Is there a link between having a significant Christian faith and infant surgery?
That’s the question I started to address in my previous blog. I ended then by asking, What has my Christian faith meant for me in the light of the fact that I was marked so early in my life not only by an invisible Baptism but also by an obvious, physical and indelible sign of my imperfection?
Being imperfect is normal. This is not something every parent of a newly-born baby wants to hear, let alone admit to believing. But this belief is not only foundational to Christian faith, it is surely evident to any student of history or human nature. We live in a broken world, and this is endemic, not taught or caught. The damage shows in and affects every part of our planet: the natural world as well as human character and endeavour. Our problem is not that some want to be criminals, other terrorists, and others again selfish or abusers: it is that all of us are damaged, twisted, imperfect, essentially damaged in lots of ways. Nothing will give us perfect people, whether it’s education, medical science or psychological therapy, religion, or social or genetic engineering.
As a result, although I hate what my infant pyloric stenosis did to my parents and to me, I realise now that the prominent scar down my middle has reminded me of my imperfection and my lack of choice and control for nearly as long as I can remember. I have largely come to terms with the fact that “Hey, this is life for all of us, Fred!”
Getting to understand and accept my infant surgery has thus enabled me to understand and accept the countless people with other “issues” of which I become aware. None of us with cystic fibrosis, bipolar, Afro skin or low IQ had any say in it. Nor do many people with perhaps genetic or perhaps developmental disorders and/or damage such as ADHD, an inferiority complex, or self-harming. The full list is surely infinite.
Being imperfect is no ticket to indulge ourselves or damage others. I respect most those who are working with their area of damage and making progress challenging it.
- It’s ok to struggle: this is another thing my Christian faith affirms. The Bible story is the story of people battling with of all kinds of inner and outside troubles – and often in a positive way, thanks to their “walking with God” as Christians relate to God through the teaching and life of Jesus Christ.
Accepting it is normal to struggle with what inside and outside of us has helped me to be honest with those interested to read my blogs. There is a time for silence and there is a time to open myself about the challenges and difficulties I have lived with and worked on because of my infant surgery survival story. My blogging colleague Wendy Williams (see the Blog Roll to the right) has shared her struggles and discoveries also with some of her students. Both of us have found that people appreciate our candid writing and that this deepens our human relationships and understanding.
- We can expect growth towards maturity. While the Bible pictures every single person in its large cast as a battler in at least some sense (and indeed, some as being “losers”), it also carries a message of hope which is significant to me. Although in many basic ways we will never change our identity, we can grow, and liabilities and battlegrounds can increasingly become assets. As I wrote last time, you don’t have to think Christianly to this this!
Especially in recent years and thanks to several factors (which I mention from time to time), I have been encouraged by the signs of my personal growth. The PTSD traces which arose from my early PS surgery and my parents’ management of this – they are now something I understand, accept and see reducing. But I don’t expect they’ll ever disappear: they are part of who I am!
- My parents were OK. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the unattainable things I dream about most is to have some time with my long-deceased parents. I’d like to ask them some questions, tell them something about my personal journey, and actually tell them I understand, accept, and love them deeply despite the few but deep disappointments and hurts with which I’ve battled. I want to affirm my respect for and endorsement of who they were, and the powerful benefits they gave me.
And I want to keep learning from them and do even better if I can.
In my experience, for Christian faith to be meaningful, it must be more than “religion” or mere church-going. My parents have helped me to share their deep commitment to the Christian walk and world-and-life view, and I increasingly find this a giant plus, also when it comes to managing my infant surgery.