Sometimes my children get caught up in the moment of love and generosity and they give each other extravagant gifts. Caleb will wrap his favorite toy in a blanket and present it to his sister for her birthday. Rachel will put a beloved stuffed animal in a box and lovingly give it to a brother who is having a tough day. It really is very sweet. In that moment, overwhelmed by love for a sibling and the desire to give a gift that represents that love, the giver truly wants to give his most precious possession.
But the next day, or sometimes only a few hours later, those feelings of generosity and love have faded a little. In their place is a giver’s remorse, a longing for the favorite toy. So the generous little giver goes in search of his favorite robot or her favorite stuffed animal or his favorite rubber frog. Finding it, he takes it back to his room as if he had never given it away. She sleeps with it because, after all, it is her favorite brown dog and her brother may not care for it as lovingly as she would.
Now, there is a certain understanding in our home that these loving, spontaneous gifts are only symbolic tokens. Every child understands that when Caleb gives you his fuzzy bear blanket, he doesn’t mean for you to actually keep it; he only means for you to see that he loves you and would like to give you a bear blanket if he had two of them. He fully intends to sleep with that blanket tonight after you give it back to him.
When our daughters were born, we stood in front of our church family and dedicated each girl to God. We promised that we would teach them about Jesus, love them and nurture them, raise them in the admonition of the Lord, and train them in the way they should go. In front of God and everyone, we gave these little girls to God for His glory.
It was a lovely ceremony. I received a rose from our pastor. We received a certificate of dedication to put in their baby books. We took lots of pictures and even videotaped it all.
In a way, though, those ceremonies were very much like the little gift-ceremonies my children do with each other. The whole thing was a symbol. I liked the idea of giving my children to God for His glory. I presented them to Him, fully expecting Him to hand them right back to me so that I could enjoy them and raise them the way I thought was best, so I could love them and watch them grow up. I was sure God understood that I never intended Him to actually keep my daughters. He was supposed to be pleased with this token ceremony, this symbol of my love and dedication to Him.
When Rachel, our second child, was three months old, she stopped growing. She stopped getting longer, and she even started losing weight. Not only that, she was not reaching developmental milestones appropriate for her age. She couldn’t lift her head or control her neck. Her gross motor skills were those of a newborn.
Our doctor was concerned; the specialist he referred us to was concerned; and we grew concerned. And so we began a variety of medical tests. I collected stool samples. From a four month old. What a challenge! I also collected urine specimens. An even bigger challenge! We did the sweat test for cystic fibrosis. Our doctor tested her blood, looking for signs of cancer. We scoped down her throat and into her stomach. We scoped up her . . . well, you know. The doctor did a biopsy of stuff he scraped from her colon and of stuff he scraped from her esophagus.
After all the tests, we waited for results. The waiting was the hardest part. Our precious, beautiful little baby was not growing, not developing, and we waited to hear why. Did she have food allergies we would adapt to? Or did she have a disease like cystic fibrosis that would take her life in early adulthood? Or did she have some cancer that would take her life even sooner?
One evening, in the midst of all the waiting, I drove to the grocery store. On the way, I talked with God. I cried and explained all the reasons He should spare my daughter, all the reasons He should make her grow and develop at a normal pace. I laid out my plans for her, my plans to raise her to love Him and serve Him. I explained what a blessing her life could be. Finally, I arrived in the grocery store parking lot and turned off the engine. There, in the darkness and quiet, I stopped telling God what He should do. I was out of words. So I just sat in the silence and cried.
In the quiet, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. Jennifer, did you or did you not give Rachel to Me? When you said you dedicated her to Me, were those empty words? Do you trust me? Remember, I love Rachel even more than you do. I know what is best. Trust me. Give her to me.
Sobbing, I asked God to forgive me. And in that moment, I truly placed Rachel in His hands.
There were moments that I wanted to take her back, moments when I was tempted to believe I could handle being in control. But the Holy Spirit gently nudged me each time and I remembered my conversation with Him.
As it turned out, all of Rachel’s tests revealed nothing. For a long time, she was not even on the growth charts. Her lines were way below the zero percentile. For one year, a physical therapist worked with her to develop her gross motor skills. A speech therapist taught me how to work with the muscles in her mouth so she would be able to eat solid food. In time, though, Rachel did grow and develop.
Today, she is a short eight year old who can run and jump and twirl and dance. She still has some sensitivities with food textures and, of course, she has Tourette Syndrome, which we believe is unrelated to her developmental and growth delays as a baby.
When she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and now, on her rough days, I still need the Holy Spirit to gently remind me that Rachel belongs to God. He loves her far more than I do, and He has perfect plans for her. I can trust Him.
And so, even when I am tempted, I do not take her back. I mean for God to keep her because I know she is better off in His care than she is in mine. I trust Him. And not only with Rachel, but with my five other most precious gifts. I have no giver’s remorse.