That Should Sound Familiar

listening-to-my-breath“She was way too close to the edge today,” I said and slammed the office door behind me.

“What happened?” God asked and took what seems to have become His usual seat near the window.

“You know exactly what happened,” I growled and crashed into my office chair, accidentally knocking a few books to the floor. “70 is the lowest she is to go,” I continued. “She was at 33. And somehow she was by herself in the school hallway. When she got to the office, she was saying her arms and legs felt floppy. If we hadn’t gotten to her in time, a few more moments, she could’ve collapsed to the floor.”

“But you did get to her.”

“Yeah,” I said and took a deep breath. I leaned forward to put my head into my palms. “But it was too close.” I inhaled again and whispered, “Too close.”

“What did you do when you got to her?”

“I gave her half a bottle of apple juice.”

“And?”

“And then I checked her again twenty minutes later to make sure her blood sugar was rising.”

“Did it go up?”

“Yeah, it went up, but I ended up having to give her the rest of the bottle.”

“She’s okay?”

“Yeah, she’s okay.”

“Then you did everything right.”

I turned to give God a mixed gaze of surprise and anger. “Really? I did everything right? I’m the one charged with her care, and just in case you missed everything I just said, about a half hour ago she was knocking at the door of a hypoglycemic coma.” I put my head back into my hands. “Nice. I did everything right. Very comforting.”

“But you did,” God pestered. He was unparsed by my tone. “Sin—that dreadful rust that is in her body and yours—this has failed you both. That’s pretty obvious. Her failing pancreas and your sinful nature—your imperfect abilities and your imprecision—these things fail you. But there’s something else to see here.”

He walked around the desk and set His hand on my shoulder. I opened my clinched fingers and stared through them at the floor as though I were peering through prison bars. “You, her father, acted in the face of her desperation,” He said. “You saved her when she couldn’t save herself.” He gave a firm grasp to my shoulder. “That should sound familiar, my friend, wonderfully familiar.”

I didn’t answer. I sat hunched over and listened through the sound of my own breathing.

“I’m glad she’s okay,” He said and turned to make His way toward the door. “And by the way,” He added while taking hold of the doorknob and glancing back, “I’m glad there are fathers ready to act when it’s needed most. You and your little girl both know that there’s one type of sleep—one particular coma—that called for a Father to send along something that was so much more than a bottle of apple juice.”

The portrait on my wall of Christ with the children teetered slightly when He closed the door behind Him.

O, You Of Little Faith

sea-storm“It was refreshingly inspiring,” I said and put a little dish soap into my hand. The water was already running.

“I’m glad,” God said while pulling out one of the stools from beneath the edge of the island behind me in order to sit down. “When it comes to theologians, he’s a very insightful professor. He takes my Word seriously.”

“I miss the seminary days,” I continued and batted at the faucet handle with the back of my hand, inching it only slightly to the left to coax some warmer water. I was hand washing the Waterford crystal rock glasses we’d used the previous night for savoring a reasonable lineup of my nicer whiskies.

“What did you think of the sermon I had him preach today?” God asked.

“It was good,” I said and accidentally clinked one glass against another. The resonating chime hovered in the kitchen, as if intoning the first note for chanting the Kyrie. I listened to it ring until it was gone. “It was just what we needed,” I said staring at the glasses now sitting on a paper towel beside the sink. The water droplets twinkled and fell, being absorbed as little greyed shadows. “It was just what a couple of struggling parents needed—to hear that you’re with us, that you’re in the boat.”

“He preached in a way that you could see it, didn’t he?” He inquired. “You heard the words of the disciples, how they asked each other what kind of man could command the winds and sea, and then you could see the whole thing.”

“Yes, I could.”

“I appreciate preaching like that,” He said and tossed me a towel. “You should dry those glasses, by the way, otherwise you’ll have water spots.”

I fed a corner of the cloth into the mouth of a glass and turned it while cupping the outside in the towel’s remaining portion. I did the same to the others.

“What was it like? What did you see?”

I thought for a moment.

“I was one of them,” I said. “I was in the boat. I was terrified. And it was too familiar.”

“Tell me.”

So many miraculous things had already happened that day. All along the way to Peter’s house, just after Jesus had finished preaching from the mount, He was inundated by swirling masses of people. But He served and served anyway—healing the sick and driving out demons. I remember that He looked so very tired.

