In my current period of life, more than ever before, I am walking through life wondering what God is trying to tell or teach me. This past week was a particularly unexpected and painful experience. Instead of starting the next stage of my ordination exploration I was watching my son struggle for breath in my local hospital.
I was in the midst of a week as a single parent, with my wife away on work duty. It was also the week the DDO and I were going to finally meet, at least that was what we both thought.
Instead though, it was a week where God was to teach me something unexpected. He chose this week to teach me just what a family is.
I take great pride from being in a position where I can be left alone with my children and cope. To not be willing to change nappies, cook or use a washing machine for example means missing out on enormous blessings. That my children love to spend time with me is a tremendous blessing, and one that gives me a glimpse on our relationship with our father God.
As many know, the job of being a parent is a big one. When you don’t have anyone to share that load with anyone it can be seriously heavy going. It is perhaps not surprising that my respect for single parents grew enormously this week.
In my mind I had a week’s worth of evenings to throw myself into studying, contemplating and praying through a whole host of issues ahead of my meeting with the DDO. How naive I was! I quickly discovered that the chances of that happening was going to be slim. There was just so much to do: meals to cook, clothes to wash, activities to organise, a house to tidy. The ‘to-do list’ felt endless. After all that had to be done was done there was very little time to relax or explore ordination!
On the eve of my wife’s return, and my planned meeting with the DDO, I got the time I felt I needed but not in the way I wanted. My son suffered a severe asthma attack and had to be rushed to hospital.
As I watched his chest contort each time he tried to take a breath I cried out to God in prayer for my son. I felt helpless. My wife, stuck in a conference room in another country, was powerless to help. It was tough for her, even though she had confidence in me as a father.
Another father brought his son into the previously empty room. Slowly as the day drew on the room filled with more children. More families, each different from the last, each with a different story and each with a different level of support.
The day I had started as a family of 3 grew to include my mother. She jumped in and became my support network. The relationship that we have all invested in meant that my daughter felt safe, secure and loved even though she was suddenly away from not only both of her parents but from her brother whom she adores.
Had I not had someone for my daughter to be with my day would have been even more challenging. It was the first of a number of glimpses into what God was trying to tell me: the importance of family, and just what family is.
I discovered that there were a number of children from our church there, including a young lad I have known for over a decade. We began to share our stories, to offer each other support. Members of my church visiting the others came and prayed for my son. My prayer triplet got involved. The staff team at church prayed for my son too. My support network, my family, was now including my church family.
I turned to Facebook to tell people what was happening and to ask them to pay too. As my phone vibrated with each incoming message of support my family became ever bigger. My family had now grown to include people across the country.
As I sat in the darkness of the ward watching my son sleep despite it all, I had the time I had been wanting to be able to stop, think, read, and pray.
The night did not bring silence in which to try and prepare for the next day’s meeting with the DDO though. Instead my world became a myriad of sounds: alarms, beeps, cries of pain, words of support, my son’s breathing.
It was hard to think beyond the situation my son found himself in, indeed that each of the children on the ward found themselves in. I cried out in prayer and I sought even more people to pray with me. I turned to Twitter. My family grew to include people across the world.
Families go beyond blood, buildings and borders. God’s family goes even further. God extends our family out of this world and into the heavenly realm.
I was being taught though that in God’s eyes there are no single parents. When you believe, when you are part of His family, the number of people who are can share the burden are too numerous to be counted. When you are with God you are never alone.
The skill and care of the doctors and nurses, coupled with the prayers of my global and heavenly family, helped my son to regain his health as the night progressed. He woke in the morning and asked with eager anticipation if he could go to our church’s holiday club. My son was back!
I quickly, and sadly, thought that just as my son might get to his holiday club I might get to my meeting with the DDO. I sent a confusing series of emails trying to keep the meeting alive but it was not to be.
God kindly but sternly told me to get my priorities right. It was tough to hear but of course He was right. I gave up on trying to make the meeting.
As I left my son at the holiday club the adrenaline I had survived on for 36 hours began to disappear. Drained of energy, the emotions of the day and the loss of the meeting hit me. I was exhausted. I felt low.
My low was thankfully brief. My daughter’s smile when she saw me lit up my heart. My son emerged from holiday club elated. We drove to the airport and held up our “Welcome home Mummy” poster. Our family was back together. Now though I knew it was not a family of 4, it was a family beyond calculation.
Lesson learnt, God put the meeting with the DDO back on the calendar. I wasn’t going to have to wait long, not even a whole week.
I am starting a new relationship with the DDO, the beginnings of which have been built out of life’s raw power. Of course I realise that she is already part of my family, as are you.
Families are something to cherish and to invest in, please don’t lose sight of that. Get your priorities right. Do all that you can to rebuild broken relationships, to honour your mother and father, to love your brother and sister whether they are your blood family or your family born out of Christ. Do what you can and that’s all you can do.
Can I ask one thing though? If I miss your birthday, if I fail to send you a Christmas card, please forgive me. I am only human after all!