Tag Archive: fear


Will You Forgive Me, Please?

I’m going to tell you a story. This story involves one of my sisters, but it’s not about her. It’s really about me. Because I’m the one telling it, and she’s not here to share her side of the story (which undoubtedly differs from mine), please remember that I’m talking from my perspective and how things affected me. I’d leave her out altogether if I could, but I haven’t been able to come up with a clever way to do that while still communicating effectively about what became a profound experience in my life.

I am a pretty competent person. It’s not that I know everything or have some super power that makes me capable of succeeding at whatever I try. It’s has more to do with my dislike of turning out work of poor quality. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try,” and I’d add that if I’m going to do it, I might as well bother to do it well. I don’t even have to like whatever it is to do a good job of it, and I don’t have to know how to do it. I’ll learn, teaching myself if necessary. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember.

I tend to be right. Some of that is merely accuracy combined with a habit of choosing my words with care. Some of that is conscience. I need to be morally right and try to keep from wrongdoing.  I care about justice in general. Been like that all of my life, too.

I’m not always the most humble or self-effacing person you’ll ever meet, either.  I’d like to think that I’m less arrogant than I used to be, but the truth is that I wasn’t particularly aware of how my pride was affecting me then, and it’s entirely possible I have blind spots aplenty still.

Throw all of that together – competency, conscience, a strong sense of justice coupled with outrage over injustice, and pride – in me, and you get a driven, stubborn, very pigheaded person who would rather drown than give up the ball to the other team. Playing water basketball as a freshman at summer camp did nearly get me drowned. One of the other team felt sorry for me and opted to try picking me up and shaking me. She didn’t get the ball, either. Anyway, get me to the point where I’m convinced I’m right, and I can become intransigent.  I won’t bend, buckle, or back down.

And proud of it.

I suppose you can imagine that this habit of mine occasionally caused problems. My relationship with my sister, who I’ll call P in this post, is a good illustration. P is a little younger than me, so the poor kid got to “enjoy” the same sort of home life I did. It was tough. It was really tough. We all dealt with it differently. I was quite the prig. My dad once called me something like the Pious with all the dark and twisted religious shades to it, and the comment was not completely wrong. P dealt with it in other ways. We butted heads a lot, starting young and continuing into adulthood. My dad leaving the family didn’t magically make everything better. We had all learned bad habits and lessons, and we had to learn new things and norms after he left. Learning, the process of it, is rife with mistakes, yes?

P and I had many, many differences of opinion. There was a lot of conflict, and it frustrated and hurt me. I felt like she was being very unfair to me. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried – it was not enough. I couldn’t make her happy with me or what I was doing no matter how nice, tactful, fillintheblank I tried to be. It didn’t improve my attitude or hurt feelings that I thought some of what she did was wrong and/or unlikely to help her get what she’d told me she wanted. I felt as though she twisted my words to use them against me and heard poison where I’d meant only and striven mightily to infuse kindness. I didn’t feel like I could trust her to look out for me. Things were getting pretty sour, and I was getting very tired of what I perceived to be me doing a lot of bending over backwards to avoid giving further offense. I was angry about that.

I had done everything I knew. I had tried to the best of my ability to work things out and improve the relationship. I had failed. It sucked. It was miserable. We were kinda, sorta not really speaking to each other, and I felt grief. She’s my sister. I love her. My guts were twisting into a knot to be on such bad terms with her.

So, in the middle of this confusion of feeling and attitude, I hear something from God that I don’t like . He tells me to show up at her house, ask her for her side of the story, listen humbly, receive, and then ask for her forgiveness. That was actually frightening. It was vulnerable. P hadn’t exactly been the safest person in my life. Her words weren’t safe. I didn’t want to go.

I did, though. I showed up, she was home, and I listened to what she had to say for maybe a couple of hours. I can’t remember for sure. It was a lengthy conversation, though. Somewhere in there, I gave her a simple apology. “I’m sorry. Would you forgive me, please?” No defensiveness, no excuses, no guardedness hidden in justifications, no feedback from me toward her – nothing self-protective. I simply and unreservedly owned the truth that I had hurt her (even if I didn’t mean to do it, even if only through ignorance, I had still caused her pain) and asked her to forgive me.

