Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Blanket and a Mask

"If God exists, why does He allow so much evil?"

That is a question for the ages.  It is asked in sorrow when we look upon a village ravaged by war and famine.  It is yelled in anger as we helplessly watch horrendous things happen to others.  It is asked in argument by people seeking to tear down those who believe in Christ.  It is whispered in despair by believers who have faith but are struggling to make sense of atrocities that are shown on the news every day.

It is a valid question:  if a loving Being who has all power exists, why does He allow evil to happen?  Why doesn't He just take away the pain, the evil, the destruction?  Why doesn't He protect us from the atrocities that occur?  Why doesn't He remove war, disease, rape, hatred, and pain from the earth?

The answer is not a simple one, but I understood it better one morning with a blanket and a mask.

Our daughter Lizzy just turned two a month ago.  She is so bright, and loves to talk. She is so much fun, so happy, and is so full of life and energy. She has a strong but sweet and loving personality. She can count to 10, say the beginning of her ABCs, has a better vocabulary than me, knows several shapes, and just loves to learn. She can often be found reading to her dolls and stuffed animals, which she loves to hug and kiss. She always has a smile and a hug, and she loves to help sweep and do chores. She loves Jesus and church and nursery. She loves to play the piano and sing, especially when it is church or Primary hymns.


Eight months ago, however, this wasn't quite the case.  She was still her happy self, but her vocabulary wasn't developing as quickly as other kids, and she had a difficult time sleeping.  After her third ear infection in four months, we were referred to a specialist who suggested we put tubes in her ears because they weren't draining properly.  We scheduled the surgery, which was relatively simple, and we waited.

On the morning of, we awoke early to be at the surgical center at 6:30a.  It was snowy, so Lizzy was bundled up and in her pajamas.  They told us that she would probably be sleepy the rest of the day, even though she would only be under anesthesia for about 10 minutes.  I brought toys, coloring books, and her favorite kitty to have while we waited.  I was nervous for her because she had always been afraid of the doctor.  Phillip gave her a blessing the night before that she wouldn't be scared the entire time and that she would feel comforted when she was scared.



I tried to explain to Lizzy as best as I could about what was going to happen, but how do you explain to an 18 month old exactly what was going to happen in a way that she could understand?  She knew we were going to the doctor and that they were going to help her ears feel better, but that was about as much of the concept as she could grasp.

We went back into a surgical waiting area and changed clothes.  Lizzy wore a hospital gown, and I put on a hair net and a cover so that I could go back with her until the anesthesia kicked in.  She looked so small in that big gown on the big hospital crib.




As we waited for the procedure to begin, Lizzy laughed with the nurses, played with her toys, and colored.  I was relieved that she was enjoying herself so much.  She barely even fussed when they took her blood pressure and put a pulse ox on her toe (which in the past had always terrified her).




Eventually, they called us back to the surgical room.  I walked slowly down the hall with the nurse, Lizzy in my arms.  She was still laughing and giggling, but my heart was pounding with nervousness for her.  I kept telling her that we were going to fix her ears now, and she was excited about that.  I reminded her that it might be a little scary, but that I was going to stay with her the entire time.

The doctor and nurses were all gowned and masked, waiting for Lizzy.  Because she was so little, they decided to swaddle her in a blanket, put an oxygen mask on her face to temporarily sedate her, and then insert the IV with more sedation that would be used during the surgery.

As I lay my precious baby on the table, I saw her eyes fill with fear.  The nurses began swaddling her, pinning her arms to her sides.  She started thrashing around, desperate to escape.  It took two nurses to hold her down while I stroked her hair and sang softly to her, trying to calm her down and ease her fears.  Her eyes desperately met mine and she started crying, "Mama!  Mama!"  She burst into terrified sobs at the sight of the mask coming towards her face, tears streaming down her cheeks as she looked at me in scared confusion.

Although it took less than a minute, the process of sedation felt as if it took hours.  I felt helpless as I watched my tiny girl, but I knew that this surgery was the best thing for her.  It would allow her to grow and develop, to not be in pain, and to ultimately be happier.  It would all be over soon, and those few moments of fear and distress would be a thing of the past.  But right then, those few moments felt like an eternity to her.

After several seconds of breathing the medicated oxygen, Lizzy peacefully fell asleep and I was asked to leave the room for the waiting area.  I wanted to stay, but I knew that I couldn't.  Instead, I left her in the capable hands of the doctor and nurses, knowing that soon I would be able to hold and comfort her for as long as she needed.


After about fifteen minutes, the nurse came to tell me that the surgery was over and that Lizzy was in recovery.  I quickly went to her bed and found another nurse holding her in a rocking chair, feeding her a bottle of milk.  I took my beautiful baby in my arms, and we cuddled for as long as she wanted.  After a bit, she was ready to go home.

