To start with, let me just say that I asked first. Asked permission, that is. I would not dare to write of such things without having done so.
Here's the thing, most of us think of ourselves as having reasonably healthy bodies, especially when we're young and supple and able to run and play any sport we're so inclined, if we're inclined at all, which, of course, some of us aren't. It takes a whole lot of pressure, many maladies, ailments, pain to convince us that this isn't true. Generally this begins to happen when we reach what the world charmingly calls 'middle age,' which we try to push up to about 50 years of age, though unless we're going to live to the century mark, isn't actually 'mid' at all. In fact, at 50, we've already passed middle, and are on the down hill slope--at least most of us. Still, if we take care of ourselves (and I'm patently NOT talking about myself here, I've too often documented my own weaknesses for you to buy that), we don't usually begin to face the aging aches and pains until the 50s have reached up and wrapped their arms firmly around us.
Of course, if we don't care carefully for our bodies, this age lowers. I know this, E loves "Biggest Loser," after all. There's a large percentage of our nation's population who are creating havoc with their own biology. But I'm not talking about them here.
Today I'm talking about my own son. My own, reasonably active, loves-sports-of-any-kind, son, who's never been overweight in his life, except for two times--when he was a chubby baby, which is only adorable, and last summer/fall, when medication ballooned him far above his normal weight, which is now back to where it's always been. What I'm talking about is an young man--in the true prime of his life, his early 20s--who has had more ailments, more REAL health problems than most people 3 times his age. In the last 14 months, he's had his tonsils removed, shoulder surgery (long, long overdue!), and a cyst removed from right above his tailbone. This last, which sounds like a simple procedure, has been the most nightmarish. The first surgery for it went poorly. By that I mean, the doctor nicked an artery, which resulted in more surgery to repair it right in a pre-op room at the hospital (and some of the most terrifying moments of my life as a parent). It also meant daily trips to the doctor to have the bandage changed, until I began to do it, which was not just a pain for J, but also rather humiliating. And we're talking 8 stinkin' weeks of that, enough to strain the strongest of men. Just when he finished that, J got a nasty bout of bronchitis for several weeks--very difficult to get over, even with antibiotics--and several other ailments, which I will not divulge here. Let me just say, all of this--indeed, all of life--has been hard on J. And the fact that life is hard on him is hard for him. Does that make sense?
But we've been thinking he's on the upswing now. HA! Yesterday he had a recheck on the cyst site, which is now infected, so has to have another surgery Friday. ANOTHER surgery. I don't know if you're counting, but that makes five--FIVE-- in fourteen months, and 10 total in his life (at least I think it's ten, I could be off one). Now I'm no stranger to surgeries. I had all my babies via C-section, so my tally isn't low. But J's about to lap me, in just this last year alone.
His mantra this last year already was, "I can't catch a break," and I've been silent about that attitude. I absolutely don't believe that life is fair. Never have, never will. In a fallen world, where sin is the norm and the enemy rules, disease will run rampant. It's part of the equation. We'd best be okay with this or life will be long and painful for us, emotionally as well as physically. However, I have to tell you, when he called to tell me about the latest surgery, I did feel twinges of 'unfair' creep in. I mean, how much can he handle?
Now don't get me wrong. In the grand scheme of things, I realize that what J's suffered is small. In comparison to those who struggle every single day for a single bowl of rice (or whatever), and often don't get it, J is fortunate. And compared to those who live and raise their babies in war-zones, my son (indeed, all of my family) is safe. What he has--and continues--to deal with is relatively small potatoes.
But it's not nothing, to use a double negative purposely. It has reduced his life. Made him stressed and worried about his body at an age when most never even think about their bodies, except to want to be thinner, more buff, or whatever suits their fancy. In fact, J has been at the mercy of his for a long time. And that's hard--for him to face, and for us to watch.
So this morning we had quite a conversation about it. Via text, of course. That's often how we communicate best. He isn't a great phone person, and doesn't live at home. So I take what I can get, and am glad for it. Anyway, I was telling him that I feel for him having to face another surgery and arduous recovery, and that these last 14 months have been out of control.
And he answered, "Yeah, maybe it's refining me like gold."
My breath was caught short. There it was, the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking through, and to, my son. Reminding both of us what His purpose is in this, and in every fiery trial.
"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1: 6-7
Here's what J doesn't know, but what God reminded me in that moment. For a long time I've been praying for my son. I've prayed that God will use whatever it takes--whatever it takes--to draw J to Him, to make him into the godly man I believe God intends (has always intended) him to be. "Short of his death, I don't care what it takes," I've prayed. Repeatedly. When I read, and re-read, J's text about being refined by fire, and the next one about his hopefulness that this will be, I felt God saying, "See, you asked for this. Didn't you think I would do it? What did you think it was going to take?"
There's a part of me that wants to apologize to my son for praying something that has resulted in so much pain for him. One of my mother's mottoes was, "Be careful what you wish for." There's something to that, when you think about it in terms of praying. Praying isn't a game. And I meant it when I asked God. And you know what? I'm not sorry. Well, I'm sorry (of course) that J's been through so much. But I'm absolutely NOT sorry that God is in it, that He has a purpose in it, that He means to refine J like gold. NO WAY, NO HOW. Because that is worth all the gold in...heaven. Yes, all the gold in heaven.