Thirty three years ago, we brought home our firstborn. Confident in my ability to care for an infant, after all, I was a nurse with some experience in the newborn nursery; I went about my motherly duties as if I were a pro. I mastered the “football hold” of sticking my little one’s head under running water for a daily shampoo without getting water in his ears. Instead of disposable diapers I opted for the diaper service and quickly learned to change diapers with the speed and precision of a Nascar pit crew! Two weeks into motherhood, my confidence was shaken when my precious little one contracted a cold. How could this be? I had done everything right and kept him at home, even limiting visitors to keep down the possibility of infections in the first tender month of life. As I remember it, my husband came home with a cold and, well, you know the rest of the story. Arriving at the pediatrician’s office, the first thing I remember him saying as he entered the exam room was “Well, it didn’t take you long to make him sick!” Not exactly what to say to a new mother as I burst into tears explaining how my perfect mothering skills had been thwarted by my husband’s cold.
Six weeks into chemo, my skills have once again been thwarted by a nasty cold. It certainly didn’t take me very long to get sick! How could this be? I had taken every precaution. I washed my hands at least a hundred times a day. I stopped shaking hands and giving hugs at church to minimize the possibility of contracting something. I washed raw food with soap and water before eating it. I kept my distance from everyone. I wore disposable gloves to pump gas and kept hand sanitizer in my purse. Still, even with my best efforts, somehow I contracted a cold. What I wasn’t prepared for was how severe a cold is for someone on chemo. I should have the words “Fragile: Handle With Care” stamped on my forehead! Because chemo suppresses the body’s defense mechanisms, my body is in a constant state of fragility. Something that I could previously have endured with little more than a runny nose and maybe a few sneezes suddenly is a major event, relegating me to bed for days unable to do anything due to weakness. My body now takes longer to begin healing and healing is slower than I have ever experienced.
Sometimes, even with our best efforts, things happen. Even with my best mothering skills, my infant got sick. And, despite my best efforts at keeping germs and viruses at bay, one slipped in. My body is fragile right now because of chemotherapy but my spirit remains strong. Even in my moments of weakness, when I wondered how much more my body could endure, there was a deep assurance that God had not abandoned me.
Faith is trusting in God regardless of what God is allowing to happen in our lives. The Apostle Paul knew this well. He learned to trust God even in the midst of hardship. He was content with whatever came his way. He endured a “thorn in his side” that God did not remove. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that our weaknesses are to be used for God’s glory: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” I am fragile but God is handling me with great care!