I don’t like shots. Any kind of shot still makes my grown-up heart a little nervous. I know it’s only a prick. I know it’s only a second. But for goodness’ sake, it’s still a needle coming at me and doesn’t that make most people uncomfortable?
Worse than getting my flu shot is taking my kids to get their flu shots. They’re at the perfect ages to know exactly what’s coming. They cry or throw a fit or hide, sobbing, under the doctor’s chair.
This year I was a tad on edge. My oldest started kindergarten, and her kindergarten shots were just…well…extremely dramatic. Embarrassing. Ridiculous. So going into the flu shot just a few months after, I wasn’t holding her to any high expectations.
Over my coffee the morning of our appointment, I nonchalantly said, “Oh right, you guys have your flu shots today,” purposefully avoiding eye contact with them.
My six-year old daughter Heidi’s head shot up from her cereal.
“FLU SHOTS?!” she shrieked, panicked for a moment. I nodded, still not looking at her, and I shrugged.
“It should be quick,” I said. “No big deal. Then we can go to the playground.”
I felt her studying me. She was thinking, considering her reaction. Then she shrugged too.
“Oh, well it’s ok,” she said. “I got one last year and I don’t remember it hurting. I’ll be brave.”
And she was. She was even talking excitedly about it that morning as we got ready, telling her little brother it wouldn’t be so bad. As we walked into the doctor’s office, she looked up at me with a nervous smile and said, “Mom, I even think I’m kind of excited.”
About fifteen minutes later, as the nurse prepared the shots, Heidi changed her tune. I went first. Then daddy. Then it was Heidi’s turn. She marched up to the table, climbed up to sit on the paper, and promptly started to cry, shaking her head.
“I don’t want a shot!” she cried. “I’m scared!”
Her daddy sat down and scooped her into this lap. He told her he would hold her and she could hide her face in her chest. Still crying, she did just that. Her dad held her gently but firmly enough that she couldn’t wiggle free, even though she was trying to.
Just like that, the shot was over. Heidi kept sobbing, gripping her thigh and hanging her head, dejected and still feeling the remembered pain. I gave her a hug and told her how brave she was.
Her face red and splotchy, she wailed, “But mom, I wasn’t brave at all!! I cried!”
I felt such pride and tenderness towards her in that moment. How could she possibly think the presence of tears meant she wasn’t brave? How could she not see that the hours leading up to our appointment were full of confidence, courage, and even encouragement for her little brother?
She was so brave to me. It didn’t mean she did it all by herself. It didn’t mean she didn’t
cry. It didn’t mean she didn’t shake with fear, or that she didn’t try to inch away from the pain, or that she stood tall, chest out, when all was said and done. She didn’t have to be all brave or all scaredy cat. She could, in all her human gloriousness, be both! Hallelujah, praise Jesus, we can be both!
“But Heidi, you were brave,” I assured her, looking into her face. “You can be scared and brave at the same time!”
She simply showed up. She did as much as she possibly could with her little six-year old heart. She knew it had to happen. She had done it before. She didn’t recall it being life-altering, but she did remember it was a little painful. So she marched on, through the rain, leading her little brother, telling him to watch while she got her shot.
It wasn’t until the very last second that the tears and fear came. But by that point, her faith and confidence had brought her too far to turn back. And that was just far enough.
She did the only thing she could do: she buried her face in her daddy’s chest while he held her…both tenderly and firmly. She cried. She endured it.
What a picture. Isn’t that how it is with God and us? It’s so obvious to me, and yet I let so much sway my faith. My sadness, my tears, my pain, my confusion. Why this? Why me? Why now? This hurts! It’s uncomfortable! It’s messy!
But even as I wriggle and cry in pain or sadness, my Father is holding me too. He’s protecting me, He’s comforting me, and He’s firmly leading me and holding me still so that my trials can make me stronger, healthier, and more faithful. I get mad in the moment. I might shake my fist at Him and stubbornly try to find another way. I might throw a fit and cry and not talk to Him for a few days. But then when I seek God genuinely, I find that His goodness doesn’t lead me to what’s easy; it leads me to what’s best. And when my courage fades, my faith helps me to keep standing.
It would be easier not to get shots for my kids at all. But in the long run, it’s what’s best for them. I hate dragging them into the doctor and holding them down while they get poked by a needle. (Side note…This is not a blog about whether to vaccinate your kids or not! Promise! It’s just a personal perspective and turned out to be a fairly decent illustration of some spiritual truth. I have no strong opinion over whether people get flu shots or not). But once it’s over, I have peace of mind that I’ve done what I could to protect them.
When I am crying and asking why, God answers: because it will keep your heart and soul healthy and unfettered. Only He can make our trials good for us in the long run. And not only can we trust Him with our circumstances, but each time we lean on Him, He shows us how present He is. He holds us steady. He shows us He is faithful. And we come out on the other side still holding His hand.
And in a world like the one we live in, holding the hand of the only One who knows how it all turns out is about all we’ve got.
“He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13