The second major change in my life happened while my older son went through his surgeries and recovery at St. Mary Hospital in Rochester, Minn.
The day my son had his first surgery, I got hit with a migraine to end all migraines. When they wheeled him away, looking so small and frail on the gurney, I went into the bathroom and heaved my toes out of my mouth. I think that day ranks as the worst day of my life.
When they wheeled him into surgery I didn’t know if I’d ever get to see him again. He was that sick, and that frail. I have never known terror as great and I’ve been through a lot.
The nice thing about St. Mary’s was they let me stay with him. I sat with him in the intensive care room. The only time they made me leave was when the doctors made their rounds. I stayed with him in his hospital room. The only time I left was when my husband took over. I didn’t want him left alone for a single moment.
And I discovered something rather amazing. I found out there is more to faith than prayer. During the six months of my son’s surgeries and recovery from a very severe illness, I found out that my faith means nothing. It’s not enough to pray. It’s not enough to believe.
I thought I was a Christian. I thought I believed in God and had done so all my life. But as I sat by my son’s bed I have never felt so alone, so helpless, so absolutely abandoned by everything I believed in.
I knew that nothing I did was going to make a difference. I couldn’t will my son to good health. I couldn’t wave a magic wand and have his problems go away. There wasn’t any magic bean or potion that would save us.
I sat there hour after hour and the words of a song went through my head, over and over, and over. Cast all your cares upon me. Lay all of your burdens down at my feet. And I struggled with the concept.
I talked to God, and I prayed to God, and I listened to that melody wind through my mind and I looked around and saw the people at the hospital. The little babies with stitches completely surrounding their heads. Children walking down the hallways pulling IV stands with them. Children in wheelchairs, and children in casts. And on the faces of those beautiful children were smiles.
The courage I saw in them and their families. I met people whose names I will never remember, but who shared their spirit with me. Those weeks we spent at St. Mary’s are some of the most profoundly life changing experiences in my life.
And I began to understand the lesson God wanted me to learn. The most important thing in faith isn’t what you pray to God for. It’s what He answers back. You have to listen. He truly does want every part of us and that means the worry, and the cares, and the fears.
I didn’t have to sit there and be frightened or alone or worried. I could give it all over to Him and He would carry those burdens for me. I’d been trying to carry the weight of everything on my shoulders. When I prayed, I would ask God to give me the strength, give me the wisdom, give me, give me, give me, and it wasn’t my place to do anything.
I can’t carry anybody else’s burden but my own. I couldn’t heal my son. I couldn’t wrap Josh in cotton and protect him from life. It wasn’t my place to do any of that. All I can do is take care of me. And the relief of that was enormous.