it's been an eventful week emotionally and otherwise. hard things producing good things. on friday i went to a lactation consultant in ann arbor to discuss adoptive breastfeeding. because i was out that way, i decided to make a stop by mott children's hospital where a friend of a friend was with her young son in need of a complicated heart procedure. i had some books and chocolate peanut butter cups i wanted to give the mama and her little. i followed google maps from the location of my appointment to the location of the hospital. i found a parking spot in the garage, even though the sign was lighted up with "full" in red when i pulled in. glad i didn't believe it! i wandered toward the entrance of the hospital with my gifts in my arms. a mama with her 11 month son in a stroller asked me if i needed help to find where i was going. i was clearly dazed and confused about my whereabouts. i explained i was looking for the cardiac wing of the children's hospital. this woman's mom worked there and she was visiting her and going to an appointment and knew the hospital well. i was thankful she wasn't visiting because of an ill child of her own. i walked with her to the entrance and was directed to reception to obtain a visitor pass. i needed to know the patient's first and last name or unit. i knew the first name and couldn't recall the last name. at that point i was just like "i can just drop this stuff here if that's ok, i don't need to go up to the room. i'm just a friend of a friend." but the woman helping me asserted that they prefer not to take responsibility for delivering gifts. which i understood. so then i had to walk out and consult my friend to get the information and walk back in. i felt stupid and started looking around for something to use as a conversation starter. i commented on the beautiful blue butterfly display and the woman helping me remarked that there was a garden outside and said something like there is a butterfly for each child that has passed in the hospital. and i wished i had never mentioned the butterflies.
i obtained my visitor pass and tried to pay attention and listen to her instructions regarding how to get to where i needed to go to deliver my gift. i wandered in the direction she pointed me towards to find the elevator. i almost turned down the wrong hallway. past the superman, she had said. i turned before the superman. eventually i found the elevator and went up to the correct floor. there was another reception area and i explained who i was there to see. the woman at the desk made a call to alert the area that i was coming back. she told me the room number and told me how to find it. off i wandered again trying to follow directions well. i passed a member of the custodial staff who was hollering to another staff member down the hall. i smiled as i passed. what would it be like to change linens in a children's hospital. as i was walking further down the hall i came upon a small child being wheeled in a hospital bed, pacifier in mouth, surrounded by adults that i presumed were parents and grandparents. they were dressed well. i wondered why. i thought hopefully they were not there for a sad occasion if they were dressed well. or had they come from an event when something happened to the child. i don't know. all i know is there was a baby in a wheeled hospital bed with a paci in his mouth and red splotches around his eyes. i felt my countenance fall, felt hot tears welling up. i gave the well dressed adults a look of sympathy and pity. then wondered if that was offensive. could i ease or worsen their pain and suffering with just one look? i couldn't imagine my own sweet bina in that hospital bed and how i would feel if i were the one behind her bed flanked by well dressed family members.
after seeing that baby, i had a hard time keeping my composure. i started to breathe in and out, trying not to hyperventilate. i prayed in my head "oh jesus, help me hold it together!" over and over. i was coming to give gifts to a mama and her small son that i had never met. i started to become concerned that my attempt to encourage and lighten their burden with a kind word and books and chocolate would turn into me blubbering like a hopeless fool in front of them, overwhelmed by the weight of a hospital full of the sick babies of other mamas. "that's not what this mama and little that i came to see need, jesus. help me!" i pleaded in my head. the numbering of the rooms was confusing. i wandered down the hall, around corners, and finally came to the area where the mom and little i came to visit resided. i cautiously stepped in. it wasn't a private room, it was another reception-looking area surrounded by open rooms created by pulled curtains. the outer wall was full of windows. i looked up at the ceiling where the numbers were labeled above the rooms, separated by curtains. i found the one i was looking for, afraid to look below it and see the flesh and blood version of the image of god i had only seen in photos before. i laid eyes on the sweet boy i had seen on instagram and his mama's blog. it was surreal. the instagram and blog posts brought me to tears as i read them in the days prior to my visit. but seeing him in a photo was nothing like seeing him with my own eyes, a small boy covered in tubes and medical equipment. my heart broke for him. for his mama.