Peter’s home was not far from the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was the perfect place to rest, even if only for a little while. The magnificent view just beyond his door spanned out across a pristine basin sleeping just below the surrounding plains. The whole scene was flanked by a distant and fading range of mountains. At one point, knowing I was relatively new to the scene, James and John shared the interesting details of a stranger phenomenon that sometimes happens here. They explained that the wind will often carry the cool mountain air down into the heat and humidity of the lake, and when this happens, storms erupt. As tested and steady fishermen, they knew when the sky and the sea were scheming, when they had become frustrated by one another and were preparing for such a contest. But not that day. The sky was clear, and the men were already preparing to take Jesus across the lake to the other side. In fact, it was His idea to put us out onto the open water that day.

It was His idea.

We pushed off from shore and began rowing. We hadn’t gotten very far before Jesus had fallen asleep on a cushion at the rear of the boat. It was rather easy for Him to sleep. As I said, He was tired. I could’ve slept, too. The sky’s gentle breath was cooling my brow even as the sun beamed hot, and the undulating sea carefully cradled our tiny vessel. The rhythm of the event was comforting—serene.

It was only a short time later—now a great distance from the shoreline and gliding above the deepest waters of the lake—the sky began to growl. Just above the water’s shimmering horizon, the clouds were settling into something black, something devilish.

It was angry and churning. And it was moving toward us.

There was a dreadful silence before its arrival—the once lapping waves now a still and shadowy water, the murmuring of the men nervously taking notice, the clumsy thumps from the oars being drawn into the boat, the low tones of the thunderous explosions rumbling in the distance. All eyes were widely fixed upon what approached from the horizon—darkness, fear, and Death—charging toward us on warhorses of wind and rain.

I knew, Peter knew, James and John knew, we all knew that this monster rolling toward us with such ferocity could be—would be—our end. And as the roar of the wind and the rain against the sea got louder and louder—matched perhaps only by the terrible sounds of Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen on approach of the Israelites at the Red Sea, set upon slaughter—each of us grabbed hold of the boat, firmly taking to anything mounted and sturdy.

And then it hit.

The first blast against my chest was filled with windswept droplets that pelted my body like gravel. Its strike pulled away the breath from my lungs and caused a rushing fear to wash over the whole band as it nearly capsized us in the very first wave. The men were calling out to one another even as the wind was so much louder. It screamed in our ears, swirling with such force that we could barely see let alone breathe without drowning in the sea water being swept up in a frenzy. The waves were tearing open the depths, lifting up, and swallowing everything. The water was pounding against us, beating against the boat with fists of bronze and stone, one after the other, mercilessly, each one striking so viciously, shaking the boat frame and rattling its planks. And the water, it was pouring over and swamping us, filling the boat.

The fear in the eyes of the men—the grasping tightly to our fragile and failing vessel—the setting reality of no escape.

And yet, Hope was so curiously asleep upon a pillow in the stern, and it was just as miraculous to turn and see Him there, while everyone was screaming in the deluge, He too, like us, was getting soaked, sliding back and forth in His compartment, so comfortably asleep, not bothered by the sky’s tantrum. Even just to look at Him brought peace.

The whole lot of us fumbled through the wind across the slippery deck to wake Him. We cried to Him through the deafening roar, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

It only took a moment for Him to wake, and it was quite necessary for Him to call back to us over the winds just as we did to Him, and yet as all of us spoke much later on the other side of the sea, none remembers His words as being anything but a gentle whisper of care through the tempest, “O, you of little faith,” He said, “Why are you so fearful?” These words translated into our hearts as, “Don’t worry. I’ve got you. I’m here. You’ve nothing to fear. I am with you, Immanuel, God is with you. And even with an atom-sized splinter of faith, My Spirit has turned you to the One who can save you. Come, now, this is not your end. My time has not yet come according to My Father’s plan, and I have so much more to accomplish, and so much more for you to bring before the world. And now, so that you may be certain of these things, let us be rid of this particular devil—this storm.”

He did not say these words—but these were His words. And with that, He wrestled His way to the bow of the ship, slipping and fumbling upon the deck just as we did. He grabbed hold of the boat’s frame, fighting against the powerful wind to keep His footing. He held tightly to the ship. He inhaled a breath to speak, but the words carried by His exhale were not of the same gentleness He offered to us. He rebuked the storm sharply as an angry judge rebukes the guilty, calling for it to close its gaping mouth and be silent. And the criminal tempest—embarrassed and shunned and cowardly fearful of His authority, it obeyed Him. Its screams retreated into nothingness. The sky revealed a bountiful blue, the rain disappeared in mid-fall, the rising waves all across the entire sea fell from their massive heights of swelling, all crashing down simultaneously like lunging whales into the lake’s stilled water.

