I think I learned something about God this morning. At 9am it was time to take my daughter to the doctor for her 15 month checkup. My wife is a teacher with a very structured daily schedule, and since I am a youth minister with a completely variable schedule, I usually get to take our daughter to the doctor. I do not like going to the doctor. I hate getting my blood drawn, and I hate shots. But I have found out that there is one thing I dislike more than getting a needle stuck into me. It is getting a needle stuck into my daughter.
The last two times I have taken my daughter to the doctor, she has had to have multiple immunizations. During this ordeal (which my daughter is actually really brave during) my job is to hold her arms and hug her as the nurse injects her thighs with vaccine. This morning it was four shots. During the first one, my daughter got wide eyed and had a shocked look on her face. When the second injection came, her shocked face turned into a frown. And by the third and fourth shot she went into full fledged wailing. This is not because the nurse was bad. She was actually ninja-like. Four shots in under ten seconds. Impressive.
But, nevertheless, my daughter went into full pathetic-baby-wailing mode. And when my baby goes into that mode she does not flail her arms and get rigid. Actually, she goes limp. Like a rag doll. A little wailing, tear filled rag doll. It is heartbreaking, really. All I can do is scoop her up and hold her close as she cries and the pain subsides.
I hate giving my daughter shots. I wish I could take them for her. But I can't. All I can do is hold her afterwards.
Now, I try to look at this like she does. What is she thinking? Her daddy takes her to a strange office where a lot of really nice, smiling people ask a lot of questions and touch her and look at her with strange, shiny things. There are lots of toys to play with and cabinets to explore. She gets to hang out for a while without any clothes on. That's fun. Then daddy picks her up (she always likes that- she can trust daddy). Then daddy puts her down on a table with another smiling woman at the other end of the table getting things out of a brightly colored box. Must be time to put clothes back on! Then daddy hugs her and kisses her head as the lady grabs one of her legs. Then it feels like her leg got pinched. Then again. Then the shooting pain hits her full force and she begins to cry as hard as she can. Pinch! Pinch! Then daddy picks her up and holds her close and says things to her in his "I'm sorry" voice. How could he do this? Why would daddy stand there and let her get hurt? Why is he holding me now? Should I trust him, or will he hurt me again?
There is no possible way that she can understand why she needs to hurt like this right now. She has no idea that this pain will somehow save her from greater pain later on. All she knows is that her daddy let her get hurt pretty badly. And she cries. And thank God, she chose to trust me again. But, in all honesty, I would not have blamed her if she stayed upset with me for the rest of the day. I guess she trusts me enough to know that I, for some unknown reason, let her get hurt for a good purpose.
I think our relationship with God is a lot like this. He allows us to undergo pain so that we can be healthier in the long run. He wants, more than anything else, for us to be healthy, whole people who can receive and give His love as a child of God. Everything God does- even if it is sometimes amputation- is done to make us healthy. Scripture tells us that:
"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:10-11)
The word "discipline" here is the Greek word "paideuo". It comes from the Greek word "pais", which means child. It refers to that training a child has to undergo to become a healthy, fully functioning adult. Sometimes, God trains us in painful ways that we cannot possibly understand at the time, any more than my daughter can understand the concept of immunizations. God would do it for us if He could. And in fact, He has overcome death and evil for us in the person of Jesus Christ. But, there are some things we still have to undergo to be the children God has made us to be. And during these things, God holds us tightly to Himself and brushes away our tears and helps us through our pain.
We may not be able to understand what God's purpose is in the trial we are undergoing. We may not understand why He has allowed THIS to happen to ME. But we can understand the Cross. We can understand that in Christ God is there with us, to go through everything we go through, even to death and beyond. Why does suffering and pain happen to God's children? Most of the time I have no idea. But if we cling to Christ, and allow Him to suffer with us and heal our wounds, we will know someday, even as my daughter will someday understand why she needed immunizations. Someday, she will even have to go to the doctor to get her own children immunized. And on that day she will learn something about God too.