Today we’re featuring a guest post from Sarah Raymond Cunningham. Sarah is an author, idea junkie and Chief Servant to a four year old Emperor and his one year old Chief of Staff. She does freelance work organizing conferences and supporting publishers while drinking chai in Michigan. Sarah’s new book containing other similar wisdom she’s collected from veterans of the faith and humanitarian arenas is now out. The Well Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide To Staying Sane While Doing Good is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold.
There were several moments that led me to suspect this family vacation was not going to be the perfect one.
There was the moment I tried—unsuccessfully—to manage the volume of my two children as we waited in the airport’s baggage check area for my husband to bring the rental car.
Yes, this was the moment when my usually light-hearted four month old decided to repeatedly screech as if he was a human fire alarm. And also, simultaneously, the moment when the three year old decided he would simulate being Super Mario in some new airport land complete with benches to jump on and fake potted plants to give him firepower upon contact.
Then there was the moment when the three year old split his head open on an airport chair, and I responded with the monotone “You’re fine, that’s why you should listen” before even noticing that gushing blood had already filled my two hands.
The next moments came quickly after that.
There was the moment I grabbed a complete stranger, a random guy in a hoodie who looked like maybe if he had a full beard he could pass for twenty-five, and asked him to watch my infant so I could take my bleeding toddler into the bathroom to assess the cut.
Then the moment I passed an elderly couple and asked them if they could please watch the hoodie guy who I had just appointed to watch my four month old all while trying to clot my son’s head with my sweathshirt-turned-tourniquet.
Then the moment when the blood would not stop despite the illustrious first aid training I received in 9th grade health class. Then the moment I sat in a packed out waiting room full of the impatient sick and wounded. At 3:00 a.m. With a still-bleeding three year old on my lap. Then finally the moment they stapled his head back together.
Then the moment when the sun rose and we had still not checked into our hotel.
Yes, somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that if all this had happened within minutes of us arriving in Florida, this was not going to be the perfect vacation.
It also occurred to me that if this injury had happened on vacation—if God allowed such mishaps on the days we sought refuge and relaxation—that this was also not going to be the perfect life. For me or my children.
I was reminded how despite my heart for them, I was not going to be able to prevent my children from the flaws and harm that would inevitably come to them.
But while battling exhaustion, I tried to reason my way toward inner peace. First, I decided I was not going to let this emergency room moment dictate the tone of the rest of our vacation. And then, as I thought about it, I further decided to try not let the fear of the worst inform the rest of our life together.
Some people seem to be faith machines. They are just sacred on top of sacred, instinctively breeding positive emotions as if optimism runs through their veins. They seem to be naturally in tune with the laws of the universe and maybe even immune to worry.
But that’s not me. I wasn’t born impervious to panic. I have to work at limiting anxiety’s place in my life.
Every time I see my children try something new—when they first get on a bike, for instance—I have to first hear out the panicked inner voice that suggests they might break their leg. I have to feel little heart pangs at the imagined visual of them laying on the ground, bike on top of them, bone protruding from their little legs. And I have to squelch it.
I have to remind myself that imagination and truth are two separate things. And my mind’s ability to project the worst case scenario doesn’t make the worst case scenario likely to happen.
I have to remind myself, in this moment, that my kid probably won’t in fact break his leg. That he’s more likely going to build years of memories riding bikes out in nature without this shiny-two-wheeled-death-machine ever sending him to the ER. I have to remind myself that I actually do not even know anyone who has broken their leg on a bicycle.
I have to play the odds in my head, and realize it would be a very poor choice to let such a small likelihood of the worst case scenario inject every family experience with fear. I have to surrender that even if they do at some point break a leg, that I am powerless to predict when it will be and unable to protect them from all the possible injuries life could hold them.
This moment may not have been my perfect vacation, but it was the perfect reminder of why as a follower of Christ, I have to repeatedly choose to approach not just my eternity but also my every day existence with an attitude of faith instead of fear.