i turned toward the window wall beside him and saw a woman and a hospital employee talking. the woman was sitting on the small loveseat beside the hospital bed. i made eye contact and gave a shy wave to get her attention. i said quietly "you don't know me" with a gentle smile. i felt so foolish. i felt even more foolish when i realized that the woman i saw was not this boy's mama but her best friend who had come to visit. i spoke with her for just a minute to pass off the gifts. she asked if i wanted her to get the boy's mama and i muttered a cautious "yes?" then i heard her mention something about a nap and quickly replied "wait, did you say she is napping? oh, don't wake her for me, she doesn't even know me." i will not be the person who wakes a tired mama from her precious few hours of sleep as she sits by her son's bedside willing him to get better so she can see his pink lips and feed him snacks on the counter again. and so i said that i would be back another time with my friend and could speak with her in person then. the woman then apologized. i exclaimed "you have nothing to be sorry for!" how ludicrous for someone to apologize to me, a perfect stranger, for not being able to meet the mama of this sweet babe in the bed. i felt wrong for even putting her in a place where she felt the need to apologize. i reassured her i would come back with my friend who had visited several times prior at a better time. i took one last look at the sweet babe in the bed. my heart broke again. and i turned and walked out of the room.
when i reached the elevator, i pressed the button and waited. on the way down a father and son stepped on and the son crouched down in preparation to jump when the elevator made its next stop. his jump was rather anti-climatic and the father commented something to the effect of "better luck next time." i smiled and turned to the son and said "but that was a good try!" as i got off the elevator. i wonder why they were at the hospital. there was also a women's wing. maybe a baby brother or sister had just been born. i can only hope. everyone has a story, don't they. makes me wish i had time to stop and ask and listen to them all. but i had a little to get home to myself.
i left the hospital thankful that the mama i went to see was napping. i didn't think i would have been able to hold it together to talk to her, and god knows i didn't want to bring her any additional pain or suffering to bear. i have been so encouraged by her blog. one of her latest posts talked about her assurance of god's goodness despite the outcome of their stay in this hospital. when her son crashed days ago, she found herself saying in her head "i need him! god, i need him!" and she felt the holy spirit respond gently with "no, you need me." she was able to receive that truth and cling to it. no matter what may come, god is the unchanging constant in our lives. we cannot comprehend the things that happen on this earth. the suffering and death of innocents. small children in hospital beds fighting for their lives while others play outside on the playground. i drove past that sight on my way out of the city. the stark contrast is incomprehensible. but we serve a big, loving god. a perfect father. we see glimpses of him but we will never fully comprehend him while we are living on this earth. and praise him for that. i do not want to serve a god i can fully comprehend because then he is no bigger than i am. he is working all things together for the good, even if we cannot see through our tears and pain and suffering. if we hold fast to him, the only constant in our lives, he will sustain us. he will lift our heads. he will show his glory.
god has recalled this passage to my mind continually lately:
new international version (niv)
peace and hope
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. and hope does not put us to shame, because god's love has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit, who has been given to us. yes. suffering produces... hope. hope that does not disappoint. because god has poured out his love to us. and when we share in our sufferings, we share that hope.
the next time i see a butterfly, i will think of the sweet littles in mott children's hospital and say a prayer for them and their mommies and daddies. i am so thankful that my friend thought to include me on her email to ladies she knows with similar passions who might want to reach out and surround this mama and her little with love and support as they seek an impossible outcome far from home. this sweet mama with a little with a broken heart that may never leave that hospital. in the midst of all her pain and suffering his mama cries out "but i believe that god is good and i will not lose my awe and wonder, whatever may come." that is the gospel lived out, living and loving. raw. true. honest. genuine. sharing in the suffering. sharing the suffering that produces hope. resting in the assurance of god's goodness when we cannot see past our own tears. mourning with those who mourn. rejoicing with those who rejoice. sometimes many times back and forth in the same day. live the family of god. live the love of jesus. there is no other way.