We are home.
The make-up on my face, the self-sufficiency on my shoulders, the girding of my abdomen in anticipation of a blow... I allow all of it to fall to the floor as I sink into my hips, and breathe shallow. It feels like the uphill climb is over. And we have made it without dropping anything on the way. We have dragged our daughter up the hill, with all her faculties in tact. We have arrived at the top with our health, our marriage, and our children. We are not done, but the worst is over. And I sense Richard is strong, so I lean heavily into him.
But in my ungirding of my protective anticipation and self-sufficiency, I unwittingly let down the guard to my mind. The swelling on Kiara’s temple and above her right ear that was masking the deformity is starting to subside. There is a hint of the decompression to come where the bone is absent.
She has surprised us with her return to normalcy after this last surgery. We had heard there was a possibility of accelerated neurological advancement after the skull was replaced, and we are certainly seeing it.
I actually feel like Kiara is back. The child we were missing is home! She is planning brothers’ birthday parties, helping around the house, and filling the space she left. We were right to wait and long for her return. We were right to #keephopealive as we longed for God to come through for us.
But in my tiredness, with my mind left unguarded, deep regret creeps up on me at the price she’s paid. She was just a passenger in my car. I should have stopped for longer. I could have waited for another gap. I could have... it was just an accident, it was just a mistake. But it was my mistake. And she has paid dearly. It could have cost her her life. It could have cost her her functionality. It could have cost her her mobility. It has not. But it might still cost her her ‘normal’ form. Could have, should have, would have...
Like a child who has fiddled with a piece of string and managed to knot it into an indecipherable mess in minutes, I offer my jumbled thoughts back up to God, and ask him to sort through them and find truth. And like a parent who knows the quickest way to solve the problem, God cuts through all my thoughts and questions with a single stroke. A cover-all answer. Repentance.
No, not the pacification that a friend might have offered. Not the endless fidgeting and relooking at the knot from every angle to see if it can be undone. He slices through the middle of it and it falls into pieces. Pieces that don’t need to find their places back in my mind. They are discarded.
“I made a mistake, God,” I say. “I’m sorry. Please fix it. Please don’t make her pay.”
And haven’t we all made mistakes as parents? Some through anger or negligence, some simply in unintentional error. We’ve all made mistakes that our children have to pay for.
I climb in to bed last night, and forget to get up this morning. My husband, in his strength, gets the day going without me. And I love him so very much, because he understands day-after-the-race blues, but he also doesn’t dilute my repentance with cheap platitudes. He makes me coffee and leaves me in bed to do business with God.
My mind is open and exposed. I listen to the audible word of God and it washes over me like an antiseptic balm. As I have watched the doctor bathe Kiara’s head wound countless times, squeezing the pink liquid from his soaked gauze, as it runs down her cheeks like anointing oil and she squeezes tight her eyes from the sting, my mind now stings as it is cleansed. Repentance has exposed it, now truth disinfects it.
And in the remarkable mercy of God, in the too-good-to-be-true good news of the gospel, he promises to pay for my mistakes. Not just what my error in judgement has done to Kiara, but what my countless shortcomings have done to my children. He promises that by my repentance, he is able to pay the price. My children do not have to be punished for my mistakes.
And I believe. I believe that he will knit together Kiara’s skull, and that he will cover over any deformity or weakness. I believe that he is willing and able to fix what I have broken. By faith, even this is possible.