Most in the boat remained silent, although there were a few who whispered among themselves regarding a man who could command the winds and sea. I said nothing.

“This is what I saw,” I said and moved to my whisky cabinet to put the glasses away.

“The storm sort of reminds me of the day you learned Evelyn had Type 1 Diabetes,” God said.

“Yeah.”

“O, you of little faith,” He said with a smile.

“Yeah,” I sighed. “Thanks for being in our boat.”

“There’s no place I’d rather be.”

She’s Going To Be A Sea Turtle

20170127_130430“She said she wanted to be a sea turtle for career today at school,” I said and chuckled. “Go figure.”

“Yeah, that was pretty funny,” God answered while examining a portrait on my office wall. The image was that of an angel standing guard over a sleeping child. “She sure made me smile when she said that,” He continued and leaned forward as if exploring the portrait’s finer details. “And it certainly gives a little insight into how she sees things.”

He tapped at the frame and then turned to look at me. “Just so you know,” He said, “for a moment there, I was thinking about giving the little sweetheart what she wanted.”

“Please don’t,” I said and took a bite from a slice of pizza that had been delivered to my office by one of the eighth grade students from the school. God gave a smile and then sat down in the guest chair nearest to the portrait.

“I like that painting,” He said motioning over His shoulder toward the image. “Right out of Matthew chapter 18, I’d say.”

“Yep,” I said and took another bite. I was waiting for Him to lead the conversation. It didn’t take long.

“People have a funny way of superimposing things upon my Word that are really rather foreign to it.”

His words surprised me.

“You just said you liked the painting,” I mumbled through a mouthful.

“I do,” He said swiftly. “That’s not what I mean.” He crossed one leg over the other and then slid in the vinyl seat cushion to a partial slouch. Looking up at the depiction, He kept on, “It’s a reasonable rendition, I’d say. The artist really thought it through. I think he captured something splendid from his imagination.”

He paused for a moment.

“But when people look at an image like this,” He said, “what do they see?”

I took another bite, but this time I swallowed before answering.

“I don’t know,” I said lazily. “Maybe they see an angel and a kid sleeping.”

“Maybe,” He said and then let another moment pass.

“I think a lot of folks these days just see a fantastical creature,” He picked up again, “something of lore—something that’s really just an alternate rendition of the pudgy little cherubs they’ve seen in the Christian bookstores.” He scratched His head. “They see something that’s nice to think about, but in the end, it may not really exist. They give the whole scene over to the mythical things.”

“That’s not what I see,” I said and glanced at the painting.

“What is it that you see, Chris?”

“Well, I guess I see a being You created,” I answered. “I see something I know is real because Your Word says it’s real.”

God sat quietly and listened.

“I see something that can go back and forth, something very powerful that can glide between Your sphere and ours, showing up in places with a divine directive.”

“Absolutely,” God grinned. “And powerful, you say? You should read 2 Kings 19:35. That was just one angel.” He turned back to see the painting.

There was another moment of quiet before He spoke. “Anything else?” He asked.

I stared more intently.

“I see an inexhaustible vigilance,” I said. “I see Your will being done in the middle of the night. I see a child being kept safe in the darker hours—those hours when the will of a mom or a dad’s struggles to keep up.”

“Yeah,” He said. “I’m glad you see that, too.”

God reached toward a slice of the pizza. “May I?” He asked politely. I nodded and pushed the plate toward Him.

“So,” He began while taking a bite, “when Evelyn grows up she wants to enter the workforce as a sea turtle, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said. “A sea turtle.” When she grows up, I thought.

“You know,” He laughed, “I’m omniscient, and yet I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much sea turtles make these days.”

I laughed a little, too. “We’ll have the basement ready,” I said. “Just in case it doesn’t pan out.”

evelyn-at-work

From Diabetes To Stuffed Animals

washed-in-the-blood-of-the-lamb“That was an interesting approach you took in your sermon this morning,” God said and took up a spot beside the fireplace. “And by the way,” He said with what seemed to be a slight irritation, “why do you keep it so cold in this house?”

I was only a few paces away and in the middle of pouring myself a whisky from one of my better bottles.

