When you see an exit sign, it indicates a way out. But do we ever think about it as a way in? After all, there are two sides of an exit. When you push that door open, you enter something else. Maybe another room or a hallway lined with doors of other possibilities. Often it is the outside world that offers a breath of fresh air or an overwhelming fear.
Today we drove down the exit ramp. We’ve been on a long journey for a year and eight months. It began with the day we were asked, “Are you interested in a clinical trial for your son’s peanut allergy? Your destination is a safe place; a place where he will be in far less danger of having a life-threatening reaction to peanut.”
We packed the car and gassed it up and waited for approval (which took three months!) When we were given the all clear, we put that baby in drive and hit the road. With clinic visits twice a month, I figured it would be another location on my “mom of a teenager taxi route.” But I soon was aware that I didn’t have a passenger in this journey, I had a traveling companion. He grounded me when I wanted the car to take flight. He pushed through when I wanted to hit the brakes. He was the rock star, I had the privilege of driving him to heroic milestones, and we were both part of a team that will never really comprehend the height and depth of our gratitude.
Our journey hasn’t been uneventful by any stretch of the imagination. There were times when we had to turn around, pull over, refuel, check the tires. There were times when we cruised along with the wind in our hair and the music turned up. We’ve seen the end approach and we realized that our journey has become a way of life. But journeys do end. Today was Exit Day. We are finished with the trial. Do I want to exit? My feelings at this point have surprised me. What took forever to acclimate to has become our normal… daily doses and updoses and measurements of peanut with the intent of bringing him to the safety zone. Am I ready for the new normal? To relax my vigilance? To embrace changes that allow for what was absolutely forbidden the entire sixteen years of his life? Is this the destination that I anticipated?
The answer to most of that, at this exact moment, is no. I was as ready as I could possibly be to begin this trial… but it came with unknowns that I wasn’t ready for. I’m ready to move on to the next stage of his treatment, but there are still unknowns and possibilities that have NEVER been in my comfort zone.
We aren’t exiting into the big scary world, or into a hallway full of doors. We are exiting into another room. Today we were transferred from the Research Clinic to the Allergy Clinic. Ideally, we will return to a daily life of maintenance doses with a goal of increasing his tolerance even further. Our future destination may change how we “read labels”. It may change how careful his friends, and classmates, and teammates, and fellow scouts have to be around him. Changes that seem minimal to most will be monumental to us. We were told this would never happen… and now we have a new normal, and anticipation of even greater things to come.
This has not only been a journey for my son’s health, it’s been a journey of faith. I had flat tires, I ran out of gas, I turned around and turned my back on God and screamed, “it’s not fair” and “WHY???”. And I would get a tune up and realize that turning my back on God isn’t the same as denying Him. He never left me. He never ceased to exist. He was big enough for my anger and he welcomed my frustration because He knew I was heading to a cruising speed. He knew my spirit would be refreshed like wind blowing through my hair. He knew my heart would turn up the volume and be filled with praise.
Here’s what I’ve learned about exits: they aren’t at the end of the road, they are at the beginning of another. There’s always another journey. There are always empty tanks and tire checks. There are always perfect breezes and great tunes. And there are always traveling companions. They may not be sitting in the passenger seat. They may be down the hallway at work, or across the table on girl’s night. They may be next door or sitting in your living room. You may not see them when you’re in the middle of spiritual road rage, but they are there. They are your team.
My takeaway from this journey is hope. It’s an incredible gift and I foolishly resisted it. I never knew that it would take so much faith to have hope.
I hope your journey takes you to a place of hope. I hope your exit holds no fear. I hope your faith is strong. I hope your traveling companion is determined and inspiring. I hope your traveling companion is a hero and a warrior.