Steady My Heart
Evening was here, and the lights in the room were off to beckon sleep, but the lights and sounds from the hallway streamed through the curtain separating our room from the screech-screech-screech of nurses’ shoes and code blues on the ICU floor. My sister was nestled beside me in a recliner and I on the foldout couch. We were there keeping watch as no one from the hospital staff knew how to properly operate the machines that assisted my momma in living with ALS, a terminally ill disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s). So my warrior-sister and I tag-teamed day and night and night and day, and more. Sleep was nowhere to be found so I let my eyes flutter over the room. There were so many bittersweet life-sustaining machines monitoring so many things. And dwelling among the silence, the beeping machines, the screech-screech-screech, the codes…Peace.
The day before we had come to the ER, after momma broke her ankle after a bad fall, but we ended up spending the night there in a little white room after severe chest pains resulted in tests…and more tests. We were admitted to the Cardiac ICU floor because of her ALS needs and would find out over the next several days she had pancreatitis, liver congestion, and abnormalities in her heart and liver. In our pulmonologist’s words, “Humility is just a patient away.” But as we’ve become accustomed to, blessings sprinkled our days in that hospital room and reminded us that God was there. He held us together with many moments of laughter, the deep-in-your-belly-kind that stays for a while, sweet memories, and pictures that no one will ever see.
We came home days later with undiagnosed abnormalities, still, and prayers tucked away for that Peace in the hospital room to follow us home and abide with us there, too.
And He did. That first afternoon and evening were excruciatingly hard. But it was that enduring Peace, our anchor, that got us through.
Talk about dark days and I’ll talk about the Rock of Ages.
As ALS progresses faster than ever before, there are few things that momma can still do by herself these days. We’re privileged to do all those things for her because love does. Her arms and legs are weak, and spasms remind us that those muscles are shutting down. Perhaps the most sad and frightening of all are the episodes of choking that are becoming several-times-a-day-and-night occurrences. Her diaphragm is weakening from the ALS and she is choking on her own saliva. Sleep is a dream most nights as the choking keeps her awake. And as muscles weaken, it becomes harder to communicate, and as it becomes harder to communicate, my momma is becoming trapped inside her own body. And while we knew this stage would come, nothing and no one can prepare you for it. It pulls at your heartstrings and takes the breath right out of you as you stand by…watching, praying, grieving, hoping. Trusting. Abiding.
Oh, but that Peace.
It’s become tradition around here for me to tuck momma into bed at night and then snuggle up beside her in her hospital bed here at home, and for my sister to join us when she’s here, which is often. And sometimes my momma wipes my tears and sometimes I wipe hers. Sometimes we watch our favorite movies and sometimes we talk about things only mothers and daughters do and sometimes we just lay there. And sometimes I let her finger my hair with her strong-er hand, even though I know it gives her spasms, and all of a sudden I’m five again and I have to squeeze my eyes shut and pray to God that He keeps my thirty-year-old heart strong, come what may.
Steady my heart, Lord. That’s my prayer these days.
Endurance. Faithfulness. Patience. Compassion. Steadfastness.
There’s a quote by Charles Spurgeon that I ran across on social media the other day that reads: “I’ve come to kiss the waves that crash me into the Rock of Ages.”
I think I’ve just arrived there. I’ve come to kiss the wretched wave that anchors me to the Master of the Wind. And I am thankful that I know Him. And I am thankful that Peace is mine. And I am thankful that, come what may, His steadfast love is enough for me now and someday. Hebrews 6:19 is true: “We have this hope as an A N C H O R for the soul, firm and secure.”
C.S. Lewis writes, “Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” And I truly believe that “everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God, 33). Suffering will be “so radically vanquished that what has happened will only serve to make our future life and joy infinitely greater” (34).
Can you just imagine? In the midst of suffering, Peace. In the midst of grief, Life. In the midst of hopelessness, Hope. In the midst of fill-in-the-blank-with-your-story, God will take the bitter and turn it into something sweet, for your good and for His glory.
There’s a peace I’ve come to know. That’s my story I’ll tell. That Peace that brings the broken and messy pieces together until I can say, in Christ alone, it is well. It’s His Peace that steadies my heart. Oh how good. Oh, how incredibly good He is. How good, how good, how good.
And you, precious reader? I don’t know your story, but know this: You can bring the broken and messy pieces of your story of suffering and lay them before the Lord. Lean in to His peace today. It will hold all the pieces, this I know.
Because God is good and His Word true, you can know suffering and Peace, grief and life, hopelessness and hope.
Full blog post published at www.ourhopeanchored.wordpress.com on August 1, 2015