I sit down right now in front of my computer as Hayden sleeps, uncomfortably, with a low grade fever. He has been on his vent all day for extra rest time as well as additional treatments as he battles what, most likely, is a virus. Something you and I would just deal with, take a Zyrtec and move on with life; for him, it means extra time on his ventilator, extra treatments and additional medications. And it can turn ugly real quick, in a worse case scenario.
Tomorrow morning, we are supposed to leave town to take him on a special axis hunt at a deer lease fully equipped to deal with wheel chairs and disabled persons. We have all been looking forward to this outing for weeks now. I am not sure there would ever be enough time for me to list to you all of the events our family has had to miss due to an unforeseen illness. Heck, on the way to Hayden’s third birthday party, we couldn’t decide if we should show up to the venue or just go to the ER as he was on the verge of an illness. We are no stranger to missing out on parties, weddings, reunions – if it is a type of event, we’ve missed one, I guarantee you, because he has been sick.
If I’m not careful, I can begin to feel enslaved to his diagnosis. I can quickly allow Chronic Lung Disease to own me. I can let Short Bowel Syndrome be the patriarch of our family. I can let Hydrocephalus boss us around. It is very, very easy for me to quickly become imprisoned by illness.
I was reading about this man named, Paul, and this letter he wrote to this church in Ephesus. He wrote it while he was locked up. Literally. Chained in a prison cell for preaching about Jesus. Here’s Paul, writing this letter to the Ephesians and it was so profound to me – after he asks for prayers from the Ephesians, that he would continue to preach boldly about Jesus (even though it landed him in prison…) – he tells the Ephesians he’s going to send this guy, Tychicus, to Ephesus to give them a more complete update on how Paul is doing and to “encourage them.” I had to stop for a minute in my tracks when I read that.
So wait. Paul is locked up in prison for sharing about Christ. He’s going to send his buddy, Tychicus, over to Ephesus to share all the details of what has been going and it will be an encouragement to them? Makes sense, right? “Hello people of Ephesus – just wanted to let you know that Paul is chained up in prison for doing what he’s been called to do, but it’s all good. Be encouraged!” Insanity, right?! Welcome to the Kingdom of God. It’s like opposite day, every day. Take everything you think and flip it upside down and then you’ve nailed it. Want to lead? Be a servant. Want to be first? Then make yourself last. Want to be free? Then be willing to be chained.
I read a commentary last night that said, “It would comfort them [the Ephesians] to learn that Paul was being well treated and was free to preach to those who visited him [in prison].” As a prisoner, Paul was still preaching. He was still doing the thing he was called to do. No, he didn’t have control over his circumstances, but he was just living his life and hoping to encourage the church at Ephesus with just doing his thing!
It hit me today that rather than succumb to being in “chains” to Hayden’s chronic illness, I would rather just keep my nose down, do the thing, and encourage someone, somewhere. This morning, when Hayden wasn’t feeling well, he and I decided to pray for swift healing for his body. And that if God intended us to go on this trip tomorrow, that we would. But if not, that we would be ok with that outcome.
Then, this afternoon, we met a potential nurse. During the meet and greet, we were explaining to her that typically Hayden isn’t laid up in bed on his ventilator, but rather he’s usually in his wheel chair talking smack to anyone he encounters. On his own, Hayden told this woman (whom he had known for all of five minutes), “I don’t feel good today. But we prayed about it.” I just had to take a moment right there. It froze me in my tracks. I was reminded of the passage in Ephesians. Here’s Hayden, in complete chains to this crappy body that has to endure ridiculous amounts of daily torture, and he’s basically telling this stranger, “but let me encourage you – we prayed about it.”
I want to be more like Paul. And Hayden. I want to not bury myself in bondage of chains I can willingly get locked up in, but rather I want to be thankful for the opportunities I do have. I want to look for ways to encourage others even when, in earthly standards, it seems like all is lost. I want to flip these earthly standards upside down and look through the lens of heavenly standards and see that when I have every right to wallow and mourn, I choose to look to Him and be thankful and encourage others.