The time had come for me to deliver my child and a caesarean section was planned, based on my previous history. An epidural was started, as is routine, and all was well. Many women having an uncomplicated vaginal delivery also have epidurals to control the pain, but when a C-section is planned, the anesthesiologist basically cranks it up to the point that there is total numbness from that point down. This allows the mother to be fully conscious and alert during delivery and to feel no pain. Unfortunately, on this occasion the numbness traveled up as well as down, giving me the sensation that I was smothering, feeling like I had to make myself breathe. Although I was actually fine, it was a terrifying experience.
My husband sat near my head, offering words of comfort and support. I couldn’t listen to him; I was focussed on taking my next breath. In fact, I felt desperate, even a little angry that he was distracting me from just trying to survive. Thankfully, when all was said and done, baby and I were fine; there was never any actual danger, just a horrible sensation because of the anesthetic. In hindsight, I should have listened to him and allowed him to calm me, but I just couldn’t.
There are times in our lives when we are overwhelmed by something – truly overwhelmed and in a kind of panic. We are like a person drowning who claws at those who come to help, pulling them down. Our loved ones try to help, perhaps, but we can’t allow them to come close. We try to pray, but even turning to God acknowledges just how terrible our situation is, and we can’t cope with the enormity of it all. We are just trying to breathe. One breath at a time. And that is a lot and it is exhausting.
God has placed us in community – family, friends, parish – for a reason. The failings of some are the opportunities of grace for others. Where people or circumstances may have let us down, even crushed us, others will step in to bring healing and support. It takes a lot to trust for that to happen. It takes humility to admit that we are in a bad way and that we need help. We should allow others the opportunity to live their mission to serve and not imagine that we are better off alone. That is not God’s way.
My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?
During these times of crisis, it is hard to pray. Sometimes the crosses we are asked to carry are far greater than we imagined. Mostly, they are different than whatever we might have anticipated. Maybe we are angry. Maybe we are afraid. Maybe we are grieving. We beg God for relief, but we are afraid to even articulate our prayers.
There’s an old joke about a fellow who gets caught in a flood. As the waters rise, he prays for God to save him. Someone comes along in a rowboat, but the man waits for God to save him. The waters rise, and the man is on the second floor. Someone comes along in a motorboat, but again, he waits for God. Then the waters rise further and the man is on the roof. A helicopter drops him a rope, but he is still praying for God to save him. Eventually he is swept away and finds himself before God. Where were you? He asks.
There are times when we should humbly allow others to care for us, when going it alone is too much to bear. It may be God’s desire to break us, to remind us that we are not at the controls of our lives, to push us to wholeheartedly depend upon Him. Through the people He places in our lives, He brings us His grace and mercy.