My father and I sit in the dingy corner of a barren hospital waiting room, comforted by the hum of vending machines and Bruce, fixing a fresh pot of coffee around the corner. It can’t be past 4 am on Sunday. And I can’t help but think of a 4 am on an Easter Sunday some 2000 years ago. Bruce knowingly extends me a cup of coffee and I oblige, sipping it black against the white Styrofoam walls, cupping it in my palms. My eyelids and heart are heavy, but my spirit dreams of Mary trudging through early light of Easter morning to visit her loved one.
We sit here for what must be more than an hour. In the tomb, of the pit of the hospital, we sit here. Few, tired tears fall and we wait. Perched on the sterile, vinyl chairs, heads reeling with the disequilibrium of the past few hours. And feel every bit the despair and nagging that Good Friday punished the world with for three excruciatingly long days. We sit and wait, in the dim light of this cavern hidden away in the cold heart of the hospital. We wait. Until finally, we greet my mom from surgery and we emerge.
We walk long, cold hallways, and I whisper to him, giddy, that it must have been around this time that Mary discovered the empty tomb. The walls echo with silence. Her path must have been one of obedience in the stillness. It must have been her wandering over moss and between trees and under vines that she stumbled upon a surprise, and we weave around corners and make our way to the ICU.
He shakes his head, enduring a long night, we’re not sure what time it is anymore. But my heart dawns with excitement thinking that a glimpse outside the window and this nightmare of a night would have come to an end, and that the sun would be shining and new mercies would be present with the rising sun.
We round the corner and I eagerly peak outside the window.
Not a lot. But just enough to guide our trek down the hallway. Just enough to see the shadow of the springtime blooms and to push the darkness out of the crevasses of this hospital. Just enough to overcome the harsh, stark, fluorescent bulbs that line our path. Just enough light to crest over the top of the building, passing off the clouded ceiling outdoors and to grace the tile floor before me.
Just enough light for the next step.
I think of how the birds must be beginning to sing their song of joy. They know the song, they have rehearsed it, and they sing it well. On Easter, they sing of promises and I can’t imagine how they must have sang in tune with Mary at the joy and bewilderment and the deafening disbelief of her discovery. Oh, and if only I could hear them, my heart would sing along!
A promise fulfilled and a suspenseful wait of the grave is terminated. I can hardly grasp that the endurance with which we trudged through the previous night is lifted by the promise the empty tomb holds.
We make our way to the hospital room, and my mom asks me to teach her, anything.
I stare at her blankly for a moment. I fish my Bible out of my weathered purse. I wrap her hand in mine and I start where I go when nothing seems remotely appropriate, and know not where else to go. I start with Paul in his jail cell. The man knows suffering, he is familiar with the ins and outs and ups and downs. He does not glamourize or pride himself, but his raw honesty pleads a truth to my heart and my mother’s that I rarely find elsewhere. I long to be like Paul. And in the midst of extreme adversity to still be asking for more Jesus.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-10
This resurrection, we have lived it. It is the act of causing something that had ended or been forgotten or lost to exist again. He has revived our lost hearts and he has straight loved them back to life. And we have lived! He has won. It is about so much more than the vital signs on a telemetry monitor or the results of a CT scan. It’s the very life and bravery with which my mother speaks of the goodness of Christ in the valley of incomprehensible, unimaginable suffering. The joy with which she says Jesus’ name, and the smile on her face after long enduring nights. This is the power of resurrection come to reality.
I share these details with you in hopes that our story may be part of your story. That a quiet smile and utterance of our Saviour in a tiny hospital room would whisper peace to someone’s wounded and calloused heart. Yes, Jesus is in the big picture. But more often I see him in the intricate details of the timing of these events and the small sacrifices reminding us that he is in fact worthy of every ounce of our trust. Some days I have less ounces of trust to contribute than others. But each day we find more reasons to place a little more in his worthy, wounded palms. I wish everyone had my vantage point. I truly do. I wish everyone could sit on the edge of her hospital bed and read scripture, or to stay up till 3 am in the ICU waiting room with my baby sister finding things to giggle about and simultaneously wipe tears from each others eyes and tie and re-tie our sneakers. To revel at my brother’s wisdom and encouragement. I wish everyone could walk in the stillness and peace of the calm after a chaotic night, to my father perched on a set of drawers at her bedside, whispering promises of truth, reciting every syllable of scripture he knows to my mother, telling her over and over that she is the bravest, most beautiful woman he has ever met. Even in this moment. Maybe it is that which continually strikes me the most. My mother’s bravery. And my father’s ability to love her exactly and perfectly as Christ loves the church. It’s the greatest love story I have ever witnessed. More romantic than sitting with my feet propped up and a sack of popcorn at a valentine’s movie premiere. And it is true! It’s real and it is tangible here when I walk in the room, stunned and reeling and confused, he loves on. I wish everyone could see what I see. How brave, how beautiful she really is. The grace she passes to everyone who encounters her. The stubbornness and bravery with which she has endured and conquered this illness. The rest and peace she abides in, knowing that Christ has won.
The simplest prayers have now become only words: grace, mercy, peace. They are commands we repeatedly plead and they are granted to us, hourly. Jesus is here in this place, because of a brave woman who has asked him to be here. Because of a man who continually pursues her heart and challenges me to love holding absolutely nothing back with each passing minute. Love that is so much stronger than even wedding vows, and young hearts with twinkling eyes because it is love that is found in Christ and the manifest of Christ’s love for each of us. It is just so real.
More often we find ourselves conflicted by tests and prognosis and doctor’s orders and opinions and interventions. So we cling to what we know is true, and spend every moment as an opportunity to love one another and share in the sufferings of Christ to grasp at just a shard of his glory in this story.
“Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, ‘How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now? There are no answers to these questions. Mostly, we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all the shadows away.” (Henri Nouwen).
So we do rejoice, for this hour, for this minute. We rejoice, cradled in his perfect timing and trusting in him more every second. We have no fear of the dark, because with Christ we enter it by his side with nothing to do but trust him and his unfailing love. We are continually surprised at how far each of these steps continues to take us and we are filled with joy for the hope of glory and the fulfillment of his promises which we encounter daily. The shadows that linger are more reason to be here and now, clinging to the light of this moment, to fully experience the peace of this moment and the worthiness of his trust. We cling to the promise of his goodness and glory. We rejoice in the promise of enough light for the next step. He is good.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.