I’m sitting alone in my room at Munson Manor in Traverse City where my wife and I spent the night, as she had to be at the hospital at 7:30 this morning for surgery to remove a cancerous uterus. The surgery went well, just as planned, but she needs to spend the night in the hospital for observation. The surgeon said he didn’t see anything with the naked eye, I assume beyond what we already knew was there. We really won’t know the full extent until the pathology report comes back in a few days, but we are hopeful that nothing further will be required. But it’s been a long day already, and though I feel the need to write, I can’t find a single overarching theme for a post. So I decided to just share some thoughts that have passed through my mind in the past day or so.
- Sitting in a surgery waiting room is a little like being in an airport terminal (or at least the way a terminal used to be). People come and go, patient and family member. They come, check in, and almost immediately have to say good-bye when the nurse from pre-op shows up. Then comes the waiting. On the wall there are two monitors, one on each end of the room. You look at them, find your patient, and check their status, kind of like looking at the arrivals and departures boards. But mostly you sit, and wait. You wait for those few moments when they’re wheeling your loved ones to their room, your chance to see them once again, to let them know you love them, to see if they’re all right, before they are gone once more, because the pandemic has prevented visitors from being allowed to stay. The waiting room is a type of test- a test of how much faith you have in the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses, and how much faith you have in the God to whom a myriad of prayers have been offered. If that last piece is in place, you sit and wait with a peace that all will be well, because your loved one is in the hands of the Master Healer, and that’s enough.
- Masks; a really big deal right now. We have to get a brand new mask every time we go to the hospital, and Rita and I have a handful of cloth masks we keep handy at home and in the car for when we need to go anywhere. Now we both have to use a CPAP/BiPAP machine at night, which is yet another mask. Night and day, we wear masks. These masks are to protect us, but they also hide us away from each other (it’s terribly difficult to exchange a goodnight kiss while wearing a full-face CPAP mask!). But the most deadly masks of all are the ones only we can see. They hide pain, loss, guilt, and shame. Instead of protecting us they lock away the things that eat at our souls, things which need to be shared and healed. This time of year is especially difficult, as the masks tend to be in full use, because we’re supposed to be happy and joyous, even if we’re not. And that’s OK. But let’s pledge ourselves to help each other do away with the masks and not be afraid to let others see us just as we are. Don’t worry: we will love you, because we are just as afraid to let you see us. But we can be brave together.
- I spend a lot of time praying in the middle of the night because I’m wide awake and can’t think of a better thing to do (there isn’t one, by the way). The other night I was having a conversation with God, and doing a gratitude review. It’s something I find myself doing more and more often. The more you do it, the easier it becomes, and it radically changes your mindset. But as I worked my way through all the things for which we are grateful, I realized what an amazing life Rita and I have enjoyed together. We’ve been married almost 45 years, which is twice as long as we were single. In all of our nomadic wanderings, we’ve met so many wonderful people we love with all our hearts, people who are dear to us, people who bring a smile just by thinking of them. We live in the place where we need to be, and are surrounded by incredibly loving neighbors and a church family which is the living example of what the apostle Peter calls a “peculiar people”, in all of its many meanings. We are so blessed it makes even the troubles and challenges seem smaller. God is so good to us, and so are those He chosen to surround us. Thank you.
- Like many of you, Christmas this year may prove to be a little bittersweet. It will be just the two of us at home, although there will be some ‘long distance’ celebration by phone or video call. But even this has proven to be a blessing in its own way, because Rita and I have been able to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. EMMANUEL: God with us. When you really think about that, it takes your breath away, or should. We don’t have a God who is distant and unconcerned. He is a God who desires to be among His creation, to have intimate fellowship with His creatures, desirous to share Himself and pour out a myriad of His richest blessings on us. A God so broken hearted by the separation caused by sin and our inability to save ourselves, He chose to be the solution, the sacrifice to once and for all destroy the power of sin and death and restore that relationship. That’s the true gift of Christmas to all of us, and it’s my hope that we will think about it during this season and gratefully accept it. You’ll never receive one better.