I have often heard people recount a moment when they experience God for the first time, or in a new way, and it changes the direction of their lives forever. Certainly I have experienced several significant moments of awakening to His presence. More than one particular moment though, my relationship with God has felt like a continuous unfolding, a kind of treasure map of experiences which ultimately lead me into greater wisdom or empathy or growth. My well-worn prayer has always been: "God, let me not be full of crap" and "Help me to give over everything to you. Don't let me hold anything back". So it stands to follow that I eased comfortably back into His arms in those dark nights of our hospital stay. And I had a steady confidence (not arrogance, but a hopeful expectation) that we would be the recipients of a bona fide miracle. After all, I reasoned, hadn't all I ever learned about God-His favor to those He loves, His power to save them-prepared me for just this moment?
So I prayed. Quietly; in whispers at night. Publicly; in front of doctors and nurses, family and friends. Collectively; with the few allowed to see him, and the hundreds gathered at home. Continuously; not slowing or losing heart when things looked bleak. Passionately; pouring all of my hopes and fears into each plea. Assuredly; knowing who I was praying to and being certain of His ability to rescue us. My faith was, pound for pound, a good deal heavier than the mustard seed, but my mountain wasn't budging.
Desperate is the word that best describes our eight week hospital stay. Brutal is a close second. The mountaintop highs, the desert lows. The 'cautiously optimistic' pronouncement followed soon after by a visit with the Palliative Care Team. The extremes were exhausting, heart wrenching and, it seemed to me, bitterly cruel. But even when I saw the blood and heard the echo of his doctors saying a second GI bleed would surely kill him, I believed a miracle would come.
I asked for signs and looked everywhere for answers. Riding the elevator up from the cafeteria one day, the hospital priest asked how I was doing. "Happy to see a man of God," I said, dodging. "We are all children of God," he said pointedly. And I stopped to take it in, to believe it was true. Because as such, even as Paul's breath became shallow and quickened, I held out a persistent hope that God would intervene.
I have read about devastating loss and suffering and the men and women who continue to lift eyes and voices heavenward. After Paul's death, I had hoped I would follow in their leading. Instead, I find my fists are clenched instead of folded and my prayers seem more accusatory than conversational. I don't doubt God could have saved my husband, it simply breaks my heart that He did not.
I find myself now revisiting those seasons of great faith in my life, holding on desperately to what was so certain then. Through my raging and pain I still seek Him. And maybe that is enough, for now.