Yesterday Valor made his 5th trip in seven months to the local pediatric emergency room. He will turn one in nine days on September 26. The visits are becoming more routine, like taking a family member who works out of town to the local airport.
We have our familiar drop off spot in front of the hospital. Familiar prayers we say in the car. Familiar goodbyes to Valor and Brandi as they walk through the emergency room doors for the next 3-5 days. And the familiar ambulance ride Brandi and Valor take to Duke Children's Hospital 1.5 hours away.
To Valor's chagrin needles have also become familiar. He shakes his head violently and screams anytime needles approach now. Between blood draws, IV's for antibiotics and blood transfusions, Valor has been stuck with more needles before age one than the combined 24 years of his older four siblings.
Watching Valor's violent reaction to needles, we wonder about the long term effects of trauma. Psychotherapist Edward Tick, who has counseled Vietnam veterans through PTSD for over 40 years, calls trauma a "soul wound." Christian inner healing minister Francis McNutt speaks similarly about trauma as a potentially unrecognized spiritual transition point in a person's life.
"Suffering can make you bitter or better" is trite. But the axiom also hints at the spiritual battle and life-shaping stakes Tick and McNutt describe more eloquently.
As a Christian, I learned to receive unexpected suffering as a painful but also purposeful and divine gateway to resurrection. 2 Corinthians 4:10 is a classic summary, "We always carry in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body."
After trying many unfruitful approaches to suffering--denial, self-pity, anger, escape, workaholism--suffering with Jesus, so I could rise with Jesus was a welcome and life-giving alternative. It also had the benefit of being divinely and historically true. My suffering had dignity. It had purpose and fellowship. I was being gathered up into Jesus' suffering, so I could also be gathered up into Jesus' resurrection.
What about young children? Can they have fellowship with Jesus without reading, speaking or apparent understanding? John the Baptist lept for joy while still in his mother Elizabeth's womb at hearing the voice of Jesus' mother Mary (Luke 1:41). Abraham's child Isaac had fellowship with Jesus across the millennia when Abraham "received Isaac back from death" (Hebrews 11:19) following God's test-commandment for Abraham to sacrifice his son on Mt. Moriah.
Which brings me to my pressing question. "Can babies suffer with Jesus?" Can Valor suffer with Jesus? Can his soul find fellowship, comfort and even resurrection with Jesus, rather than trauma-induced anger, confusion, bitterness and despair. I hope so.
God's Hope & Love, Elijah & Brandi Lovejoy
Meet the Authors: Elijah & Brandi Lovejoy
On March 15, 2019 nine days before his 6 month birthday, our son, Valor Emmanuel Lovejoy, entered Duke Children's Hospital for the second time with a recent fever, low white and red blood cell counts and a below 1% weight chart gain. Doctors suspect Valor has Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome, a disease that effects bone marrow health, pancreatic function and sometimes skeletal structure, among other symptoms. You can learn more about SDS here: www.shwachman-diamond.org. I (Elijah) am a pastor, and I (Brandi) am a volunteer Children's Ministry Director and home school mom to our five children.
These Chronicles are written from a Christian perspective in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." We believe the Lord does his best and deepest work through profound patterns of death and resurrection, particularly as pioneered and embodied in Jesus Christ's own death and resurrection. Through faith and ongoing participation in Jesus' death and resurrection, we offer these Valor Chronicles in hope that others will find comfort, hope, peace and resurrection life with us in Jesus.