I’ve done a lot of thinking about fear lately. FEAR. The word even looks daunting if you stare at it for a while. Emotions are a universal language and fear is a powerful emotion. Everyone has fears–everyone deals with fear in their own ways. Just like any other emotion, the more power you give it, the more power it takes. We do a lot of things to avoid things we fear–we buy insurance, steer clear of situations and people, abuse substances, acquire bad habits, seek therapy, take precautions. Fear brings even the strongest of people to weakness and it has multiple layers. It is, in our lives, unavoidable, but it is also purposeful. I actually see some degree of fear as a healthy emotion; it isn’t good to be terrorized, but the core emotion was designed for a reason. I have much gratitude for living through some of our latest fears. Still, they are experiences I hope we never deal with again.
There have been many times in the last five months that we have faced “what-if fears”. This type of fear is dreading a possible outcome of the circumstance at hand. It is because of this type of fear that we make decisions that will hopefully thwart any meeting with said dreaded situation. We walk on a lighted path to avoid the darkened street where danger lurks. Often times, due to decisions and our ability to exhibit control, we can avoid the problem entirely. Thankfully, that is the mode in which we typically operate during every day living.
There have been two distinct times, however, in our journey with Reece’s health where the fear we faced was “realized fear”. It is fear at one of the deepest possible levels with almost everything outside of our control. It was no longer a hypothetical situation; it was real. Realized fear is walking down the lighted path and meeting the danger in the environment you have already tried desperately to control through “what-if fear” or it has come with no warning at all. The first occurrence was when Reece received his diagnosis. It was surreal–a million different emotions and sensations zoning in on all at once. My mind raced; I felt as though my life was a movie playing out in front of me. Still, there was a redeeming quality of hopefulness in knowing that we would likely get through the transplant. There was an “out” for us–albeit a daunting one–in knowing we could rid him of the disease through BMT. There was an ability to seek refuge in knowing that Reece could move on to live a full and healthy life.
The second time happened when Reece had his pulmonary hemorrhage. It was the deepest darkness I have ever had to experience. There was an acute realization that we may have not made it out of that situation. It felt hopeless, desperate, panicked. There was very little we could do to control anything. Not a day has gone by since that happened where I haven’t replayed that situation in my head.
One realization I’ve had as a result of these two situations is the ability to move beyond fear. I still have many worries about this whole thing, both for our present situation and the future. But being in a moment where your worst fears are realized allows you to let go of some of the fear itself. You recognize that time still passes, as those moments don’t last forever. They have lasting effects, yes, but they pass by as any other time in life. Part of moving beyond it is realizing we weren’t really in control in the first place. It was the realization that something else was at work and we had to sit and watch it all transpire. I never felt alone in it. I never felt abandoned and I knew that the Lord was near. Just letting go of trying to control it was hard to do, but it also had some sort of calming effect in knowing we had done everything we possibly could do and it was out of our hands. I realize I am not doing a good job of clearly describing it; it is best understood through the actual experience. My point is, in the most fearful situation I have experienced, we were not abandoned and it felt purposeful. Those two things were surprising and comforting and have made me realize that much of my own fear is anticipation of the worst scenario and the assumption of abandonment.
As I look back, I recognize that the specific things that I feel God has spoken to me about personally in regard to Reece have never been proven untrue. Since Reece’s diagnosis, I have had many prayers for him–things that I have wanted for him to be spared from. God never promised He would spare Reece from any of those things, but He did speak specifically about what He would do. I asked God to give Reece a clean bill of health–Reece was given a diagnosis. I asked God to spare Reece from side effects of transplant…Reece has battled multiple side effects, including one of the most serious. However, even though He didn’t answer some of my prayers in the ways I wanted Him to, He never broke a promise. And He never backed down on things I believe He specifically spoke to in regard to Reece. He also never left us.
It would be really easy to fall into the grip of fear about Reece’s future. I am not just referencing Reece’s hospital stay. The chance of relapse, the chance of other complications, the chance of side effects from drugs/chemo/radiation…the list goes on…all could become overpowering in the amount of fear they produce. I also have the fear of Mother Nature; that had Reece been given this diagnosis 20 years ago, there would have been no option. Therefore, how much tampering with one body can happen before Mother Nature takes what she believes was her own to begin with? We are walking the tight rope of modern medicine and that is hair-raising. As I have reflected on the last 11 weeks and, specifically, the last three, I realize that we were brought to a place where there was nothing to do but just wait and see. There were no other options to seek, no paths to take, no person to give us a definitive answer. There was nothing to do but wait and see what was in store for him. It has become apparent to me that God doesn’t make decisions on a whim. He doesn’t rush things along and He doesn’t do things haphazardly. I have made a lot of assumptions about how God operates, based on how I operate. God doesn’t work that way. He has seemed methodical and calm. I don’t know how I truly know that, but for whatever reason, at the center of the storm, God has seemed calm.
I found that a great source of comfort (much to my mom’s suggestion) during those first critical weeks post-hemorrhage and even throughout other parts of transplant has been to get up in the morning and thank God for what He has given us in that very day. This, I feel, sounds basic and somewhat obvious, but getting up and being thankful that I didn’t get an urgent phone call overnight, that Reece was doing ok at any particular moment, that he had a good hour/day, that we were given yet another day with him–acknowledging what was being given to us was comforting. The fact is, this situation has shown me how blessed we were with what we had before this diagnosis, that every day is a gift, and that we have been spared from so many things; I feel it actually highlights how loving God is. I can not stress that enough. There have been many times over the last five months where I have had to keep telling myself that God loves us, despite feeling confused and at odds with Him. But through what was a terrifying experience, I have been blessed in knowing that God was near; He was in control. He did not break a promise and it highlights how much He has loved us and spared us from so many other things–both related to this circumstance and in other areas of life as well. We have endured much, but we have been spared from even more.
“Be strong and courageous…for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6