I have had a few experiences in my life that truly challenged me. For example, during my tenure as a first grade teacher, I had a little boy coming into my class who had an inoperable brain tumor. His name was Adam Gellenbeck.
I had to learn how to care for the PICC line he would likely have for his meds. I met with counselors from Children’s Hospital to learn what to expect over the next few months and how to approach the subject with Adam’s classmates. I had to deal with the very real possibility that during that school year, one of my students could die.
I sat with Adam’s family in their home a few weeks before school started. I made the decision that school was going to be Adam’s “normal” place. His “safe haven.”
I remember the spring day Adam stood bravely in front of our class and told us he was going to California and they were going to “do something” to his brain. “I might die,” he said. “If I die, I won’t come back, but if I don’t die, I’ll come back for my birthday party.”
Challenging for a teacher to hold composure during something like that. But I did. I prayed my way through that entire year. At the end of the school year, I unloaded Adam’s desk and packed up his things. Mostly school supplies well used by the six-year-old. A few scrunched up papers. A few drawings.
As I said, I’ve had a few experiences in my life that challenged me to my core. Watching Adam fly off to California was tough. Losing my precious husband, Tom was the hardest. It still brings me to my knees. Daily.
Mexico, Ministry, and the Mirror Moment
|Adam on Right|
Cool, huh? I thought so. I began the task of raising funds and planning for the trip.
Then the first roadblock to this “opportunity of a lifetime” popped up. The Team B leader for the trip had to resign. Without a leader, our team was offered two options: Go with Team A the week before or go with a different team from another church during our appointed week. I debated. Either week would work for me. Did it really matter? Both trips were in July.
The second roadblock came by way of a CDC notice to travelers. The Zika Virus. I would have to use insect repellent the entire time in Mexico and for six weeks after returning to the States. A list of possible repellents was listed…none of which I could use. I have asthma and certain chemicals trigger my attacks. I could find an alternative for me to use to avoid mosquitos but I would be housed with a dozen other women using a variety of repellents. That mix was potentially lethal to someone with my pulmonary history.
Yet I struggled. Should I stay home or should I go? I talked with family and friends. No one thought I should take the risk. After all, I would not only risk my life but could create some real problems for the team. That should have mattered but it didn’t.
I struggled. I really wanted to go.
Finally, as a last resort, (Yes, I said a last resort) I prayed. Oh how I hate to admit that.
I decided to not go on the trip. I felt cheated. Why? Because my heart wasn’t right. The cool story of meeting up with my former student had become more important to me than serving the orphans in Mexico.
In fiction writing it’s what we call the Mirror Moment. It is when your main character takes a deep look—comes face to face with the real person inside. It can get ugly.
I’m humbled. I’m broken. I’m saddened that I could take the incredible opportunity to serve others and make it more about me than about them. Or Him.
God Can See Around the Corners
But there is more. My mother says, “God can see around the corners.” It’s true. As it turns out, God didn’t intend for me to go to Mexico anyway. He used my persistence in the matter to help me recognize my own weakness. My own frailty. My own sin.
No, He never intended for me to go to Mexico this year. A couple of months after I made the decision to set the trip aside, I learned that my three-year-old granddaughter, Rebekah, had to have surgery. Her left kidney is not fully developed. The right one has issues. The doctor said it was imperative to go in and reconstruct a valve in her bladder to improve kidney function. The initial surgery date was set for July 7th. On July 5th it was rescheduled to July 14th. Are you following me? I wouldn’t have been home.
|My sweet granddaughter.|
God sees around the corners. He knows me and what is best for me. I am ashamed of what I did in regard to the mission trip. I know God has forgiven me. Perhaps I’ll have the chance to go to Mexico again. Perhaps not. What I do know is this: We must indeed make the most of every opportunity…but for the right reasons.
Where is your heart? What mirror moment have you experienced lately?