By the time I was 12 years old I had withstood some pretty scary medical instances. The nature of Cystic Fibrosis is destruction of the entire body. It fills the body with sticky mucus, causing intestinal and pulmonary complications, pneumonia, weight loss, fatigue. Not only that, but each time there’s a pulmonary infection it scars the lungs, which is why life expectancy is well below average because eventually the lungs will fail to keep up, and that puts extra strain on the heart, and so on and so on. You can imagine the toll something like this takes on any body, let alone a child’s. Each time I would go into the hospital there was always that question in the back of everybody’s mind, is she coming out this time?
Because of my medical history, in 1995 I was granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To begin with, the patient makes three wishes (in order of priority) and the foundation tries to grant one of those wishes. So I wished for what every 12 year old girl in the 90’s would wish for: to meet Tom Cruise, or to go shopping in the largest mall in the world (I don’t remember the third wish. Whatever it was it clearly was not important to me even then). Unfortunately Tom Cruise couldn’t fit me into his Hollywood schedule, so I ended up with an all expenses paid trip to the Edmonton Mall in Canada.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the actual trip that made such an impact on me at this point in my life, it was the compassion shown leading up to it. It was the first time I had ever felt humbled. I knew something was being done for me that I didn’t deserve. I remember sitting at a Christmas party for my dad’s work a couple days before we left for our big trip, and his co-workers were presenting me with a money-tree to take along on my shopping spree. As we counted the bills, right there tears started to well in my eyes. I was completely overwhelmed with a feeling I had never encountered before. These people I didn’t even know cared about me; they cared about my family, they were touched by my story, and they were giving me a gift (close to a thousand bucks! Also known as, a fortune, for a 12 year old) just because they could. When my mom noticed I was all choked up she asked me what was wrong. I told her I didn’t know how to explain it, I was happy but I also felt like I shouldn’t be happy because I didn’t do anything to make people treat me this way. “That’s called humility,” she told me.
The incident with Make-A-Wish and the money-tree did two things for me. The first was introducing me to humility and showing me that my story matters to people. I had gotten used to feeling like a burden to my parents and trying to hide the fact that I had a disease, but this experience taught me that people will come around me and love on me despite the fact that I’m sick and even though I didn’t do anything to deserve their affection. The other thing this experience did for me was not such a positive thing, and that was to plant a seed in my thinking that would grow until my senior year in high school. That seed was pride. I started to believe that because I was sick people would give me special treatment, and that God would give me everything I wanted in life without much work on my part. As if He owed me for making me this way. It’s something I’m very grateful the Lord worked out in me before I went down a long dissatisfying path of selfishness…but we will get to that later.
Affects on Counseling
If there’s one thing this scenario will do in my counseling it is to help me encourage clients to acknowledge their weaknesses and allow the Lord’s power to be made perfect in them. The Lord is glorified when others love us and help us in our weaknesses, and His power is made perfect when He carries us through trials of many kinds. When we are afraid to talk about those weaknesses or the fact that we are in need of the Lord’s power, we deny Him the glory due Him. I want to exhort my clients to look for opportunities to point to Christ even in their weakness and humility.