The stiff sheets crinkled under us as the sterile smells of the hospital room filled our noses. My 5-year-old son, Cooper, was three years into his battle with cancer. All the IV medication he received had come through an implanted IV device called a port, and today that device wasn’t working.
We’d been in the ER for five hours already, trying everything to coax it back into action, but nothing was working. Moments before, the nurse had pushed our last chance — the medical equivalent of drain cleaner — into the tubing. Now we were in a holding pattern, waiting the necessary two hours to see if it would do the job, praying that it would.
We only needed the port for two more cancer treatments — TWO!
How could it give out on us now when we were so close?
Cooper and his 8-year-old brother, Anthony, sat on the bed zoning out to their ipad. My husband was beside me reading the news on his phone, and I had a book laying open in my lap.
With resolve, I snapped the book shut and said, “Okay people, let’s pray.”
Hearing the determined tone of my voice, they didn’t bother to argue as they each set down their devices and gathered on the hospital bed bowing their heads.
Starting with Cooper, the youngest, we went around one by one sending up our pleas that the port would work.
The boys prayers were simple and pure. Justin’s was to the point, and mine more detailed but all laced with frustration. We’d given our entire day to getting this port to work, and this medicine was our last ditch effort. If it didn’t work, nothing would. The port would be dead two treatments before the end.
As we mumbled “amen,” we all went back to our distractions. In another situation you would call them entertainment, but here in the ER with these hard chairs beneath us and worry floating in the air, they were distractions.
Eventually our nurse walked in with the necessary supplies in her hand. It was the moment of truth. I imagined the blood returning as she pulled back on the syringe. I reminded myself of all the medical steps we had taken and how much we had prayed.
God’s eye was on this. If it didn’t work, then surely that was His Will. Could I figure out a way to respect that?
Again and again she pulled back on the syringe, but still nothing. Cooper kept watching his ipad with no clue what was happening – what this would mean for him. Extra surgery. Extra pokes and hurts for my little boy who had already braved so much.
My heart sank.
The doctor came in to tell us we’d need to wait two days to find out what was next. It would be up to Cooper’s oncologist. Once again our schedule, our future, and our child’s health were all in someone else’s hands. We had no control.
But God did. Didn’t he?
My husband and I rode the two hours home mostly in silence. We were too sad, frustrated, and exhausted to talk. No other subject seemed to hold importance, and we were sick of talking about the one subject we couldn’t stop thinking about. What’s next?
Fields raced by out my window. In a few months they’d be lush and green, but right now they were bare.
I thought about the story I told in my book Forty Days of God healing Cooper. And I wondered how other moms felt when they read it. Other moms who’d pleaded just as hard for the healing — for the life — of their child. Other moms who’d been told no. Whose arms were empty.
And I felt the sting of God’s “no” as my heart ached for them.
It’s hard to take.
It’s hard to align our will to His — to keep bravely proclaiming that God works for the good of those who love Him — when sometimes it just plain doesn’t feel like it.
Finally we made it home. It was late. Time to put the boys to bed. As I tucked in my oldest son, he said, “Mom, can I talk to you about something?”
I was exhausted, but this is how he starts his important conversations with me, so I smiled and said, “Sure.”
“Well when you guys always boss me around and tell me ‘do this, do that’ it feels like you don’t’ really care about me.”
He went on explaining in detail how he was feeling and giving examples. Then he paused. It was my turn to talk, and he was waiting for some words of wisdom or at least an explanation.
With a deep sigh I said, “Well, honey, it’d be a lot easier to always let you do what you wanted — to always say yes. But we love you too much to do that. We want you to be the best you can and live a good, happy life. So we have to tell you no sometimes.”
As I walked down the steps a few moments later, it struck me that I was feeling exactly the same way my son was. It honestly felt like my Heavenly Father didn’t really care about me or love me. He’d told me no when He could have easily said yes. What kind of a loving Father does that?
But from a parent’s perspective, I was reminded that a loving parent does say no sometimes.
Maybe that was the answer — the logic behind why a loving God sometimes says no.