Grace Michaelson

Who Owns the Bad Stuff?

Sep
14

As I was writing in my journal last night, I began to realize that what I was writing was the beginning of a good blogpost.  It is, in fact, a truth that people struggle with all. the. time.  Who takes ownership when bad things happen to good people?  Some of us take ownership ourselves.  Some of us try to make God own it.  Some of us force the ownership on other people.  Sometimes the ownership does belong to ourselves or other people.  Like if a person steals from you, then ownership belongs to the person who took from you. If you’re late too work too many times and you get yourself fired, then the ownership belongs to you.  What I’m talking about here, though, is about bad things that happen because we live in a world that is broken because Adam & Eve chose to break it when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Bad things that no one can own–like a natural disaster, a death of a desperately wanted baby, or; like in my case, the injury of an innocent baby that left a child scarred for life.

Let me tell you Caleb’s story:

Caleb is now 16 years old.  He is well-adjusted, smart as a whip, and dreams big dream.  He doesn’t let anything stop him.  He believes he can do anything anyone else can do.  He has a Totally Involved Left Sided Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injury.  What that means is that he has paralysis in his left arm and part of the left side of his face (Horner’s Syndrome), and it happened during his birth (Obstetrical verses Traumatic).

I remember his birth as clearly as it was yesterday:

There came a moment when the doctor said, “Uh-oh, we have a problem!”

Michael remembers looking down at Caleb and seeing that his head and neck were out, his cord was rapped around his neck, and that the cord was white because it was pinched off and not giving Caleb the life-giving fluid he needed to get through the rest of his birth.

The nurse called, “Code Pink!”, and the room filled with more people than I could even count.

Some were up on the gurney with me, some were holding my legs.  The doctor had three minutes to get my son out before he passed away.  Nurses were pushing on my belly.  I was screaming in pain, even though I had an epidural.  My husband was bending over me trying to calm me down.

I kept screaming, “God please help Caleb.  Don’t let my Caleb die!”

Then the two and a half minutes were done.  He was out.  No sound came from my baby.  His first Apgar scores were so low.  Then came a soft cry and I knew he was alive.  The neonatal doctor came over to my bed and leaned over with Caleb in his arms.

“I have to take him, but here he is.  There is something wrong with his face and arms.  Otherwise, we think he’ll make it,” He said, then he was gone.

I turned to Michael and said, “Go!  Go with him.”

I was left wondering what had happened, shivering from loss of blood, and my body broken.  Later I found out that I would need extensive surgery to repair my pelvic floor.  So who owns this tragedy?  I could blame the doctor, and yet my son is alive because of her quick thinking.  The truth is I spent a long while after Caleb’s birth blaming God.  How could He allow such a bad thing happen to an innocent baby?  I slowly came around to the truth that God was not to blame.  The truth is that He was instrumental in delivering my son from his death, or even brain damage due to oxygen starvation, or Cerebral Palsy, or many other possibilities that could have come out of a birth like that.  God, when allowing bad things to happen to His servants, always puts boundaries around those bad things.

Then I turned my attention to myself.  I blamed my body.  It became apparent that I had never dilated to a full 10.  Doctor’s could never explain why, saying only that I must have had a “man-like” pelvis.  So I told myself that I had injured Caleb.  I told myself I somehow controlled my womb and my pelvis and it was my fault.  Do you see how silly I was?  I had no control over this situation.  Only last month I finally found out the exact truth of why Caleb was injured.  Through the advancement of the last 16 years, we have a new CT method that shows a clearer picture.  They were able to see my pelvis and womb and found that I have both a tilt and a heart shape uterus, making it impossible for me to ever be able to dilate to 10.  The truth is, that if Joshua my oldest, had been only a few ounces bigger, he too would have been injured or possibly would have died at birth.  God, instead of doing something bad to our family, did many good things.  He has allowed our children to be alive and only allowed the worst to be a disabled arm that doesn’t even stop Caleb from doing anything he wants to do.

