The Broke-Down Bible And Pineapple Debacle
It started innocently enough. It was late on a Saturday night. We had recently returned home from a family wedding and were just beginning to relax and unwind from the weekend's festivities and stress. I prepared a snack for my older son and I that we were finishing before sending him to bed. We were eating pasta salad, grapes, and pineapples out of a three sectioned purple Tupperware dish and talking about our day. I reached down for a piece of pineapple and the baby got all excited. He had tasted pineapple the day before, during the rehearsal dinner.
I had been in the buffet line during that time, and had spotted my husband allowing the baby to gum a piece of pineapple. Relatives were remarking how cute it was. He seemed to really enjoy it, although to me it seemed very dangerous. I hadn't offered him any myself because of that, but this night, as I brought the pineapple up to my lips, the baby reached for it. When I put it in my mouth and started to eat it, he got upset. "How mean!" said his dad. "How can you let him see it and not give him any?"
So I gave in. I held a piece of that soft, juicy fruit to his lips and watch him bear down in it with his gums. As I watched,I was thinking that it probably felt very good to teething gums. It was cold, soft, yet gave resistance to his nubs of teeth that threatened to break through the gums. As I was watching, I suddenly realized the piece of pineapple I was holding was significantly smaller than it had been. A sudden cold sweat broke across my brow as realization crowned. The missing piece was in the baby's mouth!
At the same time that thought dawned on me, I saw the baby's face grow red and heard him begin to choke. I leaned him over my leg and smacked his back, but nothing came out and he was having trouble getting air. My only thought was to get that piece out of his mouth now! I reached in with my crooked finger to fish it out, but only managed to push it further in.
His little body was nearly limp when I handed him to my husband, horror stricken, in the hopes that he could help. His instinct was the same as mine, which was to try to fish it out, but this time we knew we had mere seconds to pull it off, and when it didn't happen, he instead forced it further down, a move brought on by some dim memory of a family story of a little boy saved from such action.
Suddenly my baby began to breathe better. He cried a little, then smiled a little, then fell asleep. I held him in my arms and thanked God he was alive, but inside I was still panicked. My husband had dialed 911 during the middle of all this, but had hung up, and now they were on the phone. I wanted them to come out, I wanted them to tell me he was going to be okay. I feared that the pineapple piece had been pushed into his lungs and that it could become a larger complication. I asked for medical personnel to come check him out.
During the twenty five minutes we waited for the ambulance, my husband tried to reassure me he was fine. In some ways, he seemed better and more comfortable than he had been the past few days, during which time he had been battling a cold. His color was pale, though, and he seemed too calm, too sleepy. I was terribly worried and could not relax.
During this time, my older son was asking questions, because he had witnessed the whole thing and was very worried as well.
"You know what that was?" my husband asked him. "That was God. God was watching over him and said it was not his time to die."
But I was afraid God had other plans.
For months now, I have prayed to God about my baby. For years, really, if you think about the years preluding this, during which I prayed for a fat, happy baby just like this little fellow.
I wanted a baby like I had wanted nothing else in my life. When I lost a life inside me previously, it was God's strength and my faith that had gotten me through it. In fact, my faith in him was redeemed through that loss. I began to delve more deeply into scripture and what God wanted of us. One of the edicts sent down from Himself is to love no others before him.
In the months following the birth of my baby, I had prayed daily for my little one. I always thanked God for him, told God how much I loved this little boy, how I loved him more than anything in this world, and I would fervently request that God let me keep him. I was afraid I loved him so much it was a sin, and I would assure God in my prayers that I loved Him first. "I promise, God, I love you best, please let me hold on to this one, please let me be with him in this life, I promise I'll always love you more than him."
Sometimes it seems when I talk to others about the way I view God, they wonder why I envision such a vengeful God, a God that just might take a baby away from me out of jealousy because I loved him more. The truth is, it is not revenge that I am afraid of. I am more afraid of a test of faith, much like the test Job was put to.
You might not be reminscent of the story of Job. I am, having read it several times over in in order for extracting some kind of meaning out of it. I felt compelled to do this after the day my youngest dog "got religion". One Sunday morning when said dog was a puppy, I was sleeping in when I had the sudden realization that the door was ajar, the door that usually kept this puppy confined to my immediate supervision. I also realized that the house was suspiciously quiet. I walked down the hall to the living room, only to find the floor littered with various objects the puppy had been dissecting with his jowls. In the middle of this sea of jetsam rose a small table I kept in the living room, and on that table was my brand new Bible, laying open to the Book of Job.
