I’ll never forget what I think was one of the first times I ever saw my Dad in pain. I think we were on a camping trip and my dad started to keel over in pain, moaning and wailing like I have never seen a grown man do. A friend of our family said that he thought my dad was dying. Turned out he had a kidney stone and it is THAT painful to make an otherwise strong, tough guy into a screaming little girl.
But what I really remember was walking into the ER and seeing him lying on that bed in a hospital gown, hooked up to an IV and I instantly burst into tears. At the time, I probably couldn’t have told you why. But now I know. The reality of death and disease and our bodies’ frailty hit me like a wall of ocean.
A recent visit to the ER (not for me in case anyone is now worried) reminded me of that day with my dad. The pain, the crying out for relief, the sheer terror I felt in hearing my father wail. It isn’t that I haven’t been to the ER a bazillion times since then, what with my dad’s illness and his heart attack – I started remembering how we’ve been given my dad back a few times now, and how grateful I am for that. But what was different, and new, about this, was that it hadn’t yet been someone I was dating.
Driving down, I started thinking about who else I had ever gone to the ER for. I couldn’t think of anyone I had dated who had been injured or had a sudden illness or pain or anything requiring medical attention while we were together. I did however think of the time I was in the ER and my boyfriend at the time did NOT come to help me. I remember texting him saying, I’m fine don’t bother and he texted back ok I’ll see you at home. I came out of the ER and realized I needed to walk home – about a 10 minute walk – and as I walked, I decided to break up with him. He of course used the “you told me to stay home” defense and I of course said it was over before tonight. The fact I didn’t want him there said a lot.
Fast forward to this past week when I was told that someone I care about is headed to the ER and it wasn’t even a second thought that I wanted to be there. My hesitation would be only in if he wanted me there and then it occurred to me that if he didn’t want me there, it was over before I could walk to my car and start the engine.
We are given moments that we don’t ask for. Moments of clarity, of affirmation. We ask for guidance and wisdom and then shut our ears and eyes to them, going ahead with whatever decisions we wanted to make in the first place. These days, I’m praying for open ears and eyes, praying for signs of clear direction and a peace about the path I choose. And I’m not the only one praying for this.
And then God says, ok, here, do this right now, and as I sit there praying in a waiting room for a man staring anxiously at a dark pit of uncertainty and disease and all that is wrong with this sinful earth, wondering if life is pushing him in, I have this wave coming at me, not a dark one that will surely flood me, but one of overwhelming, illogical peace that says “what time I am afraid, I will trust in Him.”
And whatever the path would bring, I felt the kind of optimism I haven’t felt in a good long while. Not the kind that I have to talk myself into and rally up the troops and push aside all the fear and doubt. It’s the kind that just is – it’s the hope that makes you smile in a crowded room of people who really wish you weren’t so darn cheerful. And you long for the whole world to know that hope, that peace, that love which greets your heart at its core and makes you ready to embrace the very worst, whatever it may be. Not because you are Pollyanna with rosy glasses, but because you know the God who carries you around in His arms, and what He has given you, all these good gifts in life, are for you to give back to Him wholeheartedly, laying them at His feet to do as He will. It’s the hardest place and the easiest place to be.
Maybe it’s a lot easier to look at this now that we know it wasn’t what might have been expected and the amount of uncertainty left is manageable. For now. I couldn’t say what tomorrow will bring, and I am only going with what I get. I have learned when I am given a gift to not cling, but to carry it with an open hand, not in constant dread of when the other shoe will drop, but rather that any time I get with that gift is a gift I didn’t have before. And maybe the times things and people have been taken away from me have made me cherish the moments I do get and take everything in stride, knowing how quickly things can change in the blink of an eye. And unlike a child’s birthday gift that we delight in, play with, break and throw away, the gift of another person’s time, energy, friendship and love will forever change us and, when done right, point us to the Father who knows what we needed in the first place.