Sometimes life contains us – like a box with a lid. We think we are stuck in a rut, that this is permanent, that there is no way out. We tell ourselves to settle, get in line with the status quo, try to keep as safe as we possibly can and to not move around too much inside that box because the walls are made of cardboard, it could all just fall apart.
Yesterday was Sam’s Birthday and eating breakfast she recalled all the foods she was told she could not eat when she was diagnosed with Leukaemia. It was terrifying. After telling us that our daughter had cancer and that she may not live, they sent the nutritionalist in and she gave us a list of things she could not eat.
The nutritionalist explained that because of Sam’s low white blood count she was at high risk of infection therefore lettuce was bad and so were berries because they are almost impossible to wash. Mushrooms would cause fungal infection, going out in public would put her at extreme risk of catching a cold, not washing my hands when preparing a meal or before touching her could be adverse to her health and on and on it went until I, like Alice, found myself reeling backwards down the rabbit hole being hit by large objects as I fell.
Even without cancer we can feel limited, contained and compromised. We can feel that due to our environment or our circumstances that we have no choice but to conform. In conforming we will have money in the bank, food on the table, a roof over our head and all of that adds up to stability. We love stability, safety and security. We like to be in control.
I have been out of control for over a year now, I have felt swallowed up by life. I have seen the puff of chalk dust as I disappeared like Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, through the pavement. I have felt my horse gallop off the Merry-Go-Round to an adventure I did not arrange and every now and then, I found myself on my bed crying until I could not stop.
There’s a lie that I hear inside my head. It tells me we will never get to the end of this journey. It tells me I may never get back up. It tells me to accept the unbleached cardboard walls of my life but as I go about my day teaching the children, a dream is ignited in me.
As my children sit in a circle (which admittedly takes them a little too long to form), I place a cardboard box in the middle and I ask them what it is. They look at me as though I am mad and then one child pipes up the courage to say ‘It’s a box.’ ‘No,’ I respond It’s not a box!’ They sit and they stare at it. Is there something they are missing? Then I prompt them, ‘What could it be?’ Little lights turn on all around the circle and the hands go up.
‘Its a racing car.’
‘Then drive it,’ I say
‘It’s a rocket ship!’
‘Then fly to the moon.’
‘It’s a pirate ship!’
‘Then sail the mighty seas.’
‘It’s a stage.’
No wonder Jesus told us to come as a child.
In front of us he presents a myriad of possibilities but to us it looks like a common cardboard box. We could pack the box with an ordinary life. We could endeavour to fit in, follow instructions, show up, use punctuation, go to college, get good grades, endeavour to be good at sport, never challenge authority, avoid being talked about, be a good citizen and all these things are wonderful and admirable but when confronted with a life threatening illness none of these things matter anymore.
It’s probably safe to say I was the most talked about person in the haemotology ward for the 8 months we spent at RNSH before being transferred to St Vincents. Why? Because I was determined to fight for my child’s life.
I negotiated blood transfusions when there was no blood in the blood bank, appointments they said were not available, sedation for bone marrow biopsys, anti-nausea drugs when she was vomiting, a bed when only chairs were available. I bought gifts, I smiled, I went from nurse to nurse, at times I begged, other times I negotiated but I was fearless in my determination to get everything my daughter needed to minimize her pain. In the year that my daughter nearly died from Leukaemia I learned two important lessons. That problems are designed to be solved and that people are waiting to be lead.
I realized that Jesus is very real in times of crisis, that He is very present. He spent his time on earth training leaders because He knew when He left there would be problems to solve.
In John 21 we read the account of how Jesus prepared to reveal himself to the disciples after His death and resurrection. It says, ‘There they were together Simon Peter and Thomas, called the twin and Nathaneal from Cana of Galilee, also the sons of Zebedee and two others of His disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing! They said to him we are going with you! [I guess that makes him a leader]
So they went out and got into the boat and throughout that night they caught nothing. [There’s the problem].
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. [There’s His enabling power at work].
God has called us to live life without limits and no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in today, ‘He is able to do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we ask or think.’ With God on our sides anything can change. The impossible is possible.
So if there was no box, or the box could be anything, what would you do that you are not doing today?