To love, to listen, to walk through this life together – three Ultimate Marriage Vows I hadn’t had the time to read about until this morning. And again, I find myself smiling in my soul because I knew that I wasn’t intended to read them until just today. I needed a couple of days to process what’s been going on. I haven’t processed it all that well.
Here’s the story – After a lifetime of digestive issues, our near-teen Simon, finally got a diagnosis on Friday. His specialist (not our first) has been determined to give us something more than the obvious to work with. She had made it her goal to look past the easy path of treating symptoms to really uncover the root cause of his condition. She is an answer to many, many prayers! It seems crazy to me that all these years later, all the physical discomfort, the emotional stress, the strain, the financial burden, the tears and the worry, that it’s so simple. Simon can’t digest lactose. His body simply does not have the enzymes to break down and digest milk and dairy. Unless you’ve dealt with an undiagnosed issue over the long-term, you can’t imagine how many other issues we have and are now dealing with that have been caused by not having this simple information.
So, as we journey down the path to recovery, Simon has quite a few medications to take, we all have old habits to change and new habits to make, and we’ll have a whole new diet to understand and accept. We can’t do things the way we’ve done them. I have to cut out processed foods and adapt foods heavy in dairy. I have to be intentional about adding whole grains and fiber to his diet, our whole family’s diet. In general, we have to make diet a priority and laziness isn’t an option for me as the meal planner and cook, if we want him to feel better…and we desperately do.
At first, I was nothing but thrilled to have an answer. I’m all about the action. I have a challenge, and I accept it. Change the way the family eats. Sure, I can do that for the health of my child. The whole family is on board, maybe a bit reluctantly, to make this our new normal. We’re a team. We can do this!
It was only in the days to follow that the reality of that challenge has had time to sink in. This is a big undertaking. Eliminate processed foods as best we can. That’s great. We’ll be healthier for it. Except that there’s a HUGE learning curve here. I am learning to not only read, but to understand labels and terms and processes. The food industry that I’ve trusted to tell me what’s whole and healthy is actually pretty much a scam of a system. They have their bottom line at heart, not my family’s health. They will add chemicals and fillers whenever possible to squeak by with a “healthy” label, by stretching the definition of health as far as possible. It’s disheartening for a truster like me.
My first post-diagnosis trip to the grocery had me overwhelmed and nearly in tears last night. It wasn’t that the studying, the meal planning, the buying and preparing is so hard, it’s just different. A lot different. The hardest part is that I’ve realized how casually I’ve treated my family’s health. I bought what they wanted – what tasted good, looked good and what was easy to fit into our schedule. Sure, I gave a nod to health. We don’t deep fry or eat trans-fats. We eat reduced sugar cereals with supposed “whole” grains. I baked to avoid preservatives. What I didn’t know is that I was really only scratching the surface.
I’ve never been one who is prone to a guilt-fest. I can usually mourn my mistakes, chalk them up to experience and move on. What I didn’t know isn’t my fault, right? I worked with what I knew. Except this time, it’s been a hard pill to swallow. I fed my child a steady diet of foods that actually caused him harm. I did this his whole entire nearly-thirteen years. All those times I watched him suffer. All those tears we all cried. All those prayers we all prayed. The cause was what I fed him.
Believe me, I’ve heard enough people offer reassuring words. I know that I didn’t harm him intentionally. I know that there’s no way I could have known without being told by a doctor. I know that we’ve spent years of trial and error with the doctors working on this. It’s just hard to get over. It’s hard to know that my intentions to help him grow and be healthy ended up in a giant fail.
Now, getting back to the marriage vow part of this…
Simon’s health and diagnosis and new diet, etc. is all a part of the journey that our marriage is walking. Matt and I haven’t always done an awesome job of dealing with the emotions and the stress of the unlovely side of this kind of health issue. It’s stressful to know something is wrong with your child and you can’t find a way to fix it. There are ups and downs of try this, fail, try this, fail cycle. It’s exhausting to care for a child who is putting up privacy barriers as he gets older and we’re still asking him private questions about his body. We’ve turned on each other. While caring and cleaning, we’ve lashed out with frustration.
I can totally see how illnesses can tear apart a marriage. But God is bigger than digestive issues. He’s bigger than the emotional baggage we parents carry. He’s bigger than the financial complications that develop while seeking answers.
And because God is bigger than anything we face, because He is the God of Angel Armies*, today I vow to include my husband while walking this road. I vow to remember that he is my partner and that we carry this together. I vow to share my emotions without unloading frustration on him. I vow that our vows of “in sickness and in health” can unite us when the sickness is our child’s. I vow to love my husband and prefer him to all others. I vow to listen to him and to allow him the ministry of listening to me, praying with me and leading me. I vow to stop running in circles, carrying guilt and feeling inferior as a mother and to allow God to bless this journey and His divine plan for all five of us is in this.
*p.s. I HIGHLY recommend giving that Chris Tomlin song a listen. This song has been playing everywhere I turn since I heard it on the day Simon had his scope with his new doctor. Dealing with all of his medical stuff feels overwhelming, but as soon as that wave comes, this song finds its way to my heart. I obviously need it. Maybe it will minister to your heart today, too.