Monday, May 4, 2009

How God Used the Flu for Good

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good... ~Romans 8:28a

By personality, James really, really, really likes to have his ducks in a row. Sometimes we think he's borderline OCPD. He has a "hard time" (gross understatement) if things are out of place, and he displays his struggle most prominently in the area of interpersonal relationships.

When he interacts with his peers, he must lead, and the other kids must do everything his way. If they don't, he won't play with them. Not because he's trying to control or bully or boss, but because mentally, he can't handle things not going the way he thinks they should. It stands his little hairs on end and sends him into a panic.

Additionally, he is constantly labeled by his teachers. They use words like rebellious, disruptive, selfish, perfectionist, driven, frustrated, angry, mean, uncaring, inflexible, stubborn, rigid. In fact, my realization that my husband and I are the only two adult humans in the world fully equipped to understand and work with James is one of the reasons I now homeschool.

One of the things Jeff and I focus on as we work with James is teaching him flexibility, especially as it relates to interpersonal relationships. We're showing him that people are more important than ducks set in perfect rows.

It's slow going. Mostly because for him, flexibility is not just choosing to treat others with love. It's also choosing to overcome and lay aside the fears that drive his life. Most grown-ups I know can't even do that.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, grace and love, gave James a precious gift that is stronger than his fears.

He gave him the gift of compassion.

For the most part, this gift is manifested by his overarching consideration for and fierce protection of the entire animal kingdom to the nth degree, a bent which has propelled his father and me to hide from him as long as possible the fact that organizations such as PETA exist because we don't fancy him becoming the president of any 501(c)(3) corporations before he reaches the age of 10.

But every once in a while, we get to see a glimpse of another, even more beautiful display of James's compassionate heart.

You see, today Jonathan has the flu. Not the swine flu, mind you. Just the regular flu. (Yes, I'm sure. His temperature barely cleared 100 degrees and ibuprofen brought it right back down to below normal.) Jeff and I are both under the weather as well. I informed James this morning, "You're the only person in this family who isn't sick today."

"Yes!" he shouted, punching both hands into the air in victory (in keeping with his personality, you see. Viruses are not part of his plan.)

I focused on nursing Jonathan, cleaning up puke, Germ-X-ing everyone repeatedly, taking Jon's temp again and again, crushing more ice chips since he couldn't keep water down, and waiting for his little tummy to accept a soda cracker so I could go ahead and try again to keep ibuprofen in him and get that fever down.

But I was not alone. James worked beside me the whole time. He fluffed blankets. He told jokes. He patted Jonathan's head. He waited anxiously to hear each temperature reading. He brought stuffed animals. He loaned Jon his special blankie while Jon's was in the washing machine becoming puke-free. He (apparently) got up with Jonathan during the night and helped him puke again (which we didn't even hear about until we got up this morning). He brought ice chips.

He stayed right by Jonathan's side whenever I had to leave the room. He paused whatever he was doing every time Jonathan raised his head off his pillow, asking if he needed anything. He didn't complain that we watched hours and hours of Noggin (which is beneath him). He wasn't bothered that his daily routine was totally and completely cast aside. He cared about nothing at all except helping his brother feel better.

And I thought, "Ah. There it is. The mighty man he will become someday. There's the strength of character that puts others first. There's the heart that emulates his daddy and his Abba Father."

God used Jonathan's flu to give me a crystal clear picture of James's greatest strength -- the strength gifted to him by God to balance his greatest weakness. My son will set aside all of his fears to help someone in need. And we are all in great need, are we not? What a powerful impact his overtly compassionate heart can have on a world in need.

Rachel Joy Scott said, "Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer."

What a joy it is to behold James expressing love in this form. Thank You, Abba, for showing me, through Jonathan's flu, James's greatest gift.