God’s Purposes

“What’s with the rocks?”

“Do you have a few minutes? Pick a rock and I’ll tell you a story.”

#4 green: Lessons in Trust (Sorry I posted #5 red out of order!)

“Your child has the strongest will to live of any infant I’ve ever known,” commented the veteran nurse at the children’s hospital in Chicago. She was showing me how to bathe six-week-old Karis without contaminating or dislodging the tube protruding from her nose or the central catheter coiled on her chest. A healing incision slashed her tiny abdomen both directions in a big cross, with a cherry-red stoma perched beside it.

Baby Karis smiled and gurgled, enjoying the attention and the bath. The nurse dressed her up in a pretty yellow dress, taped a matching bow to her bald head, settled her in a stroller, and took her and her IV pole around the unit with her, so Karis’s smiles could cheer up other patients.

This scene was predictive of multiple hospitalizations in years to come, when as soon as she felt well enough to get out of bed, Karis would explore whatever unit she was on to find out who else was there and how she could cheer them up. I would find her coloring pictures or reading stories or singing songs to other kids, chatting with nurses, spreading sunshine to everyone around her.

I’m an introvert, so when I’m sick I want peace and quiet. It took me a while to understand that whether she was home or in the hospital, extrovert Karis would get well faster with people around her. When she was an adolescent her hospital room was the party place, breaking all the visiting hours, indulged by the nurses whom she had already charmed. If a party didn’t come to her, Karis took her smiles and enthusiasm to others on the floor. The doctors knew she would start asking them as soon as she was strong enough after a given crisis to sit up by herself, “Can I go home today?”

I instinctively wanted to protect Karis. She instinctively wanted to push all the limits, ignore restrictions and live life. Our most frequent disagreements were over whether she was well enough to go to school on a given day: Karis—YES! Me—NO. Guess who usually won, unless she was actually too weak to get out of bed? Often on those days it was just a matter of time before the school called me to come pick her up because she was throwing up or had passed out from dehydration or was in too much pain even for her to ignore.

Karis saw no reason why she should consider not going to camp, or to a church youth retreat, or cross the city with a friend by bus to attend a concert, or stay out all night because the buses were no longer running (and, by the way, forgetting to notify her worried parents). In a city notorious for crime, my cute little blondie felt perfectly free to wander the streets, to sit outside on our front step early or late, to make friends with people wherever she went.

Trust seemed completely natural to Karis: trust in God and trust in other people. She left all the worrying to me, for whom trust was not easy. I argued and fought with God. I didn’t understand why God didn’t heal Karis and free her from the pain, the surgeries, the embarrassment of ileostomy messes, the too-frequent life and death crises. Karis had so much ambition, so many plans for her life, so much to offer . . . How did any of this make any sense? Like any mom, I would gladly have traded my good health for my daughter’s suffering. I knew God was all-powerful and could heal her with just a touch of his little finger. If he was a good Father, why didn’t he? Why didn’t he heal all the other patients for whom we prayed?

Yet he asked me to trust him.

And Karis asked me to trust him.

Karis said things like, “Mom, there’s a purpose in all this. A good purpose. It’s not about me, it’s about what God wants to do because I’m hanging out in hospitals and waiting rooms with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet.”

In later years in Pittsburgh, those people included Arabic-speakers from a variety of north African, middle-eastern and Asian countries. Not one of them, to my knowledge, ever told Karis she could not pray for them, or read Scriptures in Arabic to them, or refused an Arabic Bible as a gift. Several of them kept in touch with Karis even after they returned to their home countries. I am very curious to find out once I go to Heaven how many of Karis’s Arabic-speaking transplant friends are there with her.

I don’t have answers to a lot of my questions. God asks me to trust him anyway. Once in a while he gives me a little glimpse of his purposes, which are so much different and greater than my own. Meanwhile, he shows me in dozens of little ways that he cares, that he hears, and sees, and is involved. He’s not distant and uncaring. He is with us, and has been throughout our long journey with Karis.

Someday I’ll see with my own eyes what Karis already sees: our Lord’s loving face. One day I’ll understand whatever I am capable of understanding.

Meanwhile, I trust. Not well, but enough. And where my trust is weak and faltering and patchy, he graciously fills in the gaps. Because his good purposes will be fulfilled.

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