“I don’t control the thermostat around here,” I said. “Jen does. I just put on a sweatshirt or do what you’re doing.”

“That whisky will warm you, too,” He said and gave a point and a nod. “Ta hagia tois, hagiois.”

I didn’t answer. I took a sip and walked over to stand beside Him.

“That sermon…” He said again and then went silent. I didn’t respond right away, but instead took another sip from the dram.

“We took the scenic route to the Gospel, today,” I offered and looked down at my feet. I was wearing the thick blue and gray socks that Jennifer had given to me for Christmas a few years back. I only wore them when it was really cold. They’re still in great shape because I don’t wear them very often. With my bad back, they’re really hard to pull on.

“Yes, it was the more scenic way,” God answered, “but I think it was worthwhile.”

“The usual suspects probably thought I was just rambling.”

“But you put a lot into that sermon,” He affirmed and patted my shoulder. “It was a little more winding than usual, but the Gospel was more than preached.”

“I wanted the folks to understand the importance of Christian recognition,” I said and took another sip. “I wanted them to know that because the Holy Spirit is alive in them, they have the ability to see and then make certain points of connection that no one else can.”

“A good portion of my Church seems to be in the process of losing this,” He said, His voice trending toward sadness. He pushed His foot up next to mine as if comparing sizes. “The more they push the Church’s heritage away,” He continued, “the further they get from being able to recognize some very important things.” He paused for a moment. “I like how you used the Pharisees as an example.”

“That was easy,” I said and looked down at my socks again. “Those knuckleheads…” But then I stopped and gave Him a glance. I reconsidered the title I’d just given.

“That’s alright,” God chuckled comfortingly. “That’s what the word ‘Pharisee’ means in the original language. It means ‘head of knuckles’.” I laughed and He did, too.

Still grinning, I tapped at my glass. “They wanted a sign,” I continued. “Jesus told them the only one they’d get was the sign of Jonah—someone who was, for all intents and purposes, dead for three days and then suddenly found alive again and giving a message of power that saved the worst of the worst. The Pharisees couldn’t put two and two together. They couldn’t see what that account was pointing to.”

“But the seven-year-old girl with Diabetes can see these things,” He added. “And that is very important.”

“She sure perked up when I said her name from the pulpit and shared the story about her.”

“She sure did,” He said. “And I’m glad you told the story. It brightened Evelyn’s day to be a sermon-worthy example for the rest of the church. And, by the way, I know for a fact that it clicked for some folks.”

“It did?”

“Yes, it did,” He affirmed. “You’ll be getting an email about it on Tuesday.”

“Good or bad?”

“Don’t worry,” He said. “It’s a good note.” I asked the persuasion of the forthcoming message because I already knew very well that preaching the pure Word of God results in both good and bad responses. It stirs thankfulness, but sometimes it also ricochets from stony hearts and causes trouble.

“I didn’t intend to tell the story in the sermon,” I said and took another sip. “It just seemed to fit when I was editing it before worship this morning.”

“Tell me again what happened,” God pried.

It was Saturday afternoon. Jennifer and Madeline were gone. The boys were upstairs doing something—probably playing video games. Evelyn was sitting at the island in the kitchen and checking her blood sugar. I was making her lunch.

“Momma told me you had a rough day on Wednesday,” I said while twisting off the lid of the peanut butter jar.

“She did?”

“Yeah. She said you got a little tired of the whole Diabetes thing, and that you were sad.”

“Yeah,” she said with a sigh.

“What’s bothering you these days?” I asked.

“It’s boring,” she said. This didn’t make sense at first, especially because I know that Diabetes is anything but boring. But then she explained, and as she did, I knew that what the seven-year-old meant was that she’d had enough of the regiment and wanted it to go away. She wanted something new. “I always have to poke my fingers,” she started. “You always have to wake me up and do it at night. I always have to get shots. I’m tired of Diabetes. It’s boring.”

Evelyn had once again come to a moment that previous Wednesday night—when it was just she and her Momma rocking in a chair before bed—a time when the demands of her Diabetes had worn her little body very thinly. She was tired. She wanted to be rid of it.

“You know,” I began with as passing a tone as I could, “things like Diabetes won’t be around forever.”

“Will there be a cure someday?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe. What I meant is that when we’re in heaven, Diabetes won’t be around to bore us anymore.”

“It won’t?”

“Nope, and that sure makes this guy very happy—this guy right here making your sandwich who has a very bad back that likes to bore him every day.”