This Bible had been a special gift from a couple of women in my bible study group. I was in need of a Bible and had admired the one that one of the women brought regularly. Upon joining the church two weeks prior, she and another girl presented me with the gift of same Bible. It was so beautiful; leatherbound, with gilded pages and my name engraved on the cover. Now it lay with torn pages and chew marks along the edges of the leather. I had to repair the page that it was lying upon to, a page that began the chapter, "Job is Restored" (Job 42:1-17).
The joke now is that every time I try to ask God what he wants me to learn from this book, I let the Bible fall to whatever page it will open to, and it always falls opn to this one spot. A person who looks for signs in life, as I do, might see that and take it as a sign. Or you could accept that maybe it just opens to that spot because the dog chewed it and now its spine is bent in that particular spot. I joke about it, but I read it anyway, just in case I am supposed to see something in the story that speaks to me.
There is a lot in the chapter, but the main idea, the story of Job, is this. One day Satan breezes by and is talking about having his way in the world when God points out Job to him, and remarks of his faith and character. When Satan comes back, boasting, God points out Job again and he and the Devil make a little wager. God urges Satan to test Job and see if he ever loses his faith in Him. So the devil gets to work, and soon Job is stripped of his wealth, his belongings, and his children. His faith perservered. So Satan went back and this time stripped him of his health, his dignity, his status in the community. At this point, three friends of Job's come and sit with him, and their discourse on God's powers makes up the majority in the chapter. Because Job passed the test, however, he was rewarded with twice as much as he started from.
I think about that. I wonder if God lets the Devil test our faith as well, by letting him remove those things from our lives that we care about. I also think we as humans, myself included, try to manipulate God's will through prayer, believing that simply because we want it, it may change God's plan for us; simply through his compassion, we shall be saved. To humble ourselves before our God means to let go of our designs for life, and accept what he has planned for us.
That is not to say we can't "vote" on it by putting in our request via prayer. God wants us to ask for the things we want, I have been told. I pray mostly when I am worried. Since the moment of conception, I have worried with the notion of losing this baby, and I have prayed about it ever since. This was my desperate fear, brought to light first in the concerns to my doctor about another miscarriage, then during the objections of my psychiatrist, who was concerned the medications I had been on could cause birth defects, and "the office would strongly recommend you have an abortion". There was no way they were going to get me to let go of this life inside me, this life I bonded with at the instant it was begun. I was worried about the possiblity of loss, the very real fear something might be drastically wrong with him, and when he was finally born, full of fight and fury, I marveled upon him and nearly began to cry tears of relief and thanksgiving to my God, who let me have him after all, very whole and vital. I felt like now the worry would be gone, now I could relax and just let myself love him.
Within a few hours, though, I realized that I was completely wrong. Just because he was brought into this world did not mean he was safe in it. The nurses took him down to the NICU to be evaluated for a strange grunting noise he was making. The grunting was inspiratory effort, and he was admitted to the NICU and never returned to his birthroom, where I lie waiting for someone to tell me what was going on.
In the middle of the night, a doctor came and sat by my bed, and informed me that they were very concerned, that there was fluid in his lungs, he was having trouble breathing, and they had him on an IV and in an oxygen chamber for the meantime. He told me that he hoped for the best outcome, but that a lot of it was up to him, up to this little baby. He said he would know a lot more about how he would fare in 48 hours, but that he could say for a fact that this precious little boy would not be leaving the hospital with me. When he left the room, I began to cry to myself silently in the dark, and began a dialogue with God in my head. It was the only thing I could do, praying.
I left the hospital alone a couple of days and a few more diagnoses later, and the next four days were a blur of driving back and forth to the hospital, bringing "liquid gold" for my little one (colostrum, pumped out in agony with no external stimulation to drive milk letdown), who was hooked up to various monitors, lines going every which way. My husband kept trying to assure me that God did not give us this little one just to take him away, but like last weekend, I was not so sure. Ultimately God decides what our fate is in this life, and how can we be so sure His plans do not include stripping us of this tender life? It is not as if no one ever loses a child.
During the dark moments of my faith, I think about my broke-down Bible. I think about the meaning of the Book of Job. I wonder if God has shown me the sign that my faith will be tested, and I have to accept that no matter what happens, it is in His hands. Why would this God, who let his only son die a terrible death at the hands of the Romans, let me keep my son? Perhaps he is only letting me have him now as leverage in the game of faith. If he took him, would I have the strength to remain faithful?
These thoughts ran through my mind as I held my sleeping baby across my chest in the ER that night, as I held on to his little hands during his chest x-ray, as I drove home through the quiet night after getting the all clear from the doctors, after coming home a couple of days later to the rasping and wheezing of his breath sounds, through the diagnosis from his doctor of RSV and bronchial inflammation, throughout each one of these days as I remember the slickness of that pineapple in his throat, and how we each are only inches away from death every day. Only faith gets us through.