Monthly Archives: February 2006

Tell Me You’ve Done This Before

I don’t do well with the unknown. I don’t trust unfamiliar situations to turn out well. That’s not to say that I won’t tolerate new experiences like some people won’t try kayaking or sushi. There’s nothing unknown about sushi: millions of people have eaten it and enjoyed it. Just becauase I haven’t tried it doesn’t mean that it’s unknown.

An unknown situation is something like a late-night stomach ache. Not a minor, “I’m so full after eating that second brownie” stomach ache, but a queasy, nausea-inducing stomach ache. It could be caused by many different things, and who knows how to evaluate the real cause when the whole of your mind is distracted by the terrible urge to puke?

I had such a stomach ache on Saturday night. I woke up around midnight with a queasy pain in my abdomen. It got so bad that I eventually got out of bed in order to “be ready,” whatever that might mean. I felt that way for so long that I eventually had to sit back down again, exhausted from being ready.

Now, here’s where unknown comes in. Was this a stomach flu? Was it food poisoning? Was it an ulcer? A tumor? A burrowing intestinal worm swallowed while eating sushi? I’ve had stomach aches before, so this wasn’t a new experience. But I didn’t know why I had one now, so it was unknown. Something new can be analyzed for what it is, something unknown is frightening because of all the scary, unthinkable things it might be.

I think I’ve said before that I don’t do well with the unknown.

I spent hours that night sitting in the living room, hurting, queasing, fearing scary possibilities, and praying to God to help me stay calm and to please let this pain in my abdomen be something that would pass quickly, like a virus. And the pain had ceased by the morning. Nothing more to worry about.

Two days later my four-year-old woke up complaining of a stomach ache. Her tummy hurt, and she wanted daddy to hold her until it felt better. She spent the morning sitting on my lap, complaining of a sore stomach, and puking into a bucket. This was all fairly new to her: she’s not used to throwing up. She’d look at me just before each retch as if to ask, “What’s happening?” Then I’d lean close to her ear during and tell her, “It’s okay, this is what our bodies do when we’re sick. It doesn’t feel very good but it’s normal, and you’re doing a great job getting through it even though you don’t like it much.”

I was coaching her. I was telling her that she was not in uncharted territory so she didn’t have to be scared. She could have confidence in me, if not in herself. I’d been where she was now and, while it might be new to her, it’s not unknown.

And that’s when I realized what my prayers were about when I had been afraid. Not about miraculous healing, but about assurance. I was looking for someone more experienced to say, “It’s okay, I know exactly what’s happening. You keep doing what you’re doing and everything will be fine, even if you don’t like it in the meantime.” Something like that is found in Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.