I’m happy to leave 2015 behind. After almost paralyzing grief at my mother’s death in 2014, I expected 2015 to be a great year, time to downsize and simplify, organize my home, finish editing my books and get them published, and spend more time with family and friends. Instead, I spent the first half of the year semi-invalid, one infection after another leading to a week on IV antibiotics. In February I was advised to begin a strict, no sugars/grains, anti-mold diet. When I thought I’d whipped it all, ready to charge into a wonderful Advent and Christmas, I broke my hip. Life came to a roaring stop.
From appearances, God had deserted me, or didn’t care, and chose not to be involved in my life.
Nevertheless, throughout the year I’d felt God’s nearness at my bedside. My trust had deepened, to simply let Him be God, accept my life from His hand, no matter the circumstances.
As I lay on the floor waiting for the ambulance, I cried to Jesus. Not many words. Too much pain. Simply gasps and, “Jesus. Help. Jesus.”
When the EMTs prepared to scoop me up, anticipating a painful journey to the hospital, I closed my eyes and whispered, “Jesus, hold me.”
Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to. Psalm 119: 73-75 MSG
Jesus held me as I was lifted off the floor onto the gurney, bumped out the door and across our lumpy lawn. In the sways of twists and turns on the road, and thumps of railroad tracks, I felt cocooned in love.
My oldest daughter rode with us, and in chatting with Ken, the EMT, found he’d done mission work in Honduras, where we’d served as missionaries for eight years. It was a sweet connection.
In the most painful ordeal of my life, tiny details began to spell out the difference between absolute horror and God’s providence.
The EMT gave me personal care all the way into the room in the ER, and didn’t leave until he was certain I was being attended to.
My orthopedist took charge of my care to be sure I got into surgery that day, no matter how full the hospital said the OR was. (He slept in the doctor’s lounge until the OR opened at 10:00 pm)
My daughter and her family had just moved close by from the northeast and was able to support me on a daily basis.
Throughout my two weeks there, individuals appeared at precisely the moment I needed help, or encouragement, or care.
And biggest of all, my family supported and loved me in amazing ways.
My list is long.
I am very grateful.
That is not to say it was a grand time. It was the worst, body jarring, deep and ongoing pain I have every experienced.
And the most humiliating and completely dependent time.
In spite of excellent individuals, especially in PT and OT, the facilities and atmosphere with staff in the hospital rehab generally left a huge amount to be desired. I haven’t lived a cloistered life, but I was often jarred by the lack of hope, light or love around me.
Given my own physical helplessness and emotional vulnerability, I could have been completely over-whelmed. Engulfed. Depressed.
However, when I’d cried out to Jesus on my floor, waiting for the EMTs, I knew I had a choice. I could cry and rage, alone. Or, I could trust Jesus.
It remained a constant decision, day and night.
I looked for Jesus in the persons he sent at crucial times.
And I chose to reflect his face in the dark places with so many desperate people around me.
It amazes me now how that simple choice changed everything. In spite of the pain and nausea, I was able to bless roommates, attendants, nurses, even the sweet lady who cleaned our room and was desperate for hope. It became my daily challenge to brighten the lives of those around me.
The pain has diminished, but is a constant, and never gives me more than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Therapy goes on. I’ve graduated from a walker to a cane. I look forward to being able to drive a car again, to go to the grocery store all by myself.
I still struggle to find words, largely thanks to the effects of anesthesia. (I’m a slow metabolizer anyway, and the older we get, the longer the effects last. And, of course, aerobic exercise is a little hard to come by to clear the brain.)
Sitting remains painful. I will only be at my desk a short while, a large reason for not writing sooner.
Throughout this ordeal, I have found great comfort in the words of Jesus.
Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Matt 6:33 MSG
During those prior months at home, I’d had time to be still. To really trust when there was little I could do. That had prepared me to relax into the love of Jesus when nothing else stood between me and incomprehensible agony of body and spirit.
During many long nights, snatches of Bible verses floated on my mind, along with hymns and songs based on scripture, easing my pain and settling my soul.
All that I could do was affirm my love and trust in God. He cared for everything else.
In the last couple of weeks the load of illness, suffering and evil in lives of those I care about became too heavy. With so much cruelty, sexual and physical abuse, alienation, infertility, and death damaging even families working to live God’s way, I despaired. Caring deeply about others, feeling intense compassion and extended intercession sounds very spiritual, and it usually is. But, like any good thing, it can have a downside. At the end of a long day, dead tired, I wondered, why do we keep trying?
Then I opened my Bible.
My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief.
In THE MESSAGE it is titled, A Fight to the Finish.
God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.
We often straddle two worlds, this tangible, visible one, and the as yet unseen eternal world, where a very real battle rages on.
I need to remember that this life will not be easy, the outcome often will not be what we hoped for, the cure will not always come and little ones are not always protected.
But we are still in God’s hands.
Those are the hands to which I run for comfort.
I lay my burdens down, again, and throw myself into the only arms that can hold me securely, the only hands strong enough for my prayers.
Then my tears turn to praise. I lift my eyes and blink them clear. My soul fills with light.
It really is good to dwell in the house of the Lord.
Here on earth, that is wherever we praise him.
However we turn to thanksgiving.
Whenever we let go of what we want or need, and smile at the abundance we already have.
I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God.
Now, I return to prayer again, but this time remembering to stand on the rock, to pray in his power,
and I pray this prayer for you, my friend.
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Eph 3:14-19 THE MESSAGE