My last child is a worrier. She worries that her classes won’t be far enough apart that she can get to them ten minutes early. She worries that her cats will forget her while she’s gone. She worries that we will miss a bus or a train when we travel and be trapped forever in a foreign city where no one speaks English and she will be sold into slavery.
She may have some grounds for that last one. Traveling with me has given some close calls on missing trains.
Four years ago, a doctor told her words that gave her new worries, ones no seventeen-year-old worrier should have. Worries about pain, and struggle, and death.
I went postal on the doctor.
I have inherited kidney disease. The only cure is a kidney transplant, which can take years and cause much illness and suffering because the waiting list for organs is so long. Many people die before they reach that magic match point. (Sign up to be a donor. Now.)
I watched my mother suffer and die from it. My daughter has watched me suffer and live through it. And on that day, a physician, who was supposed to only be dealing with her back pain and keeping her business our of anything else, informed my child without preamble that her MRI showed the tell-tale kidney cysts.
We knew this. My husband had seen them when he saw the MRI. We knew what it meant. We had decided to tell our daughter at the right time, not at a time when she was already stressed out on multiple levels by college applications, final exams, gymnastics pressures, and life. The doctor usurped that choice for our child. And yes, for the first time in my life, I let a person in a doctor’s office know exactly how I felt about that, at a volume people in the next building could have heard.
I am not a go ballistic person. But this was my kid. And someone had just told her she had a new worry for the rest of her life that she was not ready to hear. And she was crying. Mama bear is strong with this one. My eyes crossed and I yelled and I’m pretty sure sparks shot out or my nostrils. It was ugly.
But God made something beautiful out of the ugly.
Beth cried in the car. We talked. I knew exactly how it felt to get that diagnosis. By the grace of God He put words in my mouth that I did not know I possessed.
“Beth, you can use this either to get scared or to get brave. You can worry about it for twenty years or you can live like you’ve only got twenty years and you want them to count. You can be frightened and let that fear control you. Or you can choose to tell fear you have your huge mountain, you know it now, you have its name, and you will take courage to tackle anything else, because what more do you have to fear?
You can allow fear to be your master or you can look it in the eye and tell it you will crush it. You and Jesus. Jesus and you. You can make this choice, at seventeen. It can bless you, if you let it.”
My daughter is a brave soul.
I have watched her take those tentative steps. I have seen her make courageous decisions. I have known her heart and her fears as she steps out, and she has stepped. She has strode.
She has looked at experiences that frightened her, like spending a semester in a foreign country, or standing up for immigrants, or learning who she is and what she’s made of (the scariest journey of all), and she has asked the fateful questions.
Will I get this chance again? Will I regret not doing this? Will I let fear stand in my way? Will God get me through this and will He love me ferociously?
Oh yes. To that last one, oh yes.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
She persisted in taking something that could have swallowed her whole and allowing it to create power in her instead. She persisted in looking this horrible disease in the face and saying, “Not me. You don’t get to take me down. I will not live in worry about you.” She persisted in developing deep love for others who have far greater worries than she.
Sometimes, we are graced by God with the gift of children who make us want to stand in awe and clap. Loudly. Ferociously. This is a gift beyond expectation or belief. I have such a gift, in all three of our girls. But this one—this one persisted.
We have a generation of young women who need to see us persist. They are persisting themselves. They are amazing. And together, what fear can stand in our way?