Blissful Ignorance

We had a writers’ circle meeting tonight, and in the absence of anything specifically written for the occasion, I read out something I wrote a while ago for the Faithwriters’ weekly challenge. The challenge was to write a piece in any genre, between 150 and 750 words on the topic of “predicament”. I remarked tonight that I couldn’t really think of the purpose of this piece, where I could use it; and the general consensus was that I should publish it as a blog post, so here it is. It is a true story – there is a word of explanation at the end.

Blissful Ignorance

I looked at the woman on the other side of my desk, clutching the tiny child on her lap. How much did she really suspect? I wondered. The baby was fifteen months old, and the examination I had just undertaken sent chills down my spine, especially as the mother seemed so untroubled.

I tested the waters. “Do you know why your Health Visitor made this appointment?”

She shrugged. “She was concerned. She thinks she should be doing more by now.”

“And what about you? Are you concerned?” I looked at the child, her head turned to one side, elbows tightly bent, fists clenched with the thumbs across the palms, legs scissoring, the total stiffness of her body demonstrating the spasticity of the muscles.

The mother shook her head. “No. She was more than 3 months early. She’s been desperately sick for the past fifteen months. Of course she’s behind in her development. You’d expect her to be. But I’m not worried. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her.”

I studied her carefully. How much should I tell her? I had got to know this young lady quite well. This was her second very premature baby in just over two years, and I’d seen more of her than of most of our parents.

I remembered the day I mentioned that the baby had Wilson-Mikity Syndrome. Most parents would have asked me superficial questions and left it at that. Not this one. She said nothing at the time, but came back the next day full of information, facts and figures, using medical terminology with clear understanding. Long before the days of computers, she had evidently been to the public library and sat there until she had committed to memory everything she could find out about Wilson-Mikity Syndrome. She knew it meant her baby could die, and that if she recovered it might take weeks or months. She could cite studies of previous cases. Right then I set her down as someone with an enquiring mind and a lively intelligence.

She was shifting a little uncomfortably in her chair, waiting for me to say something. I had been silent during these reflections, to the point where the silence was becoming awkward. What should I tell her now? She genuinely seemed blithely unaware of the seriousness of her baby’s condition. I could not get any of the normal motor responses from the child. Her limbs didn’t jerk when I tapped her knees and elbows with the hammer. Her head obstinately refused to go into any position except turned to the right. Her fists would not uncurl, and her arms refused to extend – the left one was far tighter than the right. Already the adductor tendons were showing signs of shortening so that it was becoming difficult to part her legs enough to put her nappy on. There was little sign of recognition or intelligence in her eyes. I was certain the child would never walk. Probably she would never sit up unsupported. I doubted whether she had the intelligence ever to learn any speech.

And here sat her mother, telling me that she expected her daughter to be behind in her development, and didn’t think there was anything wrong with her. She needed to know the truth, but did she need to know it all right now?

“I have to tell you,” I said, “I’m very worried indeed.” I told her I would make another appointment, that I needed to see her again. “There is a problem with her motor responses,” I added, knowing that the mother would have no idea what this meant. “She is going to need some physiotherapy.”

She looked at me with a penetrating gaze for a few moments. “What exactly are you saying?” she asked.

“What exactly I’m saying,” I repeated, “is that she has a problem with her motor responses and she’s going to need some physiotherapy.”

“Ok.” The mother took the appointment card I held out to her and rose to go. I was pretty certain by the time she came back she would have been to the library, looked up motor responses, and figured out for herself that her baby had severe cerebral palsy . There is just no easy way to say this to a parent. I could only hope I had handled it right.

(This is a true story, and I was the mother. I can recall the conversation vivdly, but I decided to try and imagine it from the doctor’s viewpoint.)

Of rats and coffee

This is an entry for a blog contest, to write a 500 word blog inviting someone to accept the salvation Jesus offers them, and explaining why they should. The links in the article are a requirement of the contest. The second link is to a Gospel presentation whose truth I agree with but the hard-sell evangelism doesn’t sit well with British culture, and isn’t how I would go about it! The contest requires that we post this to our own blog as well as uploading it to the Faithwriters site.

Blog contest for
The voice on the phone was bursting with excitement. My friend Jen was on a work placement, doing cancer research.

“I think I’m onto something,” she told me. “It could be the cure for cancer. If I get consistent results with the rat tissue, I’ll try it with human tissue.” Jen had discovered that ordinary caffeine, as found in coffee, appeared to destroy cancer in rat cells. Sadly, it didn’t have the same effect with human cells, and wasn’t the cure she had been hoping for.

However, it got me thinking. Only a week before, a friend’s husband had said, “What I don’t like about these Christians is the way they keep trying to tell everyone what they believe. Why can’t they just keep it to themselves?” Jen was uncharacteristically excited when she thought she had found a cancer cure. In Jesus, we have the cure for something worse than cancer, an eternal disease which will separate us from God, from all love and joy, for all eternity. Why wouldn’t we share this with the world?

Our greatest need is not for happiness, but for forgiveness. Until we see this, we are like the patient who is unaware that he has cancer. He feels well, he has no worries about his health, he is ignorant of the fatal threat developing silently inside him. Once the cancer is diagnosed, he is more anxious and unhappy than before, but his plight is better than it was, because the disease has been exposed, the cure can begin. The cure may be deeply unpleasant, involving vomiting, weakness and baldness. But it is killing the cancer, and his chances of survival are improving.

As long as we are happy and we believe we are quite good people, we are unaware of the truth. No matter how well we measure up to other people, God’s standard is holiness. If He were to allow us into heaven in our unforgiven state, it would be like allowing a piece of paper to come close to a flame – His holiness would destroy us. It’s because he longs for our salvation, not our destruction, that He provided a remedy.

Imagine a judge so kind and loving that he let off every offender. The judicial system would fall apart and no victim would receive justice. If God just forgave us, this is what He would be like. Our only hope lies in recognising that we cannot save ourselves, and that God has provided salvation for us in Jesus. All we must do is trust Him and what He has done for us, and we are cured not only from the power of sin in our lives here and now, but from its eternal consequences too. It becomes as if we had never sinned, and we are fit to be spared from hell and received into heaven. This is good news indeed. No wonder we want to share it! Find out more here: