What an amazing rollercoaster yesterday was!
We woke up to family devotionals that pushed us to trust in the Lord, and I got ready and hurried to church for praise team practice where the Holy Spirit fell on us so thick and amazing that none of us wanted to stop praising.
As we finished up and prepared for the actual service, two of our very close friends came in to visit with us at The Well, so I was excited to see them. After we finished praise and worship, they checked their phones because their teenage daughter was driving to their church and usually sends them a text message when she gets there. They stepped out to check and realized they had missed a phone call from Spartanburg Regional and that their daughter’s GPS tracking on her phone was not showing her at the church.
Even though the hospital couldn’t confirm when they called to see if their daughter was there, now the GPS was showing her phone at the hospital. So they asked if we could keep their younger daughter after service and they rushed out to the hospital, tearful and unsure of what was happening. I hit my face in the aisle even as the pastor was continuing service and wet the floor with prayerful, hopeful, hurting tears of compassion for these dear friends, knowing that the uncertainty was a heavy burden as they rushed to the hospital.
We waited for a text, but none came, so we continued in the service, and at the end, I gathered the elders to pray. Then I rushed off to the hospital as Mandee took the Mia and their younger daughter home to our house. As I was on the way, Mandee confirmed they were in ICU. I sent a text to the leadership at their church (our old church) and knew that we now had two large bodies of believers seeking God over this shocking situation. I sent a text to our small group that meets in our house that all know them close and personal, and to my closest kingdom friends. It was time for battle, so the call went out to ready the troops.
I arrived at the hospital, checked for directions and room number and they sent me to the Neuro ICU. I continued praying, not knowing what I could even say or do at a time like this. I let them know that I was there and they called me in, and there was their daughter — I should really say “our daughter” because they are closer to us than most of our blood family. Her body was shuddering erratically while she lay unconscious, and there were so many machines, tubes, protective gloves over her hands, and most noticeably a ventilator tube going into her mouth. And mom and dad were on each side of the bed, clinging to her close — and just in complete shock.
I didn’t even know if I was wanted there in this moment, if I was intruding upon this moment. I had no idea what do say or do, because I was overcome myself. But their family urged me in close with them saying, “They need you.” So we prayed. We had a “come to Jesus” moment where I cried out, not acting like we understood better, not blaming the Lord, but asking the Lord how in the midst of our seeking to bring Him praise we should be torn from that to find our loved one seemingly broken before us. And it wasn’t prayed in anger but in hopes that we could understand, because at this moment we were hanging on by faith alone, clinging to the promises of the Word of God, and trusting that He knows better than us.
But still hurting.
We finished praying WITH the Lord, to the creator and the healer, to Almighty God the Father, imploring Jesus Christ our great intercessor, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit to move and heal and restore today as He has done in the past. And the weight in the room lifted enough that our precious friends who had been muted by their grief could now speak just a few words, even in their still shell-shocked state.
So we hugged, we cried, we stood together, and I even fell on my face again, wetting the second patch of floor this day over a burden so heavy to bear over to the cross. She was not responsive — she hadn’t been since the accident. And there was precious little information available to us even about the accident, or her condition, or her prognosis — so we prayed, and we hoped, and we trusted in the Lord. I couldn’t even give so many friends who were praying any type of update, because we knew so little. We were blind to so much else because our attention was focused on what was happening inside that small little hospital room with the continual sound of the ventilator feeding her air to breathe and the beep of the heartbeat monitor, and the occasional sound of medicine being delivered intravenously. Our world had become so small and compressed, tight knit, close, personal — we were intimately entwined in this challenge, but we weren’t alone.
Over time they could speak, and we agreed that I would go run some necessary errands at their house for them and come back. I called my wife on the way out of the hospital and she said the girls are doing fine, but they have had questions. I was so encouraged by the answers she had given them, the reassurance, the wise counsel she had given them in trusting in the Lord. I praised God for this godly woman that I see Him raising up beside me daily. I asked her to pack me an overnight bag with Bible, pillow and blanket, “I’ll camp out in the waiting room” I told my wife.
So I ran the errands, traveling back the way that I had come earlier, returning from the urban environment of Spartanburg to the rural mountain foothills of Landrum, but I didn’t notice the normally beautiful skyline mountain views that I usually would. I was traveling not in awe of the creation, but awestruck by this circumstance, and seeking the Lord closely. There were no bright songs of praise playing on the radio like usual, because even though He is worthy of all praise, I also know the foolishness that Proverbs 25:20 tells us about singing joyful songs to a heavy heart.
And when I returned to the hospital, nothing had yet changed except they had gathered her belongings. No new news to share with those praying. No new answers to give our girls that were at the house with Mandee. Even heavier to realize — no new evidence that mom and dad’s hope and faith and love is on solid ground. But they were coming out of the shock. They were standing with the nurse, pleading with their daughter to wake up, to squeeze their hand, to respond in any possible way to outside stimulus. I had prayed for the Lord to breathe life and healing into her, but I knew when I prayed it that it would be on his time. We were past the 6 hour timeframe for a normal concussion at that point, so I didn’t know if it would be hours, days, weeks, months because unconsciousness is a tricky thing.
Then her mom mentioned that her best friend was on his way, and her daddy mentioned to her “He’s on the way… you’re going to want to wake up and squeeze my hand before he gets here.” And something in that heartfelt plea of her daddy gave me a ray of hope that hasn’t shone until that point. I have to admit that I was even tempted to dismiss it as only emotional, but as they pleaded with her, she squeezed a hand, she opened her eyes, she even wiggled her toes at the nurses prompting —
A bomb of joy erupted into that room that had been so heavy, and the darkness fled, and hallelujahs were raised, and I even danced! It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen firsthand — like a really good Lifetime movie, or a great motivational message — but this was real life, this was our lives! So we praised even as the nurse calmed her and she went back to sleep.
And then, we got to share the testimony with her young friend — we got to pray a joyful prayer of thanksgiving, and for hope that others in this hospital facing such similar fears would find the living faith that sustains, and that peace that passes all understanding, that only is found in Jesus Christ.
And we stood in awe and commented on the stark contrast of the highs and lows of the day. We commented on the fact that we had sang “Show me your glory” that morning, and we had seen it first hand — but that it took a trip through the fire to get to it. And that took me back to something we had discussed in the early morning hours before praise team practice about how we have to understand better the weight of God’s judgement in order to better understand the precious nature of the cross and God’s grace. And we all agreed that knowing and trusting that God has a purpose and a plan doesn’t make the grief and the pain disappear, but it carries us through.
I wouldn’t wish what we went through on anyone — but I can’t explain how much I appreciated being there at that moment when she became responsive.
Enjoy the ride.