I would love to be able to assign blame for every bad thing that happens to me.  It feels like closure.  It feels then like it has purpose.  The truth is, though, as I have worked through the realization that there is no ownership to be given to anyone in the case of Caleb’s injury, I have also come to realize that there is no less purpose in bad situations that happen to people where ownership can’t be established.  Things that happen to us find their purpose when we allow God to do His thing in us.  That’s when the tragedies of our lives start to become purposeful and have true meaning–when God makes them into something for His glory and honor.

The Bible says that our world is broken and waiting for the renewal of creation.  Romans 8:18-22 says, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  Someday God will fix His creation and there will be no more of this brokenness and sorry.  We can look forward to that day.  Until that day, we can find solace in knowing that we can trust God to give purpose to the things that don’t seem to make sense or that no one can own.  Bad things just happen to good people sometimes.  That’s just the world we live in.  That’s why we look to the future.

Revelations 21:3-4, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

 

Humility & Self-Esteem

May
19

As a Christian I am familiar with a few Christian buzz words that we all learn to either adore or abhore.  Two of those words are “humility” (to adore) and self-esteem (to abhore).  They are complete opposites in the Christian faith and they are both treated as appositional to each other.  A true Christian, it is believed, can’t be humble without being self-deprecating.  Self-esteem preaches the idea that you aren’t self-deprecating, right?  That you actually choose to accept and love yourself for who you are created to be and who you are.  Humility, it is believed, comes from the verses such as:

Luke 9:23. “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me”

James 4:10, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Humility is honored, Self-esteem is put down and made fun of.  I have spent years being confused and disturbed by the teachings of humility that I have gotten in my past.  If humility is truly self-deprecation, then why does God put such emphasis in Scripture about giving people gifts of the Spirit and having us use such gifts?  He obviously wants to use us in His Kingdom and use our strengths.  I doubt he wants us to worry about how we word what we say or how we say things, such as:

“I am gifted to write, by the grace of God…”

Just because we say “by the grace of God”, doesn’t change the fact that we said what we are gifted in or make us less or more humble.  I think it’s OK that I can acknowledge my gift of writing.  I also don’t think God needs me to play the game of adding a “humble add-on” like “by the grace of God” because it’s already a given that everything comes from God and everything can be taken away in a moment’s notice.  I could have a freak accident where I lose my arms and then my writing is gone, right?

Humility is knowing and understanding that our gifts are there to be used by God, but that they can be removed at a moments notice and being OK with that that truth.  Can you be OK with that truth?  Can I?  The trick is holding everything with hands palms up and fingers flat.

It’s OK to accept yourself, to even know that you’re “good enough”.  After all, God felt you were worth it enough to come down as Jesus to die on the cross for your sins in order to establish a relationship with you.  Self-esteem, with the latter thought in mind, is not so bad, is it?  Self-esteem with the thought that everything and everyone should look at you and keep you in mind as the next best thing to the Prince of Peace is not OK, of course.  Balance is the key.  Keeping in mind why we are good enough is a good idea. Knowing that we don’t have to play mind games or word games is also OK.  Christian Lingo needs to go and we need to just be ourselves.  The “ourselves” that God was OK with coming down to Earth to save because He loves us dearly.

James 4:10 is about being humble when we are confessing our sins, if we look at the whole passage.  It’s so easy to look at one verse and take a concept and twist it.  We must look at the whole passage to find the truth of the scripture.

Luke 9:23 is talking about sacrifice in the midst of service for the kingdom.  It has to do with the “open hands” concept that I spoke of earlier.  Although it does speak of humility, I believe, it’s not speaking of self-deprecation.  Self-deprecation is never spoken of in scripture.  That is a worldly concept that is a replacement the devil brought in to confuse and deceive Christians in order to side-line us and make us not useful for the Kingdom of God.

So the next time you feel tempted to be self-deprecating in the place of humility.  Remember who you are in Christ.  Remember your gifts God has given you and try a little honoring of those gifts God gave you– not with word games– just with honest honor to the gift God gave you.  Yes, it’s OK.