Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bell’s Palsy

“Look, Mommy, my mouth doesn’t work right!”

It was the 4th of July, and my family had gathered for a barbeque. Six-year-old Bethany had been playing outside with her cousins when she ran giggling into the house.

“Smile!” I demanded, curious as to what she meant.

She meant what she said. When she tried to smile only one side of her mouth curved up. The other side was frozen, unresponsive.

My mom panicked at the thought of a stroke, but I had a friend who had experience Bell’s Palsy. That’s where my mind went. We rushed Bethany to the emergency room, where she was indeed diagnosed with this strange malady.

Bell’s Palsy results when the facial nerve that runs through the side of the face swells. Usually caused by some kind of infection, the swelling causes weakness and paralysis on that side of the face.

In Bethany’s case, the Palsy was pretty severe: she had absolutely no control over the facial muscles on that side of her face. Her smile was lopsided, her taste buds were off, and she could not blink that eye. Because of that, we had to put eye drops in every hour to keep it from drying out and cracking. At night, we had to squeeze ointment in it and tape her eye shut. It was a bit of a pain, but extremely necessary.

visine

Did I love her less because of the handicap? Absolutely not! In fact, it drew my heart even closer to her. I’m her mom, and I willingly did whatever I could to help her get through it, and over it. My heart hurt for her even as I tried to encourage her.

It took several months before the swelling reduced enough for her to regain muscle control. She still has a bit of residual weakness in her eyelid: she cannot wink without an exaggerated effort. We can live with that!

In terms of our human nature, God see areas of weakness in each of us too. We all struggle with different character flaws as we go through life; pride, a biting tongue, selfish motives. Even if no one else sees it, God does. Yet He is our Father, and none of that makes Him love us less. He sees us as we are, yet also longs to see us strong and healthy. His love motivates Him to do what is necessary in our lives to see that happen.

He encourages us. He is patient with us in the process, but He is persistent. Ultimately, if we let Him, He heals us and grants us new strength.

Because He is our Father. He knows us, and loves us still.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

Further reflection:

1. Where do you see God at work, strengthening your character?

2. What methods has He used to help you grow stronger?

3. Are you cooperating with Him to change, or fighting Him?

Father, You understand how very weak I am. I am grateful that it neither changes Your love for me, nor causes You to give up on me. Show me where You are working. I want to grow stronger—please help me to work with You to that end, and not to fight You.

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