms tight to her body. She ran with timidity.
But this year, her racing was transformed. She ran with an open stride and forward-motion arms. And, she was fast. At the meet, I felt that normal swell of parent-pride—and also a little tinge of track-coach/former-sprinter pride as well. But after it was all over and I returned home, I started realizing something else. Her running gave me a look at what’s happening in her life!
Her timidity has started to fall away and she’s lengthening her stride. She’s re-learning boundaries. She’s growing strong.
When I realized how symbolic her improved running was, I got emotional. It was one thing to be excited about her races. It was another—in a rich, deep sense—to have the privilege to see what’s going on “behind the scenes.” For me, having kids who are mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy means much more than winning blue ribbons.
Perhaps that sounds harsh, so let me explain. It’s not like I’m not excited for her accomplishments on the track. She just might be gifted there, and that’s something we have in common. It’s fun. But life is so much more than athletic performance. And I want her to know that I am excited about the often unseen and unnoted progress—the stuff that happens in the daily grind of practice.
When I told her what I saw in that moment of clarity, she lit up in a way that was priceless, and I have a feeling it will be something she will take to heart.
The medical journey that once seemed so fragmented and separated is gradually being morphed back into her story, the way it should have always been. The sliding doors will keep coming, but so will the races—and with the races, a glimpse into what has been accomplished during practice.
Restoration from any trauma takes work. But the ability to finish the race with strength and boldness is worth the effort. It’s my prayer that, with time, my daughter will see it that way, too.
Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing visit her blog, malindajust.com.