By Jesse Jost
I recently took two of my sons and my youngest brother, Judah, into town to see a movie and do some shopping. While we were in Princess Auto, my astute 10 year-old John-Michael noticed there were complimentary doughnuts by the front door. He and Judah, who have working pancreases, blissfully devoured the treats without an issue. My 5 year-old son, Elijah, whose immune system destroyed his pancreas, and is now a Type 1 diabetic, also wanted a doughnut. His last shot of insulin wasn’t enough to match his breakfast carbs, and his blood sugar was already way too high, so I had to say no. My poor little boy started sobbing on the spot, “I wish I didn’t have diabetes.” Oh, that hurt to hear those words.
We are so grateful Elijah is alive after we almost lost him this summer to complications from his undiagnosed diabetes, but there are times it is hard to watch our sweet boy have to deal with all the insulin shots, finger pokes, and food restrictions.
I told Elijah to go get a doughnut and wrap it up in a napkin and that he could have part of it for dessert after lunch when I could give him extra insulin for it. He cheered up at this prospect and the solution worked fine.
All the unique challenges we face with Elijah have made me think a lot about fairness. It doesn’t seem fair that Elijah has to be so carb conscious at this age, or have to deal with 6 or 7 injections a day just to stay alive. As a parent, self-pity is tempting when I can’t sleep because I am concerned Elijah’s blood sugar will drop and he will slip into a fatal low.
It used to be nice to just pack up and leave the house without having the stress of making sure we have his blood sugar monitoring equipment, insulin, glucagon kit, juice and granola bars for lows, plus making sure it’s all in a well-insulated container so it’s not ruined by too much heat or cold.
It was so easy before to put out a bedtime snack and not worry about the carb count, or let the kids at the cold cereal in the morning, without having to read labels or weigh and measure everything. It’s easy to be just a little jealous of the uncomplicated eating habits of non-T1D families.
Since this condition has entered our family, we have been forced to treat our kids unfairly. Elijah will sometimes need a special snack before bed to get his blood sugar up, or he will need a few gummy bears in the afternoon for the same reason. His siblings see that “treat” and often want the same thing for themselves. Sometimes we give it to them, but other times they have to accept that Elijah’s needs are different from theirs, and there will be times he gets something that they don’t. So far though, I haven’t heard any complaints about why Elijah gets an insulin shot and they don’t.
I used to try to treat each of our kids fairly, making sure they got a similar amount of presents at Christmas, or equal portion sizes. I wanted them to know that I love each of them equally, and that I don’t have favourites. However, I am rethinking whether or not that is a good strategy for a few reasons.
Each of our kids is unique, with different interests and different needs. If I truly love them, I will be aware of these differences and love them in a way that allows them to fulfill their unique giftings. One of my kids is way more mechanically inclined than another. It would be foolish to get them the same gifts and types of educational books when their interests are so different.
I don’t want my kids to measure my love for them based on getting the same amounts or the same treatment. The reality is that they are different and to love them well, I can’t treat them like clones.
I think what concerns me most is that an expectation of fairness creates a poisonous habit of comparing. The way we self-absorbed humans compare is rarely beneficial. It usually breeds discouragement or pride, or even jealousy and discontent.
Can you imagine if the foot despaired because it wasn’t as dextrous as the hand? Or if the other foot felt superior to the hand because it is more calloused and can handle more pain? I value my hands and my feet but I don’t treat them equally because they have different needs and purposes.
Comparing becomes a joy robber, creating a sense of injustice and victimhood when neither has taken place. Instilling in my kids the expectation that they should receive equal treatment in all areas puts their focus on the wrongs things, setting them up to feel like victims when love calls for different measures.
God loves us equally, (He can’t love anybody less) but He doesn’t treat us fairly. He has individual purposes for our lives that require us to walk different paths and experience different pains. We wonder why someone else gets a position of influence, or good looks, or the healthy body, while we face disease and rejection. Satan’s seeds of doubt and mistrust are sown when we feel like we should all be treated fairly.
When our expectation is fairness, we will stay in bondage and emotional misery. We need to acknowledge that God has different purposes for each of us that require different treatment. Only then will we be able to trust when our row seems so much harder to hoe. I’m sure many were envious of the biblical Joseph’s power and prestige, but no one would have wanted the betrayal, or the false accusations that led him to that place.
I want to free my kids from the crippling expectation of fairness. I would much rather my kids realize that God’s path for them is unique, and the training and preparation they need to go through to fulfill their calling will be different for each one of them.
At breakfast the other morning, Elijah looked at me and said, “I wonder why God gave me diabetes.”
I said “I don’t know, but I know that He loves you and that He will use this for your good.”
This diabetes is a cross he will have to carry for the rest of his life, but it will also be a key to unlock doors of knowledge, relationships, and opportunities he wouldn’t have with a healthy pancreas.
Elijah will always have the choice to feel self-pity because he has pains and restrictions other kids don’t, or to look for ways this chronic condition can enable new opportunities. He can let his disabilities create an empowering sense of purpose and anticipation.
I don’t know what issues in life you are struggling with, or where you might be wrestling with jealousy. But we can all rest in the fact that God’s plans for us are for our good and His glory. He won’t waste our lot in life or the injustices that we have faced. He will use them all to prepare us for our mission and create something of breathtaking beauty.
God doesn’t treat us all fairly, and I am so grateful He doesn’t. Jesus lived the perfect life and deserved all of God’s blessings. We humans have lived in ungrateful treason and rebellion. In spite of this, God chose to take the consequences of our sin onto Himself and be sacrificed on the cross. We on the other hand, in Christ, receive all the benefits and pleasures that Christ earned. I can’t think of anything more unfair than that. I also can’t think of a greater display of love.