I offer this particular rock not because I was great during the midst of our trial but because I look back and see God at work even when I didn't recognize it. Some of that lack of recognition is the fog of war, so to speak. Some might be good old fashioned human sinfulness, selfishness, or some other S word which is probably not fit for print.
Like Paul and Silas in the jail, singing hymns of praise to God about midnight, we found ourselves in unique conversations along the way. People were watching. And they engaged us as they watched. Doors opened. Opportunities knocked.
We came to love some of our nurses. We were grateful for all of them, but we really connected with a few.
We came to just about make idols of our doctors because they were God's hands and brains in saving the life of our child. A couple took particular interest in our family and not just our case.
We were there so long even the guy who directed traffic outside recognized us. He appreciated the Sprite I took him one night when it was particularly hot outside.
And somehow along the way those conversations turned toward important things, eternal things, things that have a gravity about them. There were multiple conversations about adoption. They varied from the mundane "Yeah, my husband and I thought about adoption once" to the serious "Why in the world would you knowingly adopt this baby girl with this heart defect?" There were conversations about parenting amid crisis. There were a couple conversations about marriage and how hard it is when the pressure is on.
And there were conversations about church. Lots of them. Being a pastor provides a simple segue, but people genuinely wanted to know about our life and faith and our church. So many had seen the community surround us that it really was its own apologetic for the Truth of God.
Our new nurse friend from PICU said on multiple occasions, "Y'all have the best friends." What she meant, but didn't know she meant, was "Your church rocks." I think it might have made a few people a little jealous. And I think that kind of jealousy is actually kind of good. It provokes the "I want that too" spark in the heart. May the Spirit blow gently on that until it's a flame.
I look back on all of that to reflect on these two truths:
1. When the hard times come, people are looking to match vocalizations of faith with actions that look, smell, feel, and taste like faith. If that consistency isn't there, it's not the kind of witness that impacts lives. It's not that you can't be honest. It's not that you can't feel pain. Those things actually increase the validity and authenticity of your witness. Frankly, it doesn't even have to be our faith being measured. At times, the onlookers were watching our church's faith, not ours.
2. Being willing to engage in ministry when the world is crumbling around is actually a helpful exercise of the soul. The Queen and I both were able to step outside our circumstance for a few moments to speak about big things, lasting things, things undefined and uncontained by 200 sq. ft. of tile, wires, tubes, and a single window overlooking a roof. De-centering from the self and the circumstance helped. Somehow it helped gain some perspective, the larger nature of God's plan and work.
I hope that's an encouragement to all of you out there who are in the midst of your own mountain climbing experience.