We parted ways on somewhat better terms, having expressed a desire to have a better relationship with each other. It hasn’t happened yet. Within a year, things had broken down completely, and at her request, I have not spoken to her since.

What was the point? Why did I have to go through all of that? Every once in a while, I roll it over again, and now seems to be the latest once in a while.

Why? What good did that do? I can’t answer that for her. I have no idea if that conversation and my request for forgiveness did anything for her.

I guess the why has a lot to do with why I went. I didn’t go for me. I didn’t go thinking it would make any difference in how my sister and I related. I didn’t even do it for her to “help” her or anything. I went because I believed that was what God was asking me to do. I obeyed and trusted Him with everything I had invested and everything I feared. It may not have helped my relationship with my sister, but it did change some things in how I related to God. It changed me. I might talk about that more in another post, but for now – have a good night.

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The Best of Us

A few weeks ago during a break, I saw a blurb on the news about a new blood test being developed. Can’t tell you what it was called. What I do remember is that it’s made to test for Down Syndrome. The reporter had all these great things to say about the test’s accuracy, about how it has the potential to reduce the number of amnio procedures (which carry some risk to the baby), and then, tacked on as an afterthought, mentioned that some folks are concerned that this test may lead to an increased number of abortions.

Out of curiosity, I’ve done some looking around. If you pull up the Wikipedia page, it does mention that many Down syndrome diagnosed pregnancies are aborted. The percentages quoted were over 90%. I didn’t check around enough to see where they got those numbers, because I got distracted by an old NY Times article that talks about rising parental concern in 2007. It also helpfully provided a link to a Pub Med abstract, Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a systematic literature review. European Concerted Action: DADA (Decision-making After the Diagnosis of a fetal Abnormality). Isn’t that a mouthful? It was done in 1999, and it says Down syndrome abortion rates were 90 – 92%. It makes me feel a bit sick to read on the National Down Syndrome Society myths and truths site that “one in every 691 live births is a child with Down syndrome, representing approximately 6,000 births per year in the United States alone.” The operative words in the NDSS statement would be “live births.”

The Wikipedia page offered another interesting piece of info. It said in its history section:

Most individuals with Down syndrome were institutionalized, few of the associated medical problems were treated, and most died in infancy or early adult life. With the rise of the eugenics movement, 33 of the (then) 48 U.S. states and several countries began programs of forced sterilization of individuals with Down syndrome and comparable degrees of disability. “Action T4” in Nazi Germany made public policy of a program of systematic murder.

How about this little gem?

Plastic surgery has sometimes been advocated and performed on children with Down syndrome, based on the assumption that surgery can reduce the facial features associated with Down syndrome, therefore decreasing social stigma, and leading to a better quality of life.[90]

Or this?

People with Down syndrome often encounter patronizing attitudes and discrimination in the wider community.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not all bad, and there is a lot of good being done for and by those with Down syndrome. I’m cherry picking out some of the darker bits because of a thought that occurred to me. “Why,” I’ve been wondering, “do people sometimes have such a hard time with those who must cope with disabilities, handicaps, and other unusual challenges?” It’s certainly not confined to those people who have Down syndrome. Mistreatment of the unfortunate and weak is a common theme in human history. Why? Why is that?

I’m sure there are lots and lots of reasons, some of which, like bullying, leap to mind. I’m not a fan of bullies, people who want power over others, so when it’s done its leaping, my thoughts go something like, “people stink. There are lots of rotten ones out there.” I do think that’s true, but I also think I’m being a bit stupid when I leave it at that.

Last week, my eyes lit upon the jacket of “Forrest Gump,” and I thought, “You know, he did okay. He just needed a lot of help, and he got it. People who wouldn’t take care of themselves even would help take care of him.” Oh… oh… wait, is that an idea? He just needed a lot of help. That’s something I’ve noticed about Kimberly. She can do so much, but for much of it, she needs help, and she needs more help than “normal” people.

