How Listening for God's Voice in the Midst of a Crisis Transformed Me
by Rev. Dr. Kimberly "Kace" Leetch
Christmas with a toddler should be one of the most joyful seasons in life. The Christmas of 1998, for us, was anything but joyful.
Of course, the warmth of the lights, the smells, the love for our firstborn were palpable in the air. But that Christmas also held a darkness that would haunt us forever.
In February of that year, when our baby was just 16 months old, he was diagnosed with T1D, (Type 1 "Juvenile" Diabetes). On the one hand we were finally relieved at the diagnosis. (For a full month doctors scratched their heads trying to figure out what was going on with him – constipation? Failure to thrive? Or something more sinister?)
On the other hand, this condition would never go away. He would have to manage it for the rest of his life.
For nearly a year we spend numerous hours in the doctor’s office learning how to manage his condition. We learned how to test his blood and give insulin shots 4-6 times every day. We learned how to count carbs, estimate portion sizes, and find nutrition information on everything that passed his lips (in an age where smart phones were not yet the norm).
We charted his food, his weight, his activity, his blood tests, his shots—his life manipulated by numbers on paper. Our whole lives had to be scrutinized—how often we ate out, what time we put him to bed and got him up, all the times we miscalculated or forgot insulin doses.
We literally placed his life in the hands of able and capable doctors.
And yet, even the doctors could not fix everything.
Every time we'd bring him in with unexplained numbers, the doctors called it “the honeymoon phase”—a strange period where his body was still capable of producing the last little bit of insulin he would ever make himself, and then releasing it into his system at unpredictable intervals. While the honeymoon phase would not last long, the doctors’ insistence that the unexplained could be explained by this labeling lasted far longer.
By Christmas we were exhausted. All three of us fell at the same time to the flu, and we laid in bed unable to eat, unable to do much of anything, hoping we would make it past the flu and the relentlessness of diabetes. We beat the flu, but not without consequences.
By the time I came out of my own fog and felt capable of eating and caring for our baby, the flu and diabetes had already caught up with him. In one terrifying moment, he fell into a seizure that no parent should ever have to watch their child endure. We knew instantly from the doctors’ warnings that it was ketoacidosis, the blood sugars ran too high for too long, and the body started turning the extra sugar to acid in his blood.
We raced him to the hospital, where he recovered (thank God!) for three days. I slept on the reclining chair by his bed and comforted him the best I could as he fought for strength, tubes injected into his arms and wires stuck to his chest.
He recovered, but I was never the same.
We returned home broken and spent. That night I put him to bed and then I went into my own room, sat on the bed and cried. No, I wailed.
Sickness, anger, and frustration came together in a mad fury and I had a full blown, grown-up temper tantrum. I screamed at God that night. I cursed and challenged God.
Why my baby?
What could he possibly have done in his short little life to deserve this?
What had I done to displease God? (Did I mention I was a student at the seminary at that time, studying to serve God with every part of my being?)
How could a God of love be so cruel as to strike a child—my child—with such a devastating and isolating disease?
For 45 minutes I screamed and wept and carried on until finally I had nothing left. My body was finished, even as my mind held fast to its rage.
Then, in the darkness and silence of the night, I heard God’s voice.
It said, simply, Trust me.
Trust God? How could I, after all we had been through? Again, the voice: Trust me. You have placed all your trust and faith in the doctors and in the medical system. Learn from them. But trust in me.
And I knew God was right. I had placed all of my faith in the medical system. I had turned my back on God unknowingly, distracted by all the new things we’d had to learn to do to care for a child with a medical condition. I had failed to trust in God.
With that realization came a huge sense of relief. The burden of being perfect for my baby was lifted. The burden of knowing everything and needing to stay on top of every number on the paper was relieved.
Yes, I would still have to manage the condition. But I didn’t need to let it consume me. I had tried that already and it had gotten us a three-day stay at the hospital. God gave me permission to give the burden, the stress, the relentlessness of it all to God.
That moment changed me forever. One gentle voice inviting, Trust me, turned around my attitude and redirected my faith. Oh, we still had plenty to manage. But we didn’t have to manage it alone, broken, or spent. We could rely on God’s strength to help us through the challenging times.
Transformation doesn’t always happen when mountains are moved or when marathons are run.
Transformation sometimes happens in the still, small moments.
Those moments, added together, move a person from who they were to who they will become.
Transformation is what happens in those moments and during the in-between times when the hard work is taking place. The still, small voice jolted me out of my self-pity, and I attribute my transformation to that moment.
But I believe my transformation really had happened over the period of eleven months as I drifted away from God, felt the emptiness of having abandoned faith in God for faith solely in medicine, and in that moment when I remembered my place in God’s loving and powerful embrace.
My baby is 20 now. We have continued to trust in God, and we have continued to be challenged.
Just after he turned 18 he was diagnosed with MS. The first diagnosis was largely our (my husband’s and my) burden to bear. This one is his.
How difficult it has been for me to let go of my desire to manage his meds and make him take care of himself! But he is an adult now, and he is responsible for himself. I help when I can, but in reality I must once again trust in the God who has never abandoned me—who has never abandoned him, either. I must once again place his life in God’s hands.
None of us can cure this disease. None of us can predict or change how the disease will progress. But all of us can (and do) place our faith in God, that no matter what happens, ultimately we will all survive—changed, transformed, and molded into people who have no other options than to trust or despair.
We choose faith.
Rev. Dr. Kimberly "Kace" Leetch is the founder and CEO of her company Clergy Stuff, which provides worship resources for faith communities using the Narrative Lectionary. She lives in Bloomington, Minnesota with her family.
Editor's Note: Kace also happens to be my "boss" in my day job as editor and creative-content director at Clergy Stuff and Arches 'n Bells. She has not only become a wonderful friend, but also provided me with the flexibility I've sought in a position as a freelance writer. I'm very grateful for our connection. - Dan