“Mrs. Whitaker, what do you want us to do?”
Those are nine words I never thought I’d hear and I certainly never thought I’d have to answer them. Nearly three years ago I gave birth to our son prematurely. After nine days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) he coded, had to be resuscitated, intubated and emergency transported to the local children’s hospital. When the pediatric surgeon asked me those words, I was at a loss. I mumbled back to him, “I don’t know, but I need to pray about it.” The rest of our conversation is a blur.
Last week, my interview aired on Relevant Radio about how a traumatic event turned into a spiritual re-birth and gave me added purpose and direction. You can listen to that “It’s Up to Us” interview.
One question, in particular, has stuck with me. “How did you do it,” the interviewer asked. Really, how does one do it when tragedy strikes? What would you do?
The reality is this. Tragedy will strike every one of us, either in the form of an unexpected death, illness, job change, move, diagnosis or life experience. Something will happen and our faith will be put to the fire. I can tell you that I believe, beyond a doubt, God had been helping my husband and I build a foundation of faith for many years to fight the fire of prematurity. In fact, he’s preparing your foundation now. The real question is, are you helping him or ignoring him?
During our early marriage we used artificial contraception and five years into the relationship, we began practicing natural family planning (NFP). We began to trust His plan for our vocation as parents a bit more.
During a pilgrimage to Italy with our high school teenagers we renewed our vows in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. We began to form a more sacramental marriage, relying on one another with God as an integral player.
Rather than going out on the town as much, we began participating in more ministries in the parish as individuals and as a couple. We recognized the importance of surrounding ourselves with other faith-filled couples and families.
Instead of watching another television show, we signed up for a weekly Eucharistic Adoration hour, spending more time in prayer.
Every day, every week, every month, every year God was calling us closer to Him. Inviting us to stay a while, kick up our feet and get to know Him. Because He knew that our cross would eventually arrive at the door. And it would be heavy. We would need an army of support to help us carry it.
He also knew that the introduction of that cross was going to challenge my relationship with Him. God knew that I was going to be angry, confused, hurt and exhausted. He knew. What I came to cherish and celebrate through that terrible, horrible, no-good NICU stay was that He loved me. It wasn’t until I was begging God with everything I had to spare the life of my child that I began to understand His love for me.
Here I was, standing in a sterile hospital room in two-day old clothes and a fresh c-section incision with a love so great for a child I’d only known for nine days. Yet, God was standing beside me with a love a million times greater and crucifixtion scars much bigger, begging for my trust. How could I deny Him?
Today, as you prepare for your cross or as you carry it, surround yourself with the army. Bask in His love. The old saying is true: God doesn’t leave us, we leave him.