“Will your back hurt in heaven?”

“Nope. My back will be strong.” This made her smile.

Now, I didn’t have a Bible nearby, although I didn’t really need one. I’d read the particular text so many times it was already as familiar to me as my own name. I scooped out the strawberry jelly and began to recite for her a portion from Revelation chapter seven. She perked up and listened intently as I spoke.

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where they have come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

“That’s a vision of heaven that Saint John wrote down for us in the Book of Revelation,” I said. “That’s going to be us one day. Everything that’s wrong with our bodies in this life will be gone in heaven.”

“It will?”

“Yes,” I said and licked the jelly from the butter knife before setting it into the sink. “And God Himself will reach out with His own hands and wipe away all of the tears caused by the troubles of this world.”

And then she took the conversation in a slightly different direction. Within her began the engagement of a full-on assault against her mortal worries. Her Christian recognition was stirred and a very important connection was made—one worthy of being included in the Sunday sermon.

“Those people in front of the throne,” she said rather confidently, “they were baptized.” I didn’t say anything just yet, but rather let the seven-year-old’s wisdom be displayed. “Their robes were white. They were washed in the Lamb’s blood. Jesus is the Lamb of God. Baptism is being washed in His blood and it makes us clean. Those people were baptized.”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s exactly what that part means. Those people were baptized Christians.”

“I’m baptized, too.”

“Yes, you are.”

I could see that the wheels were beginning to spin in her head even more rapidly. She was making the connections in her mind that her Diabetes and my bad back—both terribly “boring” issues with which we both struggle—had already been sentenced to eternal death by the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross. She’d been washed in that blood in Baptism and made an heir of heaven—a place where she’d be forever rid of Diabetes and her dad would feel better.

“She got it,” God said. “Christian recognition is pretty great, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“What else did you talk about? Did she say anything else at lunch?”

“We talked about her stuffed animal, Fluffers,” I said, “and how she thinks he’s probably her favorite right now.”

“Yeah,” God smiled and gave me one of His signature elbows. “Remembering the promises given in Baptism has a way of bringing that kind of ease—you know, the kind that goes from the painful challenge of Diabetes to the comfort of stuffed animals.”

I looked back down to my socks, a pair I enjoyed wearing but, as I said, have always been so challenging to put on.

He Got It Right

fixedblinds“Where’ve you been?” I asked and tapped at the handle of my coffee mug. “Seems like it’s been a while.”

“I’ve been here,” God said and closed the door behind Him. “You’ve been pretty busy since before Christmas.” He moved to the visitor chair closest to my office window. “I figured I’d let the distractions carry you along for a while,” He said and positioned the chair just enough so that He could look outside as we talked. “And they were good distractions, yes?”

“Not really,” I said and took a sip of the cold coffee. “But whatever.”

“Not really?”

“The whole family has been on autopilot for a few weeks, now,” I said and turned in my chair enough to cross my leg. “And we didn’t get much of a Christmas break before having to go back to the grind. In fact, we didn’t get a break at all. Too many things were happening at once.”

“You were looking forward to the break, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was.”

“The distractions kept you moving at full speed?”

“Yes, they did.”

“Good,” He said succinctly. But before I could contest His decisive word and stare, he added, “You don’t want to slow down right now, Chris. Not yet.”

He was right, and I didn’t need for Him to explain His words. I know just as He knows that I’m at my worst with a relaxed mind. Evelyn needs for me—for us—to be the best pancreas we can be for her while we fight an arduous combat for blood sugar stability, all the while being sabotaged by an organ deep within her body that randomly offers to help with our calculations.

The Honeymoon Phase, they call it.

So tritely described by others throughout the blogosphere as being all but celebratory, the Honeymoon Phase is the time it takes for the functioning portion of the pancreas that remains to die off and stop producing insulin. In some circumstances, this take years, and if you know anything about the disease, you’ll know how dangerous the time can be.

Essentially, when you are artificially administering insulin, you are doing what the pancreas is supposed to be doing naturally. You are checking blood sugar levels and making calculations and then injecting the chemical into the body’s fatty tissue so that it gradually makes it into the bloodstream where it works to reduce blood glucose levels and keep the person within a particular range of safety. If you don’t do this, the glucose levels will skyrocket (hyperglycemia) and cause irreversible damage to the body—as in organ failure and/or death. But if the pancreas decides it’s going to do the calculating for you even after you’ve injected the insulin, there is the risk of the glucose level dropping into an unsafe range (hypoglycemia) and resulting in a coma and/or death.