In the days and weeks that followed, Lizzy rapidly blossomed.  Her vocabulary tripled in just a few days (along with her pronunciation), and she began sleeping through the night and during naps.  She no longer pulled on her ears, and she became even more vibrant and alive than she had been before.  I am so grateful we made that decision, because it helped her realize her full potential.

As we see the horrors that occur in this life, we often do not realize that this life is not all.  Elder Boyd K. Packer teaches that we are merely in the second part of a three act play:
"There are three parts to the plan. You are in the second or the middle part, the one in which you will be tested by temptation, by trials, perhaps by tragedy…. Remember this! The line “And they all lived happily ever after” is never written into the second act [of the play]. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right… Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of [the plan], you won’t make sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much. Some are born in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering. Some experience premature death, even innocent children. There are brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. We have seen a lot of that recently. Do not suppose that God willfully causes that which, for His own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and the purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven."
In the first act, we lived God in Heaven.  We did not have bodies, and we were not like Him.  The only way for us to grow and develop into reaching our full potential was to come to earth, to gain a body and to be tested in order to grow.  God gave us agency so that we could choose for ourselves just how far we would develop.  Like I did with Lizzy, our loving Father sat down with us and explained this life to us.  He told us it would be hard, and He showed us exactly what we would pass through.  He also gave us a glimpse into the third act and explained all of the magnificent things we could become if we did well on earth.

In the end, God did not make the decision for us.  Our agency began before we were even born.  He showed us the good and the bad, and He let us decide if we wanted to follow His plan to be like Him.  Most of us chose His plan, even though we knew it would be hard.  The scriptures tell us that "shouted for joy" at the thought of coming to earth.  We knew that the hard parts would be worth all that we could gain, and we were excited to do it.

When Lizzy was on that table, she forgot about everything I had told her about the good that would come from the surgery.    Similarly, on this earth, we don't have have memories of God's explanation.  That is part of the test:  to grow and develop our faith and our relationship with God.  We have been given "doctors" and "nurses" to be with us during this surgery to remove our imperfections.  Tools such as the light of Christ, prophets, and especially the Holy Ghost help us succeed in this life in growing as much as we possibly can.  However, we must be deliberate in seeking for those tools and listening to them.

I sat and comforted Lizzy as best as I could by stroking her hair and singing to her, but the fear was overwhelming and drowned out my efforts.  It is so easy in this life to allow our fears and sorrows to block our ability to feel our Heavenly Father's love.  Sin, anger, despair, and heartache can be tools in the hands of the devil to keep us from being able to feel "hugs" from our Heavenly Father.



In these times, we beg our Father in Heaven to stop the pain and sorrow.  We ask Him to alleviate the suffering, because in our spiritual youth, we cannot remember our commitments or the glory that awaits us.  However, our Father does remember.  He promised us that He would do all that He could to bring us back to Him, just like I have promised Lizzy to always love her and take care of her.  So in spite of our pleadings, sometimes it is necessary for God to allow evil things to happen in the world:  because we asked him to do so.  We told Him we would do anything to be able to return to Him, and He is keeping His part of the promise by leading us back to Him, even when that path is hard and difficult.  It may seem like forever to us, but to Him (and to us one day), it will just be a brief moment in eternity.  "Almost there.  Almost done.  Just hang on for a little bit longer.  It will all be over soon," He seems to tell us.

And when this is all over, when we have gone through the hard part and come out of the sedation of the mortal world and the veil of forgetfulness, He will be waiting for us.  He will hold us and comfort us for as long as we need.  Then, if we were faithful in this life, we will move forward together, reaching our full potential as sons and daughters of God, the most powerful Being in the universe.  This life of sorrow and heartache will be like a distant bad memory, overshadowed by the pure joy and happiness that will come from living with our Heavenly Father.



So hang in there.  When we see evil and we want to give up in despair, just hang on.  Listen for the peace and reassurance of the Holy Ghost, whispering words of comfort to our souls.  Because we are not alone, and we have Someone watching over us who loves us.  There is a purpose to all of this, and if we remain steady and faithful, all of these sorrows will be swallowed up in the Savior and His Atonement, and we can know that one day, we will have a fulness of joy and peace.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you. That was a very good reminder of what it really means to be a child of a Heavenly Father. I always love your perspective.

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  2. Thank u so very much! I needed that!

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  3. Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is a concept that I had to have faith that Jesus cares for us, despite the hard times, but your analogy and explanation have allowed my testimony to grow. I really understand it so much better now. Thank you for being willing to share your testimony. And I am so glad Lizzie is doing better.

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  4. Sharlene Salzmann Justus SmithAugust 28, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    As usual, you have done a wonderful job on that article. It would make a beautiful 2 1/2 minute talk. The analogy is perfect; one that every parent can relate to. Thank you so much. Lizzy is such a delight.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this Tiffany

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  6. Hi Tiffany! Remember me?! I think of you often and I'm happy to see things are improving and going well. I can't believe Lizzy is 2!! She is adorable,just like her mom!

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  7. Shelley Wilson...I thought it would show my last name too. We miss you here in Orem!

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