Thursday, March 29, 2012
Vomit and Ice Pops
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” Romans 8: 18
Well, everyone in my family except for me has gotten hit with a bad stomach virus this week. From 2 year-old Joey all the way up to my 80 year-old mother-in-law it’s been one, non-stop vomit train since last Sunday night. And it’s still going. But in all of this a funny thing happened today. All week my son Bennie (who is 4) has been begging for popsicles, gelatin and ginger ale. I guess in his four-year-old mind it has been unfair that everyone else gets to have these special treats while he has had to eat stuff like grilled cheese, cereal, fruit, orange juice and milk. The kid has a rough life. Anyway, every time he has asked, my wife and I have responded by telling him that those things are only for people who have thrown up; which of course then makes him start wishing out loud that he could get sick. Then we tell him that even if he were to get sick, he would have to wait for two hours without vomiting before he could have a popsicle.
Well, this morning as I was getting ready for work he came to me and said he had to throw-up, so I grabbed the closest vomit pail (it seems like we have them in every room) and proceeded to hold it out towards him. Just in time, because he immediately started using it (I’ll spare you the details). After heaving for about a minute I was starting to ask him if he was done when he looked up at me with a HUGE smile and screamed, “Yippee, now in two hours I can have an ice pop!”
Kids. Boy can they teach us a lot. Pretty much everyone else that I know feels pretty lousy when they throw up. But not Bennie. I mean, that kid forgot about his suffering immediately (and trust me he was NOT enjoying the vomiting part) and focused on his reward. He was so thrilled to have finally thrown up so that he could get his popsicle.
Many people have often wondered how St. Paul could write about rejoicing in his sufferings. Many people wonder how someone could forget all about what they are going through. Perhaps you have wondered this as well. I know I have from time to time. But Bennie has shown all of us in a tangle example how we can rejoice in suffering. It’s not that we are enjoying the suffering. It’s not that we like it. It’s not that we are happy. There’s nothing phony about it: when we are sick, we feel bad. When we are in pain, it hurts. When we are being persecuted, it is tough and certainly not comfortable. But if we keep our eyes fixed on the PRIZE, then we can rejoice, even in the midst of pain, sorrow and suffering. If all we focus on is the pain, then that is all we will ever experience. But if we can focus on what comes after, then we can get through the pain and it seems like nothing in the end. Some women experience this when they give birth.
But what if there is no popsicle? What if the child is stillborn? What then? Well, ultimately the prize we look to is not to be found in this world or this life. As people of faith we need to constantly keep our eyes fixed on the prize of life eternal in heaven. The reality is that St. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ, and throughout the centuries thousands more have died for love of Christ. Sometimes this life is just hard and painful. In the end, all of us die, whether as friends of Christ or not—but we still die. And if we live each day knowing that something far greater and more beautiful than this life and world awaits us, then there is no reason that we too, cannot rejoice in our present day sufferings. Not in any phony, self-righteous or hypocritical way, but like a child. Like my Bennie.
Dear Jesus, please help me to have the joy of a child, even in the midst of suffering. Amen.