During the Honeymoon Phase, it is absolutely necessary to check blood sugar levels fairly frequently. If you don’t, a short order of trouble could be waiting around the corner.

“How are things going with Evelyn?” God asked and reached toward the window blinds to fix a few of the many slats that had become misaligned.

“It’s been challenging,” I said. “But you already know that.”

“How so?”

“Well, the doctors told us that we could probably cut back on checking her glucose levels at three o’clock in the morning,” I said and then took another sip, “but her numbers are still fluctuating far too much. We just can’t seem to take comfort in the advice and actually sleep through the night. One of us gets up to check on her.”

“Understandable,” He said and fixed another slat. “The Honeymoon Phase is a scary time.”

“Our biggest fear,” I began to say but then interrupted myself, “well, maybe mine, is that her pancreas is going to kick in one night after she goes to bed and her glucose will drop too low and she won’t wake up in the morning.”

“Scary.”

“I don’t know about Jen, but I go to bed almost every night thinking there’s a chance my little girl might die in her sleep.”

“And if she did?” He asked rather bluntly.

“Well,” I said and took a breath, “you’d sure as hell hear about it from me.”

“I’m sure I would,” He sounded with a voice that one would expect to be accompanied by a smile, but wasn’t. His face was resolved. “And she’d be with Me, Chris, and I’d be there to help you.”

I looked away. I didn’t want to tell Him again how it all seemed so unfair, especially since just as I was about to turn back to accuse Him, Saint Paul’s words barged into my head rather suddenly: He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all…

“He got it right,” God said.

“Who did?”

“Saint Paul,” He answered. “Saint Paul got it right. Of course, I had a hand in him getting it right. That little bit from the letter I had him write to the Christians in Rome,” He continued, “all by itself, it’s pretty crisp. It has real potency.”

“How’s that?” I asked with a dryness that did very little to hide my growing irritation at what seemed to be His lack of seriousness regarding Death.

“That verse alone can keep the cadence of a Christian heart indefinitely—and through pretty much anything,” He said plainly and turned back to adjust another slat in the blinds. “It defines your worth. It tells you in only a few words what you are worth to Me.”

I could tell He was leaving empty moments for me to speak if I chose to do so. But I didn’t.

He who did not spare His own Son,” He recited softly into the air as if speaking to the blinds.

Fixing the last of the slats, He turned His eyes back to me. “That’s a reminder to you of just how much your daughter is worth to the Creator of all things, the One who promised to destroy Death forever.”

He didn’t say anything else. I didn’t either.

The blinds looked better. And with the minor adjustments, there were less obstructions to my view of the world beyond my window.

I Should Have Closed The Door

hospital-door“I didn’t mean to make her cry,” I said.

“I know,” God insisted, but then He turned to a gentler tone. “Walk me through it.”

It was our first Diabetes “clinic” at the hospital with the various members of the pediatric endocrinology team assigned to us. It was a lengthy appointment set aside to ask and be asked questions, to be in dialogue regarding the stratagem for waging a more precise and steady war against my daughter’s autoimmune disease—an enemy whose only purpose is to make her seven-year-old body try to kill itself.

Evelyn was tapping and dragging on the iPad screen—changing the prince’s crowns and the colors of the princess’ dress, switching back and forth between a wintery kingdom and a reign of summertime glow—all the while, the doctor and I took to serious things with careful tones. But there was one thing that I wanted to ask that I could not gild. The question that was already formed, and had been for some time, was for Evelyn’s good, but not her ears, and so I asked the doctor for a private moment outside in the hallway.

I should have closed the door behind us.

“While I know what this disease is and how it works,” I began, “there’s a lot I don’t know.”

“That’s why you have us,” she said comfortingly.

“I have to ask,” I continued in a voice that was just a little more than a whisper, “is it in any way possible for me to give her my pancreas, or the portion that she needs, so that I can be the one doing this instead of her?”

The doctor gave a kindly smile, one that at least implied familiarity with the request.

“The endocrine system is a very complicated thing,” she said. “The pancreas does a lot more than dole out insulin. You’d die without your pancreas. And even though there have been pancreas transplants, quite often the resulting condition and the regiment of care is far worse than Evelyn’s current condition with Type 1 Diabetes.”

“But I would die for her,” I said. “I would do anything to take this away, if there was ever a chance for her to be rid of this thing.”

