Illness has always brought me nearer to a state of grace. ~ Abbe Pierre
The valley can be illness, job loss, death of a loved one, loss of a marriage — so many things in this fallen, broken world that cause of pain, leave us reeling, struggling to find our footing in an unfamiliar and unwanted new reality.
Seven years ago, my life changed when my five kids and I were involved in a serious auto accident. Within weeks, my kids’ injuries healed. Mine are permanent.
For more than twenty years, my Dad has battled both Crohn’s Disease and cancer of various forms — bladder, skin, and now melanoma in the lymph system.
Ten years ago, my only sibling died of sudden cardiac death, leaving behind two sons — one just two years old and one not yet born. Weeks later we almost lost my mom to the same disease.
Our fourth child spent almost all of her four year old year at Children’s Hospital.
Three years ago, my second son got sick on his older brother’s birthday and never got well. He’s learning to live with several significant long-term illnesses, and struggling to find his identity in the midst of loss and change. Recently he said, “when I got sick, I felt like the old me died. I don’t know who I am anymore.” A tough place for an eighteen year old to be.
Two of our teens have stood at the edge of suicide, because life in a family with serious illness is hard. Harder than I ever imagined, overwhelming at times, but achingly beautiful too. I wouldn’t trade all the time I’ve spent with my kids. All the nights I stayed awake with my son, because he was too sick to sleep. I wouldn’t trade the moments I’ve stood on the cliff, clinging to God, begging Him to infuse my teens’ hearts with hope.
And I wouldn’t trade the moment my son said, “You get it,” because he’s seen me live with pain every single day for seven years. For in that moment, my injury — all the surgeries and treatments — had a greater purpose. They opened a door for my son. He had an ally, someone who got it. Someone who didn’t need him to wrestle all he was feeling into words that seemed hollow, never enough, too small, too insignificant, too scattered to capture his heart.
And in the midst of the valley, I’ve grown to believe that the deeper our pain, the greater our capacity JOY, the deeper the valley, the more breath-taking the view from the summit.
For there are, if we pause to notice, glimmers of hope sewn into even the darkest of moments, and those moments strung together across the years create a life — a life worth living — beauty from ashes, the hope of the world, glimpses of eternity tenderly leading us Home.
Our valleys may be different, but our Hope — holy, perfect, almighty God — is always the same. For even way down deep in the valley we are standing in His Presence on holy ground.