Lessons on sin from a sick toddler

Melody Tan recounts her traumatic experience of trying to care for a cranky, crying-at-the-top-of-his-voice two-year-old.

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I am writing this as a survivor. I am a survivor of a church camp experience where four other poor unwitting souls had to share a cabin with my husband and my sick toddler.

Some might say the four other souls were the survivors, not me. They never signed up to be woken every two hours by a cranky, crying-at-the-top-of-his-voice two-year-old, upset because he couldn’t breathe and by the fact he also needed to wee.

However, while our four other childless temporary housemates may decide to forever remain childless after their experience, they still came through the ordeal far more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than I did.

This was because they didn’t have to negotiate with a hostage-taker of a different league—one who didn’t even have a proper list of demands.

Throughout that night, the only few words my son was willing to cry-yell at us were, “Because I want to!”, “I need to wee-wee!” and “Mummy”. Nothing we could do consoled him, and we desperately needed him to be quiet because we were acutely aware we had four other people living under the same roof.

We held him, we rocked him, we shushed him (we also took him to the toilet), and still he cried. We asked him what was bothering him in various ways. He confusingly answered with “Because I want to” and kept on crying. Our stress levels kept rising.

My husband and I both knew the cause of his misery was his inability to breathe. It wasn’t a simple blocked nose problem. My son often gets viral wheeze when he’s sick, but a few puffs of Ventolin will often clear up his constricted airways.

Unfortunately, while he would happily inhale from the spacer (that dispenses the Ventolin) during the day, every time we brought it near him that night, it only resulted in a fresh burst of energy from him, mostly directed towards crying and screaming “No!”, followed by furious coughing because he couldn’t breathe.

At around six in the morning, God whispered to me in my frazzled, frustrated and sleep-deprived state. My husband had taken our son out of the cabin for the fourth time that night and I was sitting on the edge of the bed staring wide-eyed at the wall.

“This is sin. This is the state of humanity,” I heard Him say. “And I still love you.”

"The beauty about God is He doesn’t have an end to His tether."

Some of us may not be quite as vocal as my son about it but we are all battling sin in one form or another. It makes us uncomfortable, it makes us ill, it makes us miserable, it makes us inconsolable. It also causes us to lash out in ways that affect others.

The irony is that, just like the spacer, God has the perfect remedy for our state of unease. More often than not, He waves it in front of us, offering us a solution for all our problems. But we scream “No!” and hope He can still comfort us somehow.

And because we are His children, He does.

My husband and I nearly reached the end of our tether that night, but despite our exasperation, we continued to soothe and love our irrational but hurting child.

The beauty about God is He doesn’t have an end to His tether. And so despite our folly, our rejection and our own cry-yelling in the middle of the night, God remains constant in our lives, offering strength, comfort and love . . . while holding a spacer in His free hand.