Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Watch and Pray
Waiting. Waiting for hours. For some, waiting for months. I even feel restless just writing the words. It is another night watch for many.
Try waiting for hours in the ER, then hours more for an open room. While I am at home in my routine it is easy to live unaware of those who are waiting somewhere. Waiting on - quite literally - their next breath. We get the phone call or the message, and suddenly we are thrust into a new reality of sharing the burden of waiting. Then I think of all the people who populate those hospital beds which are too full to allow a critically ill friend his room, and know that countless families are squeezed into waiting rooms everywhere. The enormity of it is overwhelming on any given day.
I am living in that place of the virtual waiting room with several dear friends right now, and I imagine you are too. We wait with others who are at the bedside of mothers, of precious loved ones, of babies who are struggling with life and breath, of a dear friend who tonight finds the simplest act of breathing death-defying.
We can feel helpless to do anything. And we can be fearful. Or we can take seriously the call to prayer. Or maybe we are fearful, AND we choose to pray in earnest. That's probably more honest. So I pray for for comfort....for God's peace in the midst of turmoil....for assurance that we are not alone, though we may feel alone. As I told Stephanie, the Great Mystery that is God's Presence with us bears witness that God is there and is not silent, even when we cannot be physically present. Yet our anticipatory grief of what may lie ahead clutches at our hearts.
When God draws near to the brokenhearted there can be inexpressible comfort even as there is undeniable grief and deep loss. It is an unfathomable mystery. As Corrie ten Boom's sister, Betsy, said, "No matter how deep the pit we are in, God's love is deeper."
When there is fear and anxiety, God can soothe and heal our anxious moments. I want to cast abroad the message I believe we need to hear: fear not, dearly beloved. Do not be afraid. When everything else around us seems to be cratering, our fear is a natural human response. But as believers we are called to live beyond our strength and beyond our fears.
I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
Does that mean if we can sufficiently mask the fear or quench the anxiety we will have proven ourselves faithful and have earned the right to healing - sort of a Crucible, a final test of the faithful? Absolutely not. We come before the Lord God in need of any miracle God wants to give. We come pouring out our hearts like water before the Lord, honestly asking for mercy and grace without limitation. We approach a sovereign God.
Sometime we experience the cure.
Sometimes we experience the healing we seek before death; sometimes it is only after death that we can know restoration and renewal. Another great mystery that is outside the grasp of our limited experience but not beyond the reality of our faith.
And sometimes we are called to extend that same mercy and grace to others when we least expect it.
To show mercy is an act of love just as powerful as fighting for the life of another. The lines bleed, and it is hard to know which one is more loving in the in-between - the times of fighting for any chance at life. And yet, there may come a time when we can know that it is time. Some call this a time of release. It is not a time of giving up, but of giving over. And it can be a tender, poignant time of sweet release. Time to put down the plowshares and implements of working so hard, and to pick up the hand of another and simply express, once again, that deep human longing to love and be loved. That, too, is a glorious act of love.
The waiting room is a good time for remembering that we are not alone...that we do not have to be afraid....and that we are held in the grip of God's grace, even though we live in this broken world with all its diseases and frailties. May God bless our families and friends who even now are dependent upon this day's breath. May we watch and pray fervently with them while waiting.