(This piece was first published as a column in the Staunton, Virginia News Leader)
My daughter wants to be a writer. Also a Sunday School teacher, a regular teacher, an artist, and a geologist. The latter come and go depending upon the whims of her six-year-old mind. The former, though, has been a constant in her young life. One she has become more passionate about in the last couple of years.
I asked her one morning what exactly she wanted to be a writer of. Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Would she write books or newspaper articles? Would they be secular or religious? The possibilities are many, I told her. Best to narrow things down a bit, even this early in the game.
She shrugged her answer and munched another bite of Cheerios. “Books, I guess,” she said.
“What kind of books?”
“Books for diabetic kids.”
I raised an eyebrow. My daughter continued munching. Then, feeling as though further clarification was needed, said, “God wants me to write books to help kids with diabetes. He told me.”
“Well,” she explained, “He didn’t tell me tell me. But why else would He have let me get diabetes if He didn’t want me to help kids who had diabetes?”
I managed a weak nod. Such is the faith of children, faith that sees clearly what adulthood often fogs.
My daughter was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes two years ago. Up until that time, I had never truly doubted God. Doubted myself? Yes. Humanity as a whole? Absolutely. But never God. Because He had always been there, always kept things right in my life, and always protected my family.
But when you’re sitting at the end of a hospital bed watching your sick child struggle to find sleep against the beeps of machines and the IV tubes running into her tiny body, you doubt God. You doubt Him a lot.
You wonder how He could allow such a thing to happen to someone so undeserving. How any sort of purpose or meaning could possibly be found in this happening. And you wonder if maybe, just maybe, all those people who say God is figment of our primeval imagination are right. Because if there was a God and if that God really loved us, then he wouldn’t let children suffer like this.
That’s what you think. What I thought, anyway. And though I still went to church and read my Bible and prayed, those thoughts just wouldn’t go away.
The faith that I held in God, faith that had been built and stripped and built better over thirty-six years, was crumbling. But my daughter’s faith, all two years of it, was growing stronger. The anger I held toward God paled in comparison to the love she continued to show towards Him. At nights when I would lie motionless in bed, praying but not, I could still hear her in the next room speaking to God as if He were sitting attentively on the edge of her bed.
“Bless Mommy and Daddy and thanks for the macaroni and cheese,” she would say. Thanks and thanks and more thanks. Never asking, never wanting, because in her mind she had all she needed, diabetes or not.
I pushed God away. She hugged Him closer.
We all have a why in life. Why did this happen? Why does it have to be this way? We all have questions we want answered. It’s just that some want to know because they want an excuse, and others want to know so they can do something. I wanted reasons. She wanted purpose. I suppose that’s why I never got my answer, but she did.
God wants her to write. He wants her to give Him the bad things that have happened and watch as He turns them to good. He doesn’t want her to give up, doesn’t want her to doubt. He wants her to help. Because in the end, that’s why she’s here. Why we’re all here.
I have no doubt she will do just that. And I have no doubt about this, too: I give my every day to teach my daughter something about this life. But she teaches me more.