Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Failure to thrive

This must be my week for very long very late night phone conversations! Actually those phone calls are such sweet answers to prayers I've made, it's been a true blessing to talk to and visit with those people that I miss so much back home! Why late at night you ask ..... well, because we all have lots of kids and/or responsibilities that keep us running and frazzled all day long everyday plus church, work, and all of the other day to day stuff that causes us to be so out of touch from time to time with folks we love and don't live near.

My heart has been so very very heavy for such a long time because I get so homesick for my "people". I miss my family and my friends something terrible! I haven't seen them in nearly 2 1/2 years now, not for a vacation or a holiday or even for those once in a lifetime very special events that I never in a million years would have thought I would miss. As I was telling my brother last night, I've missed my son's high school graduation, my daughter giving birth to both of my grand-daughters, my youngest brother's high school graduation and leaving home, all of my family's regular holiday gatherings and celebrations etc along with so many other major events and it's just hard sometimes to be so far away.... and it hurts. But the Lord has been so good to me to put me on the hearts of those who I love and to give me the time to just sit back and relax and enjoy a good long visit on the phone with several of them!

Anyway, after I finally got off the phone and most of the night last night as I talked to the Lord about all that is weighing on me lately something came to mind and it just kind of got stuck there so I thought I would sort of write/ramble about it here for a bit to get it out of my head.

When I was in nursing school (seems like a lifetime ago now) in our pediatrics units we learned about a condition found in little babies and sometimes young children that they called Failure to Thrive. It's when a child just sort of whithers away with no obvious cause, they aren't necessarily cranky kids or whiny, they just stop wanting to grow it seems. Slowly that not growing turns into a sort of shrinking, they lose weight, they become listless ... sometimes even too listless to cry when they have a need or are in pain.

Right before your eyes that little person just quietly and slowly dies, a bit at a time and almost silently. During that most crucial time of life when normally they would grow more than at any other time of life period, a child with failure to thrive will lose weight instead of the normal double or tripling of their birth weight, eventually their height (stature) is affected, they will in time become disinterested in their surroundings, miss developmental milestones like sitting walking talking etc, possibly they become irritable and withdrawn and begin to develop a dislike of contact with other people.

Sometimes there is a medical condition at the root of the problem but frequently the parents or caregivers of the child are the cause of the problem. An instructor told us (as we stood in the pediatric ICU with a baby who was dying) that in children with failure to thrive due to medical conditions they will quickly begin to improve with treatment, but that the most persistent cases of failure to thrive were considered nearly untreatable. The instructor said that in the most severe and persistent cases the problems are caused by the parents, sometimes they abuse the child or neglect to care for the child properly, sometimes the parents suffer from mental illnesses and that affects the child's health. But, we were told, many times the root of the problem was simply that the family situation was just too chaotic for the baby to receive proper feeding and nurturing, the lack of routine blunted the child's appetite, and inadequate parenting exacerbated the decline in the child's health overall along with their emotional development.

In short the instructor told us that babies just KNOW when they are loved and that those babies will fight to get well. The worst cases, the ones that just never got well were the little ones who simply didn't receive enough love, children who simply felt no strong ties or bonds with anyone who cared about them. Isn't it amazing that such tiny and young little people instinctively know when they aren't loved!

As I talked with the Lord last night and this thought was put in my mind it began to sink into my sleep deprived brain that if a very young child has that instinct and that just the knowledge at whatever level of their awareness is enough to kill them, what must it do to the heart of a lost and dying sinner to hear over and over that Jesus loves them yet never truly see His love manifested around them? What must it do to the heart of those very young babes in Christ to instinctively know that the people in the family of God secretly (or not) reject them? What must it do to that hurting brother or sister in the Lord to feel isolated from the rest of the flock? What must it do to the soul of the wounded believer who is terrified to trust the brethren enough to ask for prayer or help? I could go on for a really long time but I think you get the point.

I believe that the failure to thrive phenomena is alive and well in our churches today, not only do I believe it but I know that I have seen it. I have seen first hand fresh young newly saved faces turned into withered and slumped shouldered figures wandering farther and farther away from the house of the Lord fleeing the pain of rejection and criticism. I have seen first hand lost sinners declare that they want nothing to do with a God whose people are filled with such venom and mean-ness. I have seen time and again people who were truly seeking salvation and wanted nothing more than to see one true Christian to help them believe that they truly do exist. And I believe that just as many times it's the parents and caregivers who cause failure to thrive in children, it is the sister who speaks in scorn and condemnation or the brother who can't find the balance between hating the sin and loving the sinner, it is the lack of compassion and love for one another that is causing failure to thrive in our churches.

People we have to do something different, we have got to learn to reach out a hand to those who are drowning in the filth of the world and show them the love of Christ. Sinners don't need to see another fake Christian full of well memorized platitudes and simple one line quick responses, they need to see that the God we serve loved us enough to make us able to love them! I realize that it's tough but we cannot let the need continue to go unmet. Just like to save a child suffering from failure to thrive you have to be willing to give that child all the love and attention and affection they need all the time and work to build their trust we have got to work to show the lost that there is such a thing as love and compassion and that grace and mercy are more than just pretty words.

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