The last two months have been a roller coaster ride with Nathanael. By mid-December his behavior was so defiant that I contacted his doctors to see if could possibly be linked to his kidney disease or meds. To my complete shock, both is doctors recommended that we cut Nate’s prednisone dose in half! We agreed to move forward with this plan, knowing that this would be a one of the biggest tests of our faith up to this point.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, here’s the short story…Nate has a type of kidney disease in which his kidney cells are slowly hardening and losing their ability to filter appropriately. We have been able to stabilize his kidney function using a combination of steroids and a mild chemo-therapy drug that he takes every 12 hours. it took nearly 8 months to get his meds and doses adjusted to the point that is kidney function was stable and regulated. Those 8 months were some of the worst of my life, cycling him through extremely high doses of steroids trying to jump start his kidneys into filtering as they should. Nate had to have his blood taken each week to make sure his white blood cell count did not dip too low. On top of it all, the side effects of the steroids were so terrible that dealing with Nate on a daily basis was heart-breaking and exhausting – insomnia, mood swings, tantrums, anger, unreasonableness – all from a 3-year old!
To finally come to a place of having Nate on a low dose of steroids every other day was a miracle, and the thought of beginning to adjust his meds and possibly triggering a relapse seemed a weight too heavy to bear. Though I certainly realized that lowering Nate’s steroid dose would ultimately be a great thing, taking the steps to wean his dose and trusting that his kidney function would remain normal really was putting the rubber to the road. Nate had been stable for 30 months! At nearly six years old, I knew it was time to test the waters, but I was gripped with fear and anxiety just thinking about it.
For the first week of his new half-dose regime, I was a mess. I felt like going to bed and asking someone to wake me up in a month. The weight of it all was unbearable. I didn’t laugh or smile for days. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Anxiety, fear, restlessness, uncertainty…all of the feelings that were so familiar to me in the early days of Nate’s diagnosis and treatment came flooding back. I could hardly wash the dishes without being overcome with emotion. Laughter, joy, and optimism ceased as I braced myself for the big blow that was sure to come.
It was during this time that I realized the deceitfulness of my own heart. The prophet Jeremiah warns, “ The heart is deceitful above all things…Why can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). During these days in the “waiting room,” the time when we are waiting to see if Nate’s kidneys will be able to function with less medicine, I found myself praying things like, “Oh, Father, if Nate’s kidneys would be stable, then I would rest easy” or “If I just knew that Nate’s body was going to be able to deal with this, I would have so much more joy.” I must have prayed a thousand prayers like that – begging God to heal Nate’s kidneys, and then promising Him that I would be a much more thankful, joy-filled person in return.
What happened? Well…nothing. Almost nothing, that is. With the exception of one day when Nate’s urine spiked a very high level of protein (the first sign of relapse), his kidney function remained normal. A week passed, then two. Now two months into taking only half the amount of medicine that he was used to, his body seems to have adjusted appropriately. Nate has responded so well, in fact, that his doctors are encouraging us to wean his meds even further in the coming months.
What happened to me? I repented. Watching Nate’s kidney function remain stable day after day did initially bring relief and thanks and joy. As the days turned into weeks, however, my joy began to wane as other issues cropped up in my heart and mind. Behavior issues, home school issues, money issues, computer issues, relationship issues…the list goes on and on of the things that occupy my brain and energy. Jesus rightly warns his children not to worry about what is to come – “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NASB).The application point is a no brainer – I don’t need to use my time and energy worrying about what is to come because what I have in front of me today is plenty. More than this, God gives us grace in proportion to today’s needs. Like manna, it will be enough for today.
Besides the Matthew 6 application – a valuable and useful lesson for me to be reminded of – Father was showing me something more. My heart is an idol-making factory. It takes careful and constant examination to make sure that idols do not crop up and begin to rule. The ongoing, moment-by-moment keeping of my heart requires diligence and intentionality. Like a legion of soldiers who put down their weapons following a victory and are then caught off-guard when the battle is not really over, so was I. I was blindsided by my own idolatry. Focusing intently on Nate and his current medical issues, I was slow to notice that while Nate was doing well, I was still struggling to be joyful and content. God had answered my prayers to keep Nate stable and healthy, and yet I had failed to notice all the other worries that had moved into the place of my initial concern. In my defense, I truly believed that if God would just ease the burden of Nate’s illness, then I would be happy and content. This just goes to show how deceptive our hearts really are!
In the weeks since my diagnosis, I have been intentional in my time with the Lord each morning to closely examine my heart. Is there anything ruling other than Christ? Is there a seed of a thought that is beginning to take root? Is any matter threatening to take the place that only Christ is meant to be in? Am I falsely believing that something else will satisfy other than Him? Weeding out these seedlings is not easy, nor is it fast. Only in the light of His Word am I able to see clearly how my mind and heart have gone awry. I am thankful for His presence and His promises that He will not cease to complete the good work he has begun in me.