Where is Matthew!? I ran down the stairs into the kitchen in a panic only to discover a pile of flour, banana skins, the fridge door open and other detritus scattered around, but no sign of my son.
For the first time in my life, I realised that giving Matthew some independence at night was not the best decision. I had only just managed to get off to sleep but my Matthew antennae was always ready to wake me up when I heard the slightest noise, never letting me truly relax.
Every night had become ‘play time’ for Matthew. Being blind had left him with little melatonin development. This is a key hormone for telling your brain that it is time to sleep. In the absence of this hormone, Matthew did not ever rest…. so neither did we! Every night was filled with the dread of what we would discover in the morning! A flooded bedroom, a flooded toilet, the kitchen redesigned…. I shudder when I think about those sleepless nights.
One night, I remember dreaming about a beautiful meadow with flowers on either side of a scented pathway. At the end of the pathway was a stunning eye stabbing green lawn fed by a gushing bubbling water fall. I remember running over to the waterfall and getting ready to jump into the vast, translucent lake at the base when I was abruptly woken by my husband Nigel in yet another state of panic. We both jumped out of the bed, ran down to Matthew’s room only to be met by a waterfall!! Matthew had managed to put on the basin tap AND the shower and was having a watery party all by himself. For the last few days he had found water increasingly exciting . Granted, it was hot but really….!
After spending three hours crying, laughing and planning the way ahead, Nigel and I decided to lock all the taps in the house and place the showerhead out of Matthew’s reach. We had decided we needed to make house safety a priority to support Matthew’s growing independence. We were so happy to see him beginning to show independence, taking himself to the toilet, washing his hands, knowing where his drink was in the fridge, taking time to understand where his favourite food was. All of this was excellent until we noticed that his independence was reeking havoc on the food bill, cleaning bill and our sanity.
Life seemed impossible and lonely. We believed we were alone with this lot until I spoke to a few of my really great friends who had young people and children with special needs. As I related my story, smiles came on their faces and heads nodded in recognition. Oh thank the Lord we were not alone on this journey. We were not alone in our boat as we journeyed down the river of life. Our boat was not empty.
There were many boats on the journey some moving a lot faster and smoother, some heading down estuaries toward beautiful meadows and grassland. Ours seemed to be constantly heading towards waterfalls and tumultuous rivets. We could only hold on tight to the sides of the boat as we saw the danger approaching. As we were about to fall down the waterfall, we realised that we were not alone in the boat, there were other families all experiencing the same fear. Then we all held hands, and someone in the boat grabbed a rope sent out to our boat from the bank 100 meters from the waterfall and together, we managed to stir ourselves towards the grassy bank together.
Are you that someone who sends out the rope? Do you come alongside people struggling with different circumstances that often seem more challenging than yours? Stephanie O. Hubach, in her book ‘Same Lake Different Boat’ talks about coming alongside people living with disabilities and helping to share the burden. She says
"There is a common expression 'We're all in the same boat.' One doesn't have to experience much of life to recognize that this is an oversimplification of reality. A more accurate statement would be same lake, different boat. It reflects the truth that, as human beings, we share a common story, but the details of our experiences and our life circumstances may vary significantly. We are essentially the same, but experientially different."…..
She goes on in her book to outline how to coming alongside people living with disabilities, sitting in their boat and sharing their world and how this brings comfort and support.
You are not alone in your ‘boat’ what ever it might be. Someone else has had the same experience as you. Talking and listening always helps. I found the experience of telling my story to someone so cathartic. I am reminded of Paul, in his letter to the members of the church in Corinth [i](1 Corinthians 1: 3 – 7), where he speaks about the blessing of receiving comfort from God and the joy you receive from sharing that comfort with others in situations similar to you.
Your boat is not empty; you are not alone. We are not alone in this pandemic. Trust in Him, he will never leave you. He might not take away the journey, but He will always be in the boat with you.
Stay strong, take the ride, your boat is not empty, there is someone there with you right now!
Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability by Stephanie O. Hubach (2006-09-13) Paperback
[i] 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.