My sermon on Sunday was inspired by Psalm 23. It's nothing profound. You won't find any hidden truths revealed. Just a reiteration of promises that are often taken for granted.
There was a time in my early adulthood that upon seeing a family with a special needs child I would look upon them sympathetically and say something like, "That mom and dad must be special people to be able to handle that child's needs." And in realizing my own selfishness and weaknesses I would continue on with my wanderings with this confession, "I'm pretty sure I'm not cut out for that kind of parenting. I could not be that kind of dad." And in keeping a fairly safe distance from the family so as not to get any of their good parenting stuff smeared on me for fear that I might somehow then be obliged to parent a child like theirs, I would utter some kind of blessing, "God bless them"...at a safe distance, of course.
I've learned a lot over the last year and a half. It's been confirmed that I am, in fact, extremely selfish and that I do have many weaknesses that daily thwart my attempt at parenting Sophia and especially, Ira.
And because of these weaknesses and because of this selfishness, I constantly feel overwhelmed. I stay in a state of stress these days.
It was a rare night on Thursday. Both kids were asleep. Ira's 8 PM meds were given. There was more work to be done: water to be boiled, syringes to be washed, countertops to be wiped down with disinfectant spray but Laura and I found ourselves wiped out on our bed. As we lay there waiting for the next burst of energy or waiting for our 11 PM nurse to come -- whichever came first -- we just stared at the ceiling. We didn't have the energy to talk but finally Laura mustered just enough to ask the following: Do you ever feel like the weight of all this is too much? that it's caving in around you? that it's going to swallow you whole? I shook my head yes
and we continued staring at the ceiling.
I want so badly for this not to be the case. I want so badly to be free of stress. I don't want to be overwhelmed. We are in a season of Easter, for God's sake. Jesus lives. Ira is at home. Sophia, in spite of acting out a little, is doing pretty good considering the circumstances. Our moms have been incredible and generous with their time. We've been given much. I want to be a parent who blogs about the joy of having a special needs child. I want to be like the mom who I met in the PICU right before we left who said about her 12 year old daughter who's been disabled her entire life and in and out of ICUs her entire life, "She's the best thing to ever happen to our family."
On my good days, when I'm able to look outside myself and take a closer look at what's going on in the world, when I'm able to listen to what's happening in this nation, when I'm able to focus in on the issues of this city, when I'm able to concentrate on this church family, I realize that you too are feeling overwhelmed; that you too are feeling stressed. Not all of you. Some of you are a in a good place right now but as I'm coming to know you all better, I'm realizing that you too are feeling the weight of the world crashing down on you and that you too feel that it's unbearable and that you too feel like it will swallow you whole.
Today's lectionary text, Psalm 23, came at the right time for me this week. I come to church to hear texts like Psalm 23. I come to church to be reminded of the promise that God is my shepherd and that he gives me everything I need. I come to church to hear that he will lead me beside still waters and that he will restore my soul. I come to church to hear that dark valleys are indeed a part of the journey but that we can rest assured with the truth that we are not alone, that He is with us. I come to church to hear that I will be comforted in this dark valley. I come to church to hear that goodness and mercy is on its way and that some day I will dwell in God's house forevermore.
Let's read Psalm 23 again, together and let's read it like it's true for it is, church. It is true.