My mom is probably cringing.
Honestly, I am cringing, a bit.
Have you ever analyzed your own progression as a person with opinions? I think about this, I guess as I get older and make more defining life/parenting/schooling/health choices, how I hold those opinions begins to define me, maybe more than the opinions themselves. Weirdly. Or maybe it’s the other way around– that how I express my opinions is basically the result of who I am.
But I like to think I’m growing in the first way, that I am growing in maturity, hopefully, in how I express my opinions, and in understanding those who have very deep-seated opposite opinions. I think about who I’m becoming, and so the lines I would allow myself to cross (ex. rudeness) or the barriers of communication that I place around me (ex. not allowing myself to be rude) are a big part of who I am becoming.
I also struggle a lot with just being silent. It’s a really big temptation to become sort of a non-person and just never express an opinion. Silence can be a good thing, like as a pastor’s wife I try very carefully not to state emotionally charged opinions. It’s a weird line– the non-person thing and choosing to subsume things for the gospel’s sake.
When I was in birth work, this was really, really hard, and it’s been a relief to quit that work because of this. Because I had so many opinions. And opinions are a mix of judgment and conviction, so we have to learn to hold them lightly, yet hold them for ourselves because I think it’s a way God communicates individually with us, if we let Him, and not just follow the crowd for the sake of comfort. It’s one thing to do what “everyone’s” doing because everyone’s doing it. Another thing to do it because you searched out God in that thing. This is why, bizarrely, I think people can come to opposite conclusions and have godly motives.
Also, there are complex ways we receive, filter, and “believe” information which make it impossible for us to agree with one another. So in a big way, there really is just no point in trying to explain. Two people read the same book and have opposite reactions. Two people watch the same movie and have opposite reactions. Two people read the same “facts” or information and have opposite reactions.
So I’m going to talk about health care choices– birth choices, vaccine choices, administering medicines choices. For example [this assumes first-, second- and some third-world countries’ choices] , two people meet a friend whose child was irreversibly brain damaged by a vaccination (true example, I can give you name and number, though they don’t speak English). One friend says, Wow, how rare and unfortunate, but it’s such a small risk, I don’t mind vaccinating my child and all other children. The benefits of vaccines are greater than the risks. The other says, How tragic, I would never put my child or another child in that risk; I would rather risk the small possibility of contracting some usually-not-fatal disease …. Another example, a non-vaccinated family of children contracts whooping cough and has to live through all the stress and fears of that coughing. Some parents look on and say, No way I want that stress. Other parents look on and say, That’s not such a bad experience. (And there are rare children who die of vaccines and rare children who die of a common disease, and we could argue about that on and on, which one is the risk all people should take.)
It’s hard to let people chose their risks. It’s hard to be honest about what the risks really are.
There are times I try to step back and say, God, if I’m wrong about this, please show me…. It’s tricky. For example, the information could be right and applicable in one situation then incorrect and inapplicable in another situation. We don’t know how individual children will react to one thing or another.
Same with birth. So.many.choices.
And the use of medications. So.many.choices.
Even in reading and researching, I try to read all sides. But I also know that I am leaning towards believing my bias–that my tendency is to find an authority who will appealingly and convincingly state my bias.
But in the end, I’m still choosing between risks.
I have found a few things helpful, because when it’s your kids, these things can take on terrifying levels:
- My relationship with God makes a difference. But it makes a difference to people in different ways. Here is my way:
- God made bodily processes to work. I don’t think they evolved. They were specifically designed and made complex and beautiful. Better left undisturbed. For example, the fever is there for a reason. It has a purpose, though it makes me nervous. My nervousness and concern for the fevered one is there for a purpose. Do I use a fever-reducer so I will feel relieved? Do I see a good reason in the child to use it?
- God leads me in patterns in these questions. I have distinct patterns in my life how God leads me in these decisions.I have sat next to a burning child with something to give in hand, asking God what to do. I have gotten distinct answers. I also pay attention for moments when God might break the pattern.
- I understand that I am comparatively wealthy, eat a varied diet, have access to reasonable levels of healthcare, clean water, understand microbes and disease transmission, have access to abundant information, etc. These are wonderful blessings God has provided for me throughout life. These factors influence my personal analysis of various risks.
- I try to discern types of fear. There is a fear that is God-given and natural. It’s a good thing because of sin. There is fear that is debilitating and driving, that wants to destroy me and others by its demands. It drives me to sacrifice to idols, to bargaining with and trusting in things or people that, in truth, cannot save me. And determining what course of action is needed in any given situation is a sorting out fears, or choosing from the spectrum of risks/fears.
- For example, my daughter (6yo) had stomach pain. It didn’t stop. We took her to a pediatrician who said she was constipated. The pain didn’t stop. That night, I just knew, somehow knew instinctively, that I needed to set my alarm to wake up in the night to check that she hadn’t died in her sleep. I never said it aloud, it was just such a deep knowing/assuming. But before we slept, we decided to call the ambulance. As I watched her drive away, I was absolutely sure she would die. (Ended up being a very serious appendectomy, huge infection, etc; she didn’t die).
- Consider: A doctor and medical intervention didn’t help us the first time. Where is the line of trusting doctors and trusting God? Are we asking/expecting of doctors/medical care what they are not able to give us? Life and health? Diagnoses? Absence of disease? Relief from pain? Though legally they are considered able and competent to do these things … can they really, if God does not reveal it to them and allow its efficacy in our lives? The fact that there were antibiotics for her peritonitis was wonderful–and that they worked.
- We often gain from medical and scientific advances. Yay for antibiotics. Yay for c-sections. Yay for x-rays. Yet they are limited and even harmful in other ways in this sinful world. The things invented to save us also injure us to some extent. I guess that goes back to the personal choices …
I could go on and on. I’m only warming to my topic…. But anyway, those are my current-level-of-maturity ramblings about controversial topics…..