I hate Day Nine. I hate all Day Nines. It doesn’t matter “of what”. Here’s what I noticed during Ellia’s first paralytic episode: it’s a lot easier at the beginning of the hospitalization to be nice to the nurses and the techs and the gastroenterologist and the geneticist and the doctors. But the longer we were in ICU, the more time we spent listening to the beeping of IV and breathing machines, the more children that came in and left, the more I grew weary of responding with grace and patience.
The first week was fine, but by day eight I was on edge. There we were in the same place, still without a promise of Ellia’s stability, looking at the same walls, making the same crafts with the same people. Then came Day Nine.
I woke up on day nine with an irritability that put pregnant women to shame. I hated the breakfast, I snapped at the lab tech, I was put out that Ellia had to wait four hours for a swallow test, and when the nurse came in and pushed me out of the way so that she could braid Ellia’s hair, my wrath could have burned off her scrubs. I have no doubt she went home and journaled about her encounter with me.
Day Nine is that day where you hate everyone for existing and you hate everything for making your life more complicated than you’re convinced it needs to be. It’s the day we want to quit, the day we forfeit grace and we zip-line into bad attitudes. It’s the day we give voice to our negative selves, the parts of us that want to respond in tantrums and 2-year-old limb flailings. We become inconsolable Eeyores, even if no one knows it but us.
It’s easy to think something’s wrong with us on Day Nine. It’s tempting to think we’ve crossed over into pessimism and all we need is a dose of sunshine and a latte to drag us out. But really, Day Nine is nothing more than coming to the end of ourselves. It’s not a particularly rough day-- normally we’d call it life as usual. But when we reach our Day Nine, we have nothing else to give.
Over the past year, I’ve recognized Day Nines will come. There will be other nurses I more than likely send to therapy. So, instead of avoiding these days, I’ve tried to pick up Day Nines, turn them upside down and shake them to see what kind of change falls out of their pockets.
Day Nines help us wake up and see ourselves-- the parts of ourselves that have somehow disconnected from God-- the parts of ourselves that have fallen asleep to the reality of our need to abide. The part of us that refuses to keep step with the presence of God.
Every single one of my Day Nines has served to show me how I frequently operate independently from Jesus.
I can run off of fumes for a long time before I grind to a halt, but it always comes. Good attitudes and optimism are never enough. Day Nine blinks the neon message: Only God sustains.
Only God sustains. Has it become so simple that I reject it in lieu of my own efforts?There are times when this truth is a harsh reality. The fact that God sustains means I am empty-handed. It means I can’t be what my family needs or my friends expect. It means my investments and endeavors are shown for what they are.
But it also means rest.
The spotlight on my independence isn’t the solution. It’s not enough to recognize the problem. The question becomes whether or not this spotlight will catapult us into receiving the comfort and grace we need.
We’re not helped by closeting ourselves till we’re no longer crabby. There’s nothing holy about waiting it out or hibernating till day ten. Instead, it is in our deep angst that we hear the voice calling us back to our truest selves.
Only God sustains. Somehow each Day Nine forces me to look in a soul mirror-- to see my independence as the thing that’s cutting me off from the air I need.
I have to breathe. How else can I keep waking up in an imperfect world? I’ve seen how I act when I’m suffocating. I’ve seen how far my own efforts can take me in challenges and joys. While independence is sometimes easier, it is dependence that brings life. And Day Nines are my not-so-subtle reminders of how much I just need life.
And yes, I did apologize to the nurse... on day twelve.