“They are calling in an ambulance to take you and your son to the main hospital in Oslo.”
The sentence crashed in around my weary, beleaguered postpartum brain as I clutched my husband’s hand. I sat blinking in shock at the young tall pediatric doctor dressed in blue who had just spoken. Twelve hours ago I had delivered what we thought was a perfectly healthy 9 lb. baby boy. After a very short post-birth check our delivery midwife had sent us to our room for the night just across the hall, reassuring us that we would go straight home the next morning. After a seemingly extra long and difficult pregnancy while living in a foreign country, giving birth to my fourth child in small, country Norwegian hospital had quickly risen to the top of my list of hard things I have done in my 32 years of life. I had fallen into a blissful, ignorant sleep after only a few hours of labor and delivery, my son’s tiny little body tucked beside me, not knowing that my challenges were just beginning.
The young doctor had discovered something. Something so small yet so significant about my son’s digestive system. Something that required immediate surgery. Something that necessitated being swiftly sent on one of those bright neon yellow European ambulances to the biggest hospital in the country of Norway.
As the soft-spoken, gentle doctors, nurses, and medics conversed among themselves in a language that I only barely understood the rooms and halls swirled. As they strapped me and the tiny little person I just birthed onto an ambulance stretcher, I felt every emotion possible racing through my veins. Fear. Anger. Confusion. Grief. Weariness. Despair.
The three hour drive to Oslo laying on my back in an ambulance with stranger sitting beside me was the longest drive I’ve ever taken. I held back the building storm of tears as I held tightly to my son wrapped in a knitted wool mint green blanket that some kind old Norwegian lady donated to the NICU floor. A nurse had slipped it over him last minute before they wheeled us down the hall. I stared numbly out at the the snow packed fields and hills flying past. It was January 3, 2020.
As the hours passed and we arrived at the bigger hospital. One thing was clear our son would need surgery the very next day in order for him to live. And he would need multiple surgeries in the months to come. As all the emotions and thoughts collided back and forth against themselves on the shores of my heart. One feeling came into sharp, poignant focus, reverberating against the fabric of my skin.
I felt so powerless. So weak. So empty. I could not fix my son. I could not save him. I could not even hold him because hours after his surgery he was covered in wires and tubes and monitors. How could this tiny little human that my body had help create not be perfectly put together? I had already done it three times before with success. What had gone wrong? None of the doctors could explain why it happened. It was just one of things that randomly could happen to 1 in 5000 kids they said.
For the first time in my life I truly felt like I had nothing to offer, nothing to give, no control and no explanation for anything.
I could not be enough. Not for myself, not for my son and not for anyone around me for that matter.
My phone had been going off for hours and messages came in from around the world from friends and family back home in the US. So many people with well meaning words of comfort repeating the phrase “You are strong. Stay strong. Keep on being strong.”
I was not strong. I was weak. Trembling weak. Faint-hearted weak. Sobbing your guts out weak. My husband and I lay on our hotel bed that first night and just cried for nearly an hour until we faded into exhausted sleep, two floors down from where our baby boy lay sleeping surrounded by intensive care nurses.
I raged at God, but no words came out except the cry for mercy. I was at His mercy and that of the medical staff of Rikshospitalet, which translates to the King’s hospital in Norwegian.
I was truly at the mercy of the King. I was truly not enough. I needed His care. His comfort. His presence. There was no strength and ability in me to fix any of this.
Isn’t this where we all should be? Shouldn’t we all come to this place where there is nothing left but God? As painful as my son’s birth and diagnosis was I can say I have never felt so acutely the reality of God. Yet it takes faith to say: I am not enough but He is.
But it should not take just a traumatic situation in life to force us to realize this reality is true. We are not enough. We cannot save ourselves or anyone around us for that matter. Look at history and we see person after person, people after people and nation and after nation, trying desperately, vainly and hopelessly to save themselves. We have been trying to save ourselves since the garden. We were created from the beginning with a deep and holy need for God. We can be angry and afraid of this or we can embrace the beauty and freedom of what this truly means.
I am not enough. Say it. Hold it. Touch it. Remember it. Believe it.
And then grab hold of the garment of the one Who is. Hold fast to Him. Do not let Him go.
“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Creation is desperate to be enough. We claw at it with tenacious talons of fear, greed and lust. We want to be the strong ones. We glorify it, we praise it and we hopelessly are in love with it. Ambition, success and influence are the pretty names we label it, trying to hide behind some type of righteousness. Yet, the very One who is enough, came to earth to be one of us and passed through our brokenness so that we might find our enoughness in Him alone.
As we run away from everything that brings us pain, grief and terror, He reaches out from a bloody cross and from the resurrected grave and speaks with profound authority and power, My blood is enough. He suffered as we suffer. He knows the pain of living in a world riddled by death and decay.
“He knows our frame, he remembers we are but dust.” Psalm 103:14
As I finally held my son for the first time after his first surgery, his body felt so tiny, so fragil, so breakable. Cords were still attached to him monitoring his breathing and heartbeat. Every heartbeat is a count down to eternity. Death is close to all of us. We are not enough to stop it. This life is but a breath and we are not the answers to our own searching and wanderings.
And in our wanderings, in our misery and wretched weeping a good and faithful God meets us. He sits with us. He holds us. He wraps Himself in skin and washes our feet. He grips our hands and wipes our tears. He does not despise our weakness, but embraces it Himself.
As I kissed my son’s fresh brand new skin, I remembered that God is who He says He is. He is enough. He is Yahweh. And months before this child came into the world, bursting through the membranes of blood and water and tears. We gave our son a name. The name of Elijah. Our God is Yahweh. This beautiful brown eyed boy, born in to a world broken and bruised with longing and finding it in all the wrong places, reminds us that God is who He says He is.
“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
In my grief and anguish I could see more clearly how truly near God is. He brings His wholeness, perfectness and completeness to our emptiness, brokenness and weakness. For everyone who has experienced pain, loss and heartache don’t be afraid when you are not enough. Embrace it. For in this place you may taste a bit of heaven and indeed will find God. For He is in the broken places, the humble and lowly places. He is in all the places that require saving, fixing, redeeming and rescuing.
He is the God of enough. And He always will be. So let go of your tenacious hold on being the own savior of your soul and fix your eyes on the redeemer of all mankind. He is better than you ever thought possible.
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot.”Psalm 16:5