Warning: this may be the longest posting I’ve ever written.
I’ve been wanting to write this update since last Thursday night, May 3rd. That day marked three years that we’ve been on this adventure with God. I awoke that morning sure of what I was going to write about — praises for God’s mercy and faithfulness, overflowing hope and unshakeable faith. But a small voice said, “Wait, that is not all that today is about.”
We took Abbie to PT at 11 am last Thursday. I was still in “confident conquerer” mode as we left the house, and even as we walked toward the therapy building. But, then it hit me…the smell. That sanitized smell of a hospital that still doesn’t cover the scent of grief, pain and despair within the walls. That stomach-sickening smell took me right back to the bewilderment of the very first days in the PICU. I held it together during therapy, even as the session opened with finding out that the authorizations for both PT and OT have lapsed, with not a lot of hope of getting the OT one renewed before June at the earliest. So, now I was dealing with “the smell” and “the system”, two things I’ve grown to truly despise.
Once we got home I must admit there was a solid hour of weeping. The eyes-swollen, wordless weeping that I felt so sure was a past tense in our house. So, then I figured I would write about how the Lord carries us in our weakest moments and never shames us for our grief or broken hearts, even if we feel like we should be “over it.” But again, a small voice said, “Wait, this is not all that today is about.”
As the minutes ticked by I sat staring at the clock, replaying that time of day during “The Day.” I recalled having left-over pizza for lunch, with Abbie sitting on the bar, singing and swinging her heels. I remembered trying, and failing, to get her down for a nap. The pain began to feel palpable, as if it were all going to happen again. I realized that I was sitting in my living room, making a shrine to my pain. The only way to escape that was to leave the house all together.
So, I ended up shopping for things I really didn’t need (thank goodness Ross’ is cheap), and killing time until I could pick up the boys at three. They were confused about why my eyes were red and teary, even after I reminded them it was “The Day”. Their hopeful hearts never waiver, so tears seem less necessary, I suppose.
It was late in the evening, and I was still wondering what the day was really all about. The clocked edged toward midnight, and I recalled standing at Abbie’s bedside three years earlier, praying for midnight to come so that if she died, the date on her grave marker wouldn’t be the date I was looking at on the hospital bracelet. I don’t know why that mattered so much to me then, but my heart cried out and God answered.
Knowing I wasn’t anywhere near sleep, I finally pulled out my Bible study workbook, to begin that week’s work. At first I was stunned, and then I laughed aloud at the topic for the week: “Binding Up the Brokenhearted.” The first sentence on the page read, “We often hear that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim 1:15) Do we as often consider that He came to mend broken hearts?”
That’s what the day was all about. The binding of our broken hearts! I want to share some of the insights I gained from Beth Moore and God’s Word, especially for those who are on this same journey.
I studied four Scripture passages that each shed a unique light on how God binds up the broken hearted. The first is Genesis 16:1-13. This passage finds Hagar, Sarai’s servant, out in the wilderness, pregnant and alone. After Sarai gave her to Abraham to concieve a child, she began treating Hagar very harshly, to the point where Hagar was driven to flee. In the wilderness she met “El Roi”, the God Who Sees. “Heeding her affliction”(v.11) God made her great promises about her son and descendants (v.10-11). So, I was comforted that our changeless God is still El Roi, He sees my hurt even when I want to hide it or wish it away. But, He also told Hagar to go back and submit herself to Sarai (v.9). In that I see that even in the midst of great trial or grief, right is right. Sometimes, in the midst of a challenging situation people willingly give us a pass on our actions and words, and we often readily accept. What I have learned these past three years is that overwhelming pain can drive us to say or do things that are hurtful. And, words stick whether we truly mean them or not. So, while El Roi sees how deeply we hurt, He still calls us to do (and say) the right thing. I am just so thankful He doesn’t expect us to do that in our own strength!
The second passage is Genesis 39:11-23. Joseph is falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and ends up imprisoned. Verse 21 says, “But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” If I were Joseph, the favor I’d want would be a “get out of jail free” card, not being esteemed by the chief jailer! Many times God’s provision for us does not include pulling us out of a tough situation, at least not right away. I would have been thrilled to have Abbie wake up and eat a popsicle three years ago. That was not God’s plan, but I can say fervently that we have experienced His deep and unwavering favor in ways that would not have been possible had we experienced an overnight miracle.
I then turned to the familiar story of Ruth. After Naomi has lost her sons and husband, it is finally time to return to her homeland. She tells her two Gentile daughters-in-law to return to their own families, where at least they will have a hope of once again having a husband. One does reluctantly turn away, but Ruth proclaims in verse 16 “where you go, I will go.” Her commitment to Naomi eventually leads to a new life for both of them. Through Ruth I see how often God provides binding up of a broken heart through people. Our family has experienced this every day for three years. Even when we didn’t feel like we needed it, even when we wanted not to need it, especially when we needed it too deeply to express…you have been there, applying bandages to our bleeding hearts.
Finally, I went to Samuel 12:15-25 which tells the story of the death of David and Bathsheba’s first son, a child conceived through adultery and born into a marriage made possible by murder. (Who says the Bible is boring??) I could relate to David’s vigil as his son ailed. I could feel the groaning in his heart. After his son died, David arose to live again and comfort his wife. Verse 24 talks about the birth of their son Solomon, and then says “Now the LORD loved him.” I always thought Solomon was the balm that quickly healed their hearts. Wrong. He was actually the fourth son born to David and Bathsheba (1 Chron. 3:5) This tells me that grief takes time, as does healing. Even good things, like healthy sons, cannot hurry the work of binding up a broken heart. I don’t think there is such a thing as “getting over it”, but I do think time helps us find a way to live in peace with it, through the mercy of God.
In the original language the word for “bind up” is chavash, meaning “to bind on, wrap around, bind as a wound, to bandage, cover, envelope, enclose.” That first night in the PICU I only remember saying two things over and over, one of which was “Christ is here.” When I wonder about why that came out of my mouth I now think of Isaiah’s prophecy, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (61:1) Healing our hearts is one of Christ’s primary job descriptions, and where there is hurt, there He is also, enveloping us in love and grace that defies understanding or explanation.
So, it has been a terrible, wonderful, scary, exciting, heartbreaking, life-transforming three years. The hard part about receiving a miracle is being in the position to need one. We have been severely humbled at times by the depth our our needs, weaknesses and inadequacies. But, these painful realizations have illuminated more brilliantly the profound love Christ has for us.
In looking for passages about walking I could pray over Abbie, I recently printed out Psalm 116 because not only does it speak about walking, it seems a good summation of Abbie’s journey. So, instead of my flailing attempts to put words to the utterances my heart, I will leave you with God’s perfect word: