Everybody’s hurting

I was in the hospital cafeteria last night, standing in line behind a young couple who were paying for their pile of a la carte food: two salads, a container of chicken fingers (undoubtedly meant to split and top their salads–something Wes and I would do), and a carton of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They were silent as he fumbled with his wallet and a bag to hold it all, and she helped carry their things.

I thought maybe they might be less personable than the average person, not inclined to chat with the cashier or meet eyes with anyone else in line, though I may have detected a faint smile as she glanced back at me. I found my mind wandering, judging, assuming. Some people just aren’t that outwardly friendly, I guess…

Then I noticed a band around her wrist, somewhat worn, of the sort of material from which the express envelopes at the post office are made. Waterproof and long-lasting. It was white, and was marked in large, black letters: PG.

I felt conviction hit like a blow to the gut: Parental Guardian.

Vanderbilt Hospital, in which my husband is recovering, shares a cafeteria with the Children’s Hospital.

As I walked back toward the elevator, I passed a mother walking with her young daughter, explaining “…and Daddy’s scars will heal just like that…” With “scars”, she drew a line down her chest.

I thought back to a moment several weeks ago when we were in Gatlinburg with my mom and our kids, when Wes still had his staples in and was feeling pretty well. It was an eventful day for him, a welcome change from our bedroom, where he’d remained since the surgery.

Crossing the street in this tourist trap, I noted the halting, quivering gait of a middle-aged man who walked with his arm around his wife. Parkinson’s. They looked happy. Relaxed, in spite of his obvious impairment. I felt a wrenching, twisting pain in my chest.

There is no escape from life and its onslaught of tests, twists, turns, and general woes. All have sinned, and all are subject to this frail, human condition. If we can bear it without losing hope, trusting the God who has prepared for us a Place without tears, obeying Him in in spite of –while in the midst of– the difficulties that challenge our faith, then we have won. This is no small battle, and no one should fight it alone.

For the man with Parkinson’s, the child whose parents quietly ate their salad and ice cream in the cafeteria that night, and the innumerable others who struggle tonight without answers, I pray.

It’s a supernatural peace that can exist simultaneously with anguish and unanswered questions. It is the pleading, bleeding heart whose cherished object is threatened that knows real love, understands the joy of simple life, and pines for a ‘normal day.’ For all those who suffer now, I pray that their hearts would be pliable in the Hand of the Potter, who has purpose in everything He does, and who suffers with us through every ache.

I pray that my own heart would be sensitive enough to feel the weight of another’s burden, and help him to bear it. If God does not remove the source of the pain, then there must be something He intends to do. I pray I am able to follow His lead and to ease the pain of those around me who are desperate for relief.

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