Long before Seinfeld created a very funny episode called Bubble Boy, which always comes to mind when the Moors are mentioned (which is not often enough to my mind), I read about a real Bubble Boy in one of my mom’s magazines. I cannot recall if it was McCall’s or Ladies Home Journal; these were the two magazines that my and so many 60’s moms received each month. When we were very young we used to pore over the Betsy McCall cut-outs and fight over whose turn it was to get them. Having four sisters meant you had to wait a while to get a full collection, but we were still excited just to see the new outfits. (I wonder if post cut-out kids can appreciate all the wonder and joy we got from such simple things; it seems funny now to think of it, but trust me-those cut-outs were a big deal! )
As I got older, I would glance at the cut-outs but move on to the stories. I have always been a sucker for a heart wrenching true story, and the Bubble Boy story was a great one. At the time of course I could not see a metaphor in this young man’s story; I was merely captivated by his daily struggle living inside a bubble. I knew nothing of immune systems, germ theory, or aseptic technique. Being a young middle school kid at the time, I mostly wondered what he felt and thought each day, how he made friends, or fit in, why this happened to him, (and why it did not happen to me). I had not known much sorrow at this point in life, other than a stray dog who had decided not to return home after three weeks of residence on our back porch, losing my brand new purse after only having it for three days, or my many trips to the dentist. My life was pretty uncomplicated, revolving around family, school, friends, and church. After reading the article on the Bubble Boy, a lasting impression was left that there was a lot of sorrow out in the world that I had not been privy to. Ah the bliss of ignorance! Growing up always includes an awareness of the sorrows as well as the joys in life, and this I suppose is the reason most of us grown-ups smile wistfully when a little one says they cannot wait to grow up.
I thought of Bubble Boy lately because I have many grieving and/or worried people in my life at this time, probably due to my age. There is the newly diagnosed cancer patient, there is the cancer patient who is still fighting and making me laugh as he fights, there is the one who lost a beloved sibling, there is the young couple who lost a child, there is the older person who has had one health disaster on top of the other, there is the dedicated doctor who is now a cancer patient, there is the dearly missed brother-in-law who passed last summer, there is the doctor who was killed while out jogging, there is the mother with a child in constant pain, and there are others who are lonely and wanting to marry, or who are desirous of children, or who need financial help, or who are worried to the point of sickness about someone they love. I know these people and love them, and pray for them, but feel helpless to fix any of it. Let me rephrase; I am helpless to fix any of it.
Watching all of this happen around me makes me worry at times-when will it be my turn to suffer in this way (first-hand that is)? And when it comes how will I deal with it? Will I wrestle with God in anger as some understandably do? Of course I will. Will I feel hopeless? Probably. Will I smile when others try to comfort me, but think that they don’t know what they are talking about? Maybe. Will I feel that others cannot understand my pain and mock their feeble attempts to soothe my suffering? Probably. If nothing else I am a whiner at heart, so a hearty yes to all items. I will probably reread C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed and revel in his honest rants about his sorrow. Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy also comes to mind.
But what else is there for me? If my weak faith in a sovereign, loving God still has enough power to create the tiniest flame–I will try to remember my earlier belief that God is good and that He has a plan for me. If that tiny spark catches, I will fan that flame like there is no tomorrow, and invite others to fan it with me. It will not be the Tinkerbell kind of faith, where we get enough TV watchers to clap their hands so Tink won’t die; no it will be more of painful surrender to continue to believe in the goodness and sovereignty of God, accompanied by the need to surround myself with others who also have that belief. C.S. Lewis speaks to me here:
Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
In a sense, I am a Bubble Boy; I believe that all the things that happen to me are planned or permitted by a loving God; nothing that happens to me is an accident, even if it is a tragedy. All the bad things are not kept out of my bubble-but rather things that God permits to
pierce through. However nothing that happens to me takes Him by surprise. He is never caught off guard by what enters my life and then rushes into damage control. That’s what we do. He is calm, and collected (but not cool-as the Bible shows us that he feels our sorrows very deeply.) When tragedy strikes I usually fall apart. Just because I believe that God is good does not mean I don’t hit the panic button and rail on Him for a time. Again C.S. Lewis said it much better than I can:
What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”
So yes, I believe He is good AND I am afraid of what He may permit to enter my bubble. I cannot pretend that I am not afraid of what may come, and even if I did fool you or myself, there is One I can never fool. So my fellow Bubble Boys–can we clap our hands together to say that God is still good and that He loves us? Not to make it true, but to support each other in our weakness because it is true, all evidence to the contrary. May I pray for you to have grace and peace during this difficult time?
There is no feel good/happy ending to such a post, but reality may offer some comfort. I recall Isaiah’s description of Jesus. He was perfect– yet a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. God the Father both planned and permitted horrible things to come into His bubble if you will, to suffer on the cross on our behalf. And by His wounds we are healed.
Finally a prayer for all of us Bubble Boys:
I really don’t like what You let happen to me; ok, who am I kidding? I hate it. Hate it with all of my being to be honest. And I am mad at You about it at times–really, really mad. I mean You not only hurt me, but have You seen what this is doing to my family? Oh…wait…of course you do….forgive me…but the thing is…I just don’t understand why this is happening. There is no good in it from where I sit.
I still think if I understood why, I would feel better but perhaps that isn’t the case? I know part of the why is that sin entered the world and with it, sickness and sadness. But that does not really help because deep down I still thought that if I loved You back, You would not let anything bad come. And now I see that is not at all true. So…we seem to be at an impasse.
Here is what I can do today. I cannot shout from the mountaintops that You are holy and good. I wish I could. But as I sit quietly in my hospital room, kitchen, car, doctor’s office with my pain and sorrow my ever-present companions, I would like to ask You to help me to believe that You are good, and that You love me. And that You are fully aware of all my thoughts and pains and tears. Can You help me to believe in You as you truly are? Can You surround me with others to help me believe that? I think that would help.
And one last thing…I almost forgot…I guess You know a little something about suffering. While I am doing it under great protest, You did it willingly, on my behalf. I owe You many thanks even though I don’t fully comprehend what You did. Even if I sound like an ingrate-and am often…thank You.
Sincerely, Your Bubble Boy (the whiny one)