I was very flexible when I was young. Limbo was a party game that seemed to happen often, and I prided myself on how good I was at it. I could sashay under that pole with the best of them. Recently, I tried to limbo again, but my middle-aged body sounded its alarm alerting me to all the parts that limbo involved – thighs, back, neck. Turns out my body can’t bend in ways anymore that wouldn’t result in injury. The limbo dance is no longer easy.
Three months ago, I found myself doing a different kind of limbo, one that was even more difficult than the dance. My youngest child (of four kids) was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy. The official medical definition labeled it, “catastrophic” as it has no cure and could stop all development if the seizures couldn’t be stopped. My baby was 7 months old when my world stopped. The second I saw the spasms, my heart began to race in panic and fear. A search on Google brought a diagnosis that gave me anxiety and panic attacks that night. By the time doctors confirmed Dr. Google’s diagnosis the next afternoon, my husband and I felt like our entire lives had shattered. Thus began our journey into what we’ve dubbed Limbo Land.
I’m not very good at this kind of limbo either: Living in Limbo Land requires spontaneity and living in uncertainty. Living in Limbo Land requires faith and courage. Living in Limbo Land is difficult and full of unknowns.
Right now, as I write this, my little one is peacefully sleeping. If you looked at her at this very moment, she looks just like any other baby. Serene. Calm. No signs of chaotic brain waves or high blood pressure or coma-like states or the millions of other issues that have flooded our world in the last few months.
If you looked at her at this very moment, she looks just like any other baby. Serene. Calm. No signs of chaotic brain waves or high blood pressure or coma-like states or the millions of other issues that have flooded our world in the last few months.
And I’m calm too. Writing this as if everything in the world is just fine. I’ve passed under the limbo stick this time to get to the other side without knocking into it.
But rewind a few hours, and I was a tired, weepy mess. I wept on the phone with a dear friend, telling her about how my little girl has been refusing to eat, has been screeching in pain if you held her upright, about how she moaned pathetically all night long. I wept tears of confusion for why God would allow an innocent little baby to live in this state. I cried about how God could permit her to have so much to handle – this much confusion, this much pain, this many medications and pokes and prods.
A few hours ago, the limbo stick felt too low for me to cross under. I was filled with doubt about how I could handle the future years when I could barely handle these last few months. My mind went to all sorts of dark places. It took all my willpower and many prayers uttered by me and on my behalf to rein in the fears.
Each of my days since my daughter’s diagnosis has been filled with moments like this – constant battles within my own heart. I waver back and forth between happy and sad. Between fear and peace. Between faith and doubt. I often wish for clarity. I hope for healing. And I pray for freedom from being in Limbo Land.
But every time I pass under that limbo stick going from despair to hope, I know that it is God who is sustaining me and teaching me to have faith in Him. Each day, my faith in God grows stronger.
I’m living in Limbo Land, yet I’ve come to a place in my life where I’m OK with being here. I’m OK with whatever outcome comes my way. There’s no rational explanation for why I suddenly turned from despair to hope. Because that’s how faith comes into play, isn’t it? When there’s no rational reason, faith often manifests itself.
One historian wrote that the limbo dance “reflects the whole cycle of life… the dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered from chest level, and they emerge on the other side, as their heads clear the pole, as in the triumph of life over death.”*
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that I love living in Limbo Land. I want my daughter to be well. I want my family intact and healthy. I want the dreams my husband and I had for our family to come true. But through this trial, I’ve also come to realize that my faith in God can take all these hopes and dreams and turn them into new hopes and dreams. And I have to let God take me there. Because He is good and He has already taken this limbo dance I’m living and promised to help me and my family emerge on the other side – because life in Christ will triumph over death.
* (Stanley-Niaah, Sonjah. “Mapping of Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto.” In Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, ed. by Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, 193-217. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007.)