I’m always up for a good challenge.
But I prefer being the decider of which challenges to take on, and experience has taught me that nine times out of ten I don’t get that luxury.
Many years ago, an aptitude test told me I was more gifted in math and science than I was any other academic area. Who knew that I had the aptitude to be a nurse when I was interested in being anything but? Imagine my surprise when the visiting nurse who came to my home to care for my mother announced, during her very first visit, that she was going to train me to do what she was about to show me.In the physician-family discussion following my mother’s second abdominal surgery in a week, we learned that instead of typical stitches, she would have retention sutures. In short, her healing would occur from the inside out. She was sent home loosely bound from one side of her abdomen to the other by what looked like orange jumper cables. I was sure, when we transferred her from the car to her comfortable chair at home, that every organ inside of her was going to fall out like a jam-packed closet when the door was opened.
I have a very high pain tolerance, but whoever wrote the order to train the patient’s at-home caregiver was unaware that my knees would buckle and I would pass out at the sight of blood. What was going to happen when I had to unpack gauze from an unhealed 6-inch incision, clean it, and repack and bandage it — twice a day — until it healed?
Suck it up, Pam, I told myself. You can do it.
It was several weeks before she healed, and I was beyond thrilled when my nursing care was no longer necessary. I had passed Perseverance 101, but wasn’t interested in moving on to 201.
… because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4
“I never want to go through that again in my life,” I told a friend who asked how my mom was doing, “but I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had to.”
“You’re so strong,” she replied.
Strong? Yeah, right. The most difficult trials of my life have shown me not what I’m made of but Who made me. God knew when He made me that I would have a difficult time just squishing bugs (I would rather suck them up in the vacuum cleaner than kill them), but He also created me with a fighting spirit and could trust me to not easily give up when the heavy stuff of life rested at my doorstep.
He will equip me with all I need for doing His will. Hebrews 13:12
And He did! Good thing, too, since my mom became ill again just a few short years later. She lived with me as she was receiving treatment for colon cancer. This time I learned how to feed Mom through a feeding tube, hook up her bags of IV solution, and even change her ostomy bag. Sounds gross, right? It was. All I wanted was to be able to wave a magic wand and make everything change. But nothing did.
Things didn’t get better for several months; in fact, they got worse. Each night I would lay in bed in the room next to my mom’s, stressed and overly tired. I could hear her restlessness at times; at other times, it was completely silent and I would lay awake listening for some kind of movement, wondering if she had died right there in the room next to mine.
Perseverance isn’t easy. The only way you practice it is by facing something difficult. I wasn’t eager to take on the nursing stint, but God used the experience to plant seeds of empathy within me and mature my character. I did it for my mom because I loved her and wanted to bring comfort to her. My heart became much more softened as I watched this woman who gave me life slowly lose hers.
There were a lot of things I learned on that journey with Mom … how to speak encouragement and hope when the circumstances didn’t show us that; how to listen when her heart was so anguished because she wanted so desperately to live while others overdosed or took their own lives; and what a sacred moment it is when one I love steps into their eternal life. But the thing that stuck with me most is the truth of God’s Word, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
He provided me everything I needed to persevere.
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Pam Freitag Weyant traded the harsh Midwestern winters for the sunny South. Her best friends are her steno machine (she works as a freelance court reporter), her aged but adorable cocker spaniel Jake, and books. She is grateful for time spent traveling, writing creative nonfiction, and working out. Her goal each day is to share her story with others so they may also find freedom in a redemptive Savior. Read more of Pam’s Breath on Paper bio here.