Sometimes, people are pretty rotten and selfish. We like power. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves to help others, but I really wonder if our profound antagonism toward someone like Kimberly who has unusual and profound need isn’t more than simple selfishness. I wonder if people like her aren’t meant to bring out the best in us, if their need should not invite exploitation but rather call out of us love, compassion, humility, steadfastness, service, patience, and other virtues. I wonder if we shrink away not out of greed, but out of fear of measuring ourselves against that yawning deficit and finding our own selves lacking. I wonder… I wonder… are the needs of others a mirror into which I am afraid to look?

Drawing

Blood tests are never fun. They always involve needles, poking, prodding, and at least a little pain. I don’t know anybody who enjoys the experience. Unfortunately, in these United States, blood tests are a fact of life. They represent an accurate and relatively noninvasive way for doctors to acquire facts. Until something better comes along, we’ll all be getting poked and prodded in the name of good health.

Most of us can embrace that. Not all are so fortunate, though, and my sister Kimberly is one of those folks. She hates getting poked more than anybody else I know, but still, every year, she has to go through it. Today was this year’s draw.

My family, and my mom especially, try very hard to help prepare Kimberly to face the terror. We sat at home this morning and practiced (without needles) step by step until Kimberly was feeling confident about it. She was so scared at first that she wouldn’t even let us touch her, and that was at home with people she knew and no unfamiliar objects. When she was ready, the lot of us piled in the car to be her moral support. The plan was to get the blood drawn and then head off to her favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch. We got to the lab, got everything ready, and she was doing well enough to bare her arm in preparation for the stick.

It was great until seconds before the phlebotomist walked over. I don’t know what happened. She was fine, and then she was panicked. Her sleeve slithered back down in a blink of an eye. Her body went stiff. She went from confident and happy to scared and stiff.

I don’t think she was reacting to anybody. Everybody was so nice and helpful toward her. The phlebotomist was careful to explain. The lab tech was very patient. We all tried to reason with her, to persuade her (Mom told her that Mom needed Kimberly’s help to help Mom take care of Kimberly), to soothe her, and even to bribe her, but Kimberly was having none of it. Her fear ratcheted up higher and higher until she was starting to make a lot of noise, and we realized that we were going to have to move her away from the whole group.

As soon we started to move, she bolted. She ran for the wall and pressed herself, all curled up defensively, against it. Her tears plastered her face, snot was leaking from her nose, and as she panted rapidly in fear, I thought she was about to vomit. The poor kid…. the poor, poor kid… I cuddled myself around her and tried to calm her down a little bit. Shelah and I managed to get her up and walking toward the ER. As soon as she realized that we weren’t leaving, though, she did what Mom told us is called the Downs drop. She went totally limp and hit the floor. There was no holding her, no keeping her up or restraining her. I think I’d have had more luck trying to hold onto a soapy balloon full of jello.

She stayed on the floor for a few moments, fighting and flopping against both family and staff, until Shelah managed to time a snag and get her carried to a stretcher. There she was enveloped in a blanket, carefully pinned, and speedily poked. At that point, the sun came out. Everything was great! She hopped up and said, “I’m so proud!” The drawing was complete.

It was a trying experience. Everything we could think of to help Kimberly, we tried, but at the crunch, her fear won and forced a situation where we had to use force to help her. All the practice, the bribery, the education, the kindness, the whatever… it wasn’t enough. The poor kid, you know?

I’m not any different. I could so identify with the feelings she projected. Blood draws won’t make me panic like that, but if I think about some of the places I’ve had to go inside myself, I’m just like her. I’ve been where I couldn’t be touched, where I would fight and flop to get away, where it didn’t matter how much I’d practiced, where the bribes became irrelevant, where my trust failed, where I would injure myself to escape those trying to help me, where my fear was so consuming that I’d choose sickness and death over healing and life if left to my own devices… Thank God for a Savior!

How do You do it, God? How do you keep working with us over and over even though we panic and drop on You? How is it that Your love never fails? How do You continue in Your longing to keep on gathering?

Matthew 23

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.