Sunday, April 15, 2012

resurrected hope

i know, i know...i haven't blogged in a hot minute. life has been a whirlwind. this semester i have been interning at UNC hospitals as a chaplain, which basically entails me going into a person's hospital room and offering spiritual and emotional support for them and their family during their hospital stay. sounds simple enough, eh? i could write nonstop for weeks about my experiences there, but i wanted to just share a few snippets. it will take a lifetime for me to process it all...needless to say, i am forever changed.

healing. during my first few weeks as a chaplain, a young woman on one of my floors requested to see a chaplain. when i walked in her room, her face was unrecognizable--one eye completely swollen shut and the other blood shot, lips swollen beyond what i ever thought possible, bruises all over her neck and face, chunks of hair missing. she could barely move, see, talk. i listened as she recounted to me the terrible, unspeakable, heartbreaking acts of physical violence by her boyfriend that brought her to this place. it was all i could do to hold her hand, look her in the eye, and listen as if she were the only person in the world who ever mattered. because in that moment, she was all that mattered. and i had no magical answers for her. the only words i could muster were, "you are so brave. and you are so loved." God gave me the gift of getting to spend the next few weeks with this precious woman of God as she recovered. i experienced with her the pain of relationships, the fear and terror of the unknown, and yet the healing found through scripture, poetry, and prayer. not many days go by that i don't think of her and pray longingly that she is safe and that she knows she is precious and loved.

voice. i have often felt in my life like i didn't have a voice--that i wasn't allowed to speak, or was too afraid to, that nobody would ever hear my voiceless cries. yet so many in our world are left truly voiceless, at the mercy of the powers and principalities and our sin. a young man came in on my ICU unit, and i was terrified to meet him. i knew he was incredibly sick and that the doctors didn't know what was wrong with his body nor how they could help; and i knew that he was intubated and therefore couldn't speak. i walked by his room for days before i finally mustered the courage to go in. the room was completely dark, but nothing could hide the sheer terror across his face. i realized that in all my fears, nothing compared to the fear this young man was facing. after i introduced myself, he looked me dead in the eyes and with difficulty mouthed a single word--"prayer." my heart stood still. i literally felt voiceless, felt the intense fear and longing emanating from his body as he literally lay there in the hospital bed, grasping desperately for my hand and for the words to speak to the only one who might truly hear his heart. i have never prayed so hard for the Holy Spirit to be my words in my entire life. this faithful believer opened my heart to realize that God is always listening. God will always hear our cries. No prayer must ever remain unspoken for.

holiness. "B/G" stands for "baby girl" on the pediatrics unit. this particularly precious baby girl had already died when i met her--a mere two months of a life lived. i stood in her room, staring at her tiny frame, which only seemed tinier amidst the jungle of machines that surrounded her. family was already gone. i was merely there with a packet of white model magic, a squishy, clay-like substance with which to make a foot and handprint. memories of a short-lived life.
her hands were already starting to stiffen, her fragile, petite fingers curling inwards into a fist. her face had lost its color a mere hour after passing, now an odd grayish color that stood out starkly against the bright pink bow wrapped around her bald head. i wanted to touch her and pray for her, but it seemed an odd thing to do in that moment. there was something otherly, holy happening.
the nurse cradled her gently in his arms so that i might take her footprint. i hesitantly took her right foot and began to press it into the white mold. was i pushing to hard? would this damage her precious foot? these questions ran through my mind, even though i knew she couldn't feel my cold fingers. diligently i pressed each sliver of a toe down, so as not to miss one tiny centimeter of this precious B/G. 5 toes in all, each accounted for, here and in heaven.

words cannot express how grateful i am for God bringing each and every one of these persons into my life. i count it as an immeasurable privilege to have known them and lived a part of our lives together. amidst all the pain, struggle, fear and doubt i have felt these past months, these moments have somehow resurrected hope in me, a knowledge that God is always with us--groaning, crying, rejoicing with us--as we wait to be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.