Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Help Us to Help Each Other, Lord

The normal human tendency is to assume that tragedy will happen to someone else, until the day it hits us. Then it is too late to begin to build the faith supports that we need. I hadn’t really thought about it, until the day my friend, Linda was sharing her testimony.

Linda came to faith at age forty. About ten years later she was hospitalized because of serious congestion in her lungs. The situation was quite critical. For several days her life hung in the balance. She did recover and in her testimony she told how she was so grateful that she had come to faith and had found ways to nourish her faith before the crisis arrived. She was certain that at the time of crisis it would be difficult to work through all of the issues, if she had not established her faith beforehand.

I proved the truth of Linda’s experience when tragedy came knocking at our door. Our son, John had been visiting his sister in Montreal one weekend and was returning to school in Boston. He was near St. Alban’s, Vermont when his rented vehicle hit black ice. In the few seconds, it took to roll over and slide to a stop in the meridian, John became a quadriplegic.

We were living in Paris, France at the time. The flight across the Atlantic seemed interminable. The next few days, it was difficult to drag myself away from John’s side. Somehow, I felt that if I stayed close, I could somehow will life and health into my son. I sat by the bed, my eyes darting back and forth between John’s swollen body and the monitors recording his vital signs. If the indicators on the monitor dropped below desired levels, I would immediately pray until I saw them come up again.

Friends and family insisted that I leave John to go to the hospital cafeteria or a nearby restaurant and eat. For the first couple of days, I just could not swallow. As soon as I put anything in my mouth, I felt like my throat closed and I could not get it down. I just wanted to get back to John.

What amazed me, in the midst of the traumatic fog was the support that we received from all kinds of unexpected places. It seemed that the news spread fast. John’s friends from Harvard Business School were on the phone to us asking how they could help and if they could come to see him. Our friends from all parts of the globe, and many people we did not know personally sent us cards, e-mails and phone messages to let us know that they were praying for John and for us and offering to do anything they could to help. This outpouring of love carried us over the rough road we journeyed during those months.

Weaving around and about all of our experiences seemed to be a sense of divine grace. This kindness was evidence of it but we saw it also in many circumstances that you could interpret as chance.

What helped me most was the spiritual discipline that I had made a part of my life for several years. I had learned the practice of daily prayer and thanksgiving. We had developed a prayer support team that carried us when we could not walk in faith, unassisted. The day that John had surgery to put a rod in his neck, I spent the time sending out by e-mail our monthly prayer newsletter and experienced the support of our prayer partners, during those difficult hours.

The habit I had of writing a page of thanks each day in my gratitude journal proved possible in those unlikely circumstances, because I had developed the discipline of finding subjects for gratitude each day. These signs of God’s faithfulness enabled me to see His grace in these dark hours.

About a month earlier, a friend from England had given me a book by one of my favourite British authors, Jennifer Rees Larcombe. It was called, “Where is God in our Deserts?” I had thrown the book into my suitcase in Paris, in case I needed something to read. As the acute crisis began to pass and John’s vital signs stabilized, sitting by his bed, I opened the book and began to read. As I did, her words ministered to my own soul and gave me hope.

Writing out what I needed and sharing this with others, finding reasons for hope in scanning my world for evidence of God’s goodness and relying on the faith of others to encourage my own by taking time to read what they had written, were the supports that kept my faith alive when the flame was nearly snuffed out by tragedy. They enabled me to see that God was there and that was enough.

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