As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ugly Love

We're finally on the mend from a stomach bug that took over a week to go through our house.  I called it "The Noah's Ark" bug, because it took us out two-by-two.  I know that stomach flus may not be everyone's idea of a great post (get over it already, I hear people telling me!) but when you have kids it can be quite harrowing.  Just ask Simcha Fisher, who says in one of my favorite posts:

When it's 3:30 a.m. and you just barely finally gratefully put the world's teethingest baby down to sleep, and just at that very split second, the three-year-old comes barreling down the stairs howling like an overheated locomotive, you know what word comes to mind, right, parents? That word of terror, the one that signifies untold suffering and the hidden anguish that is the fate of all guardians of little ones: "Vomit." 
She gets it :)

Seriously though, being sick is agonizing on all levels for parents.  First there's the fact of seeing your littles down and out that is unnerving.  Seeing precocious, micheivous one- and three-year-olds knocked completely off their feet, lethargic and sleeping for two days pretty well non-stop is worrisome.  You forget what a blessing all the noise and chaos of daily life can be until you're living in the alternative.  And then, of course, there are the more selfish gripes about caring for sick little ones. The laundry. The moodiness.  Being puked or pooped on several times over.  Cancelling appointments, clearing schedules, and apologizing to anyone you may have come in contact with over the course of your illness.  It's hard!

And yet there is tremendous grace in all of it, and in fact, I believe, a window into what perfect love really looks like. We think of love as joyful, pretty and sweet, and it can be those things. But it's also difficult, exhausting, demanding and thankless.  It is right in the heart of every close human relationship we have, and I believe something that is most profoundly experienced in the care of an ill loved one.

I can remember when my first son was hit with a stomach bug for the very first time. He was my only child at the time, 18-months-old, and I was a working Mom.  It hit just as dear Simcha describes, with a howl in the night and a discovery of vomit-covered bedding.  Seeing littlest ones sick is quite jarring, because they don't have the same control of their systems as an older child does.  Where an older child would fight against the urge to throw up until they really had to, little kids vomit any old time they get the urge.  I remember going through this for the first time with my little one and just being beside myself with worry.  Is this normal?  Will he ever be able to keep anything down?  He seemed to bring up everything he ingested for two whole days, and I called my faithful first-opinion pediatrician (my mother's boss) to find out just how long it's reasonable to expect a child to be throwing up without being concerned (his answer, as long as they're eating, drinking, and not lethargic - they're fine).

And as it turned out, he was fine.  I remember being back to work a few days later, and talking with a coworker about he strange sense of satisfaction that comes with tending to a sick child.  Of course I hated to see my boy sick, but I felt that by going through that with him, we were bonded in a way that was unlike anything we'd ever experienced before.  Ten years (and five more children) later, I still feel the same.  I spent two whole days just sitting in a chair with my baby, who unlike her older brothers and sister (who really do better on their own when they're sick) only wanted me.  I could tell when she was about to throw up because she would hug me.  She needed me so desperately in those days, and it was so hard to see her so ill. But at the same time, I was struck with what a privelege it was for me to be here, with her.  I thought, this is what love really looks like.  Not the gushy, mushy hearts and doe-eyes we think that it is.  It's these moments, down in the trenches, where we love without expecting anything in return.  We do everything for the complete benefit of the one we love, and we don't think twice.  It's ugly, and yet, beautiful.

I think the Passion is very much the same.  Here in the midst of Holy Week we are reminded that love is painful, love is mocking, love is suffering and death.  The cross isn't pretty, and yet it is the greatest act of love we will ever see.  When we journey with Christ into the depth of His suffering, we are wounded, we are purged, we are torn and broken - and we see a love that is much more true than anything we have ever known.  Christianity is fulfilled the Passion, in the same way that parenthood is fulfilled in the illness of child.  We are drawn out of ourselves and into the world of suffering of our beloved - we take their suffering upon ourselves as much as we can, and in so doing, are bonded more deeply than ever before.

This Holy Week, may each one of us not be afraid to journey to the depths of love with our Lord.  May we meet Him, comfort Him, and give without counting the cost.


  1. Thank you, Natasha, this is lovely.

  2. I'm discovering everyday that marriage is like this as well. It isn't always the ooey gooey stuff (though that stuff is nice) but it's love when things get really messy and when life really doesn't go your way that really makes you realize what a marriage is all about.