By Sharon Ma
Shanghai, PR China September 10, 2009
A few months ago in our apartment complex, workers spent days creating a new pebble pathway by the kids' playground area.
Workers spent days carefully inlaying each stone, mixing sizes and shapes and colors. We admired it, but after using it, we avoided it. The path was not even. Walking the path while wearing flip-flops or sandals was too painful. The stones had been set on edge and dug into our feet as we walked. There seemed to be some inherent design to how the rocks had been placed since lighter ones surrounded darker ones and made some sort of signs or Chinese characters. But we didn't know. So we avoided the pain; we walked on the grass alongside the path.
Last week while sitting at the playground watching my son play, I noticed a friend, the mother of one of my son's classmates, hobbling down the path in her BARE FEET. Her suffering was evident in each movement she made. Sorrow was etched into her face. Each step she took was excruciating. But she kept walking. I couldn't understand what she was doing. The next several days I watched this woman do the same: each day- bare feet, step by agonizing step. Then her son joined her. Then another woman. All bare feet. I couldn't contain my curiosity any longer. I finally asked what she was doing.
I learned the pebble pathway is traditional Chinese medicine. Stones are placed deliberately for healing the body's inner ailments. Walking the path pushes on pressure points of the soles of the feet- creating a do-it-yourself acupuncture experience. At first excruciating, the walk is designed to heal internal illness and lessen disorders. Over time, as the body’s weaknesses lessen, the pain fades - eventually disappearing. If successful, one can walk upright and confidently along the path that once caused such distress.
I know it sounds crazy, but under a lot of stress and with my plantar fasciitis incredibly inflamed, I was desperate! My feet already hurt so much; hopefully I’d find relief! I chose the "easiest" part of the path and gingerly stepped out onto the rocks. Each step was agony. But, amazingly, when I finished that night, I felt my chronic heel pain subside a little. It has been 4 days now, and I find the steps easier to take. Not every step hurts. The stones don't dig so deeply now. Oh, they still sting, but not every step is unbearable. I sense the slightest bit of change. I can walk more of the path, and there’s hope for inner healing.
If you've stuck with me through reading this, thanks. Because I find this is an allegory for our lives. We find ourselves on a path that is painful at times.
This past Monday, we learned the results of a test for which we'd been waiting 4 weeks. Our delightful daughter, Naomi, has tested positive for Down syndrome. Ultrasound also reveals a small hole between the upper chambers of her heart. Large stones. Painful stones in our path.
At her birth, the doctors had warned Ma Qing of their suspicions. He chose not to tell me for six weeks, allowing our family time to bond and me to heal from the birth. He carried the burden of knowing for our family. That is perhaps the sweetest gift he has ever given me. Finally, 4 weeks ago, we went for the testing. And we waited. Not knowing at times how to pray.
But now we know. Our emotions are what you would expect. Mostly peace with occasional stabs of pain. We're taking tentative step after step- trying to adjust. Trying to look beyond the present pain. Because we know the Designer of our path has deliberately crafted the journey of our lives. He specifically chose to wrap our miracle baby in very special packaging. So we step out. We keep going. We know that each boulder, rock, or pebble has been placed specifically for our ultimate inner healing and His purpose. And in the end He will be glorified.
During a recent conversation, a colleague wept with me and then remarked, “Well, at least you’ve got God. You believe in that. It must help.” It does. I was able to share with her how. Maybe someday she’ll find relief in Him from her own pain.
And not every step is painful. This summer we swam, played and laughed, picnicked with friends, visited parks, and enjoyed a week-long visit from Ma Qing’s family. We’ve celebrated Isaac’s 6th birthday and his first week in grade one. We’ve completed homework and played with a delightful baby as we’ve counted down the days for Sharon to end her maternity leave and return to school full-time on Monday. Today we celebrate our 1st year anniversary of moving to Shanghai.
Through it all, God has really provided an amazing support community & system for us- online and in person. What a blessing. Naomi's dedication ceremony at church is Sunday, Sept 20th. To me this is so powerful- we will enlist the help of all our friends to stand with us in committing to raise her in the LORD and FOR the LORD.
Amazingly, today after school, I walked the path again. Partly because I’m not a quitter. Partly to prove to Ma Qing I could do it. Partly because my friend was there encouraging (daring) me to walk. As I stepped hesitantly out, gingerly taking today’s first step, she shouted from a few meters ahead of me…Come on! But you don’t have to do it alone. You have us here to do it with you. It was a little easier today. Tomorrow will be even better.
I don’t know what stones lie in your path. What pain you encounter daily. But I know God plans it ALL for good. I know there are friends along the way to walk with you. I know there is joy in the journey. And I know there is purpose in the pain.
Remember us in prayer. We walk this journey together.
Ma Qing, Sharon, Isaac and precious Naomi