An ambulance arrives at the hospital. A person is wheeled through the door, becoming in that moment, a patient. Tests are ordered, blood is drawn, scans are started. First, make sure breathing and heartbeats continue. Then, everything else.
A mom arrives at the hospital. (It could be a dad, it could be a daughter, a partner.) Walking through the door, that person becomes family for the person who became a patient.
And sometimes, into that gap between assessment and diagnosis, between patient and family, between questions and answers, a chaplain walks into the room of the patient or the room with the family.
We don’t know the diagnosis, we don’t know the outcome, we don’t know the family history.
We don’t know, for example, when we walk into those rooms, that a relation died in this very space 6 months ago. We don’t know that this is the last of a generation or the first of the grandchildren. We don’t know how much anyone has the capacity to understand because of underlying cognitive decline or overwhelming fear.
We don’t know. But we aren’t there to give answers anyway.
In those moments we listen for why the fear is so great. We listen for why the avoidance is so strong. We listen to the stories. We offer water or coffee to the people But mostly, we are, I am, offering a face and an ear. And an anchor to the belief that though we don’t understand what is going on, God is.
Notice that I didn’t say God does.
Sometimes when we are focused on the “doing” part of God, that becomes a measure of whether or not we will trust.
“God knows exactly what is going on but isn’t telling me. Why doesn’t he tell me so I can understand?”
“Because even if you understood, you might not want to.”
In those moments I am anchored to a knowledge that God is.
To know that there is power and presence.
To know that the promise of Jesus is not that we will have sufficient explanation to make us think that it will be okay. The promise of Jesus isn’t that there will be sufficient action to make everything okay. The promise of Jesus isn’t that there will be sufficient relief of symptoms to make there be no pain.
The promise of Jesus is “I will be with you always.”
In the moment of uncertainty, that doesn’t satisfy our need for action, for answers, for comfortableness. But often, there is comfort.
We are in that middle space right now. We know something is out there. We are waiting for the tests. And we want answers. How long? How fast? How many? Why us?
I’m listening. I’m offering coffee and water, words sometimes here. But I’m considering how best to represent the anchor.