The Gift of Bad News

“But, Momma,” she stopped her swinging, planted her feet in the grass, and shot up at me with a reluctant complaint in her eyes. “I want to do the things that Audrey, Greg, and Adam can do. But I can’t! Because I’m the only one with half heart! Nobody else in all of anybody’s families we know has half heart like me.”

I can’t argue that. She has no half-heart neighbors. No half-heart siblings. No half-heart classmates. No half-heart friends. She is, in fact, the only one who she knows with half heart.

What a glorious gift!

Most people like to forget a problemmed past and move on to a promising future. Easy enough. But on Sunday our pastor preached on salvation. Ephesians chapter 2 urges the people to remember that at birth they were separated from Christ. That they were born into depravity. That there was nothing they could do to save themselves. That they were “without hope.” That’s a lot of bad news.

What a glorious gift to be given the full bad news!

So I want Annie to know and remember that in the womb she was recommended terminable. That at birth she was heartbroken and incompatible with life. That she was born into death without intervention. That twice after her first lifesaving surgery, there was nothing the surgeon could do until we waited out her failing heart to see if she’d become operable for the second and then the third surgery. That in January she was pronounced fluid overloaded, PLE ridden,  and prescribed a medically managed future.

What a glorious gift to be given the full diagnoses, the pervasive bad news, the conclusive grim!

So the Ephesians who were once without hope, but then were brought near to God and reconciled to him in Christ Jesus, know the excitement of salvation. They know the merciful gift of the full diagnosis so that they could seek treatment through the cross.

So Annie, who was twice recommended not worth fighting for, who was thrice handed over with death being a considerable risk, who was given a 6-8 week medical response plan to see if her new prescriptions would manage her deteriorating body, should full well know the gift of bedridden days. Because then she can know the gift of a sun kissed face, fall wind in her hair, humming a tune as she idly pumps 4-year-old long legs.

“But. Mom-MA!” she pressed again, impatient with my silence. “I said I’m the only half heart. Did you hear me?!”

“Annie, it’s a gift.” She listened stiffly. “Being the only half heart means you get it. Means God has made you in a way that you know Him so well. That others see Him in everything about you. That you see beauty in regular moments when others see bored. Annie, today wasn’t guaranteed. And because you’re a half heart, you fully know it. What a glorious gift!”

“So I’m a gift?” She wasn’t sure. But I am.

Some people have asked me if I think God wants us to be happy, and if I can be happy as the mother to a child who could die someday way before we’re ready. Some other people have asked me if God wants Annie to be happy, and if she can be happy as she ages knowing the ongoing care and prognosis she faces.  I don’t necessarily think that God is overly concerned about mine or Annie’s (or humankind’s) happiness. (Nor do I think He wants us unhappy. I don’t think happiness is the end point.) And Annie usually seems pretty happy to me!

I do think that He is concerned about our effectiveness in knowing Him and making Him known during the days of life He gives us. I have personally proven that there is great joy in that. And the joy of the Lord is a great strength, a perfect gift, for when happiness in life’s circumstances doesn’t come through. When we can’t change a diagnosis or a prognosis or a checkup marked in red on the calendar for October 19.

No. Happiness isn’t the ultimate gift. But remembering what once was, recounting the acts of a saving God, counting His faithfulness that’s waiting in eternity and playing out on earth today…those are glorious gifts.