Critical Illness #6

This section has a few ways that I tried to cope with this life changing and challenging event. My spiritual discipline for years has been to read the Word, study and pray. Repeat