Certain signs can’t be trusted. Like signs that say, “Construction ahead.” After sitting in a sixty-minute backup, we finally arrive at the construction site.
No workers? Really?!!!!
No wonder we’re tempted to ignore the warning signs along the highway.
My husband and I recently traveled over 400 miles to visit our son and his family. Along the way, we actually saw numerous work crews repairing sections of the turnpike. We realized the sign “Construction vehicle—keep alert for sudden stops and turns” had accurately predicted that traffic would be halted.
“Keep alert for sudden stops and turns” got me thinking. Would a warning sign have helped prepare me for my son’s mental illness (MI)? What would I have done if a sign warned, “Suffering and sorrow ahead”? Probably nothing. I was powerless to shield Chris from the wretched illness.
Some dangers can be avoided. Like fallout from a bomb explosion. When I was growing up, my parents built a bomb shelter in our yard. (You read that right…a bomb shelter! Not a built in pool, but a bomb shelter.) We were prepared for any incoming bombs.
Sadly, there are no MI shelters. We can’t run for cover to escape the onslaught of our child’s MI.
Yet, that sign “Keep alert for sudden stops and turns” holds wise advice. Periods of manageable symptoms can be suddenly interrupted. Without warning, new burdens blindside us. A familiar trial torments our child. Fragile emotions re-emerge. Routine details of life come to a screeching halt.
Keep alert for sudden stops and turns. What does that mean? Should I remain in a vigilant state? Would that be good or even helpful? Could I possibly prepare for the unexpected?
Preparing for any trial:
My mother couldn’t prepare for my father’s impending death. Back in 1992, my dad fought lung cancer. Doctors performed surgery and treated him with chemotherapy and radiation. It became evident after two years that nothing would cure him. As his end drew near, my mother asked me, “Is this really happening?”
Clearly, there were warning signs that my father might lose his battle. Yet, nothing had prepared my mom’s heart for her loss.
Can anything prepare our heart for the struggles and losses our children will face?
When our son, Chris had his first break from reality, I had to be on alert—literally. One minute he’d be explosive and pound walls. The next, he’d be curled up in a ball, weeping. I learned to expect anything. Like what he did after we arrived home from the store one day. I parked the car and Chris took off running. Prompting me to drive around the neighborhood looking for him. Only to return home to hear a phone message from a neighbor saying Chris had gone to their house.
Being alert meant staying half-awake most nights. Chris’ psychosis prevented him from sleeping soundly. He’d pace the floor, while rambling on about things that made no sense. Mumbling bazaar comments. I’d strain my ears to hear sounds that might let me know of any danger.
Nowadays, Chris is doing fairly well. But those words on the sign still echo in my mind:
Keep alert for sudden stops and turns.
Does the Bible help us know how to keep alert – to prepare for the unexpected?
Peter instructs us to, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does” [1 Peter 5:8-11 (MSG)].
Thanks, Peter, for those reminders. We’re not alone; others are experiencing hard times like these. Suffering won’t last forever. We need to keep the faith.
How do we “keep our guard up”? By praying unceasingly and specifically for our child and our family. And by staying in His Word.
Seatbelts protect us from injury in cars. God’s belt of Truth helps us stand firm in our faith.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:13-14a).
Reality and truth:
Some of our children cling to a thread of reality in their minds. Often even we struggle with the reality of our lives. Life tends to seem surreal.
Some truths can be shattered. I used to believe that my husband and I could teach our kids how to handle stress. But, then came along MI. My fragile truth collapsed. I used to think that I could protect my children. But, then MI struck. My truth of motherly protection evaporated.
Happily, I find unshakable Truths in the Bible. That’s something to hang onto. I can depend on His promises. God’s character is never-changing. So, I rely on God’s belt of truth. So can you. Buckle up! (one size fits all!)