“I know, but there isn’t. At least not yet.” She attempted to distract me by describing the latest advances in Diabetes treatment as well as suggested the possibility of near-future gadgets that would change the field, but I interrupted her.

“I just want to be clear, right here in the first clinic with all of you… I will do anything—anything—to take this away from her.”

The doctor was the first to notice Evelyn’s little blue eye spying just below the hinge through the space between the door and its frame. Having been discovered, she slipped back to her chair and resumed her iPad morsing. But there was no hiding her quivering lip and the rose of her cheeks. She was trying her hardest not to cry.

Before I could even stretch out my arms to her, she curled over the iPad in her hands and sobbed, “I don’t want you to have Diabetes.” I scooped her up and held her close. “And I don’t want you to die,” she stuttered through a sniffling sorrow. I could feel her tiny fingers digging into my shoulders.

“Oh, honey,” I said and worked to keep my own tears hidden, “I love you so much. And I will do anything to help you. That’s all I was saying to the doctor, that I’d do anything for you, to make you better.”

For Evelyn, the conversation was already over. She brought it to an end with a forthrightness that is rare of any adult. She took hold of the sides of my face and leaned her little forehead against mine, her face still splotched with sadness. “I don’t want you to have Diabetes,” she said so very clearly.

And then she started to laugh. I don’t know why. She just did. I wonder if it was because that’s what kids do when they get so close to your face that your two eyes become blurred into one. For a moment, you look like a cyclops. It’s silly. Or maybe it was a moment of maneuvering for a little one who just gave you her heart to also hand over a little bit of her joy, too. Because you need it. And she wants you to have it. And she’d do anything for you just as you’d do anything for her. To prove that both would have lost so much if the other were suddenly gone—even by way of self-sacrifice.

“I love this little girl,” I said and turned back to see God’s expression.

“I know,” He answered. “Now, don’t forget what she taught you today.”

“I won’t.”

They Can’t Be Counted

pantryIt was dark, but I avoided the light switch. It was of little use to me. In four weeks, I’d already traveled this way hundreds of times. I’d already reached for the long-spent milk gallon, unscrewed its cap, and performed the ritual more times than I could have ever thought possible. The way there, the ceremony, the anger—it was rote.

“Endlessly piercing her tiny arms and legs with these needles,” I sighed just below my breath and dropped another soiled syringe into the container, “it makes my stomach turn.”

God was just beyond the pantry door at the dining room table. He leaned forward to peer around the corner. He was listening.

I stood there in the dark and stared at the dimmed silhouettes of soup cans and cereal boxes.

“And the groan she makes when it breaks through her skin,” I continued, “the way she rubs the spot and says it hurts after it’s over.” I could feel my fingers curling up beside one another and forming a fist. “She’s so tired of it. A hundred times it’s happened already, and she’s just begun. The sore fingers. The pock marks and the little bruises,” I seethed and lifted my hand to my face in the darkness as if examining my grasp of something invisible. “I hate it,” I said dryly and stale-faced. “I hate it all.”

I stood still and waited for God to speak, but He didn’t. The only sound was the click from the thermostat and the triggered furnace firing in the basement.

“I wonder how many syringes are in that thing,” God said. “Have you thought about counting them?”

His words both angered and exhausted me.

“Why…? I asked, but only barely. My lungs needed more air to finish the sentence. “Why,” I tried again, “would I ever want to do that?” I tapped my fist to my forehead.

“I was just thinking that you would’ve thought to do that by now,” He said and leaned back in His chair as if tired of watching me in the dark. “You’re chronicling everything.”

“I’ll never count them,” I said rebelliously and turned only slightly to look in the direction of His voice. “I will never count them.”

“Why not?” He asked.

“They can’t be counted,” I said. “The pile only grows. The needles continue to pile up. The alcohol wipes and the test strips and the syringes and the lancet needles, they’ll continue to pile up and up and up, all the way to your front door.”

“And then what?” He asked.

“And then nothing,” I said. I stood still in the pantry’s obscurity. I didn’t want to look at Him. I didn’t want to listen anymore.

“Well,” He said plainly, “it sounds like the pile, for as terrible as it may be, has the strange potential for giving you a pretty decent view of something far better than a pantry in the dark.”

I remained as still as before. But even as I was firmly planted, His sentence—so fractionally simple and hardly impassioned—I felt it pull me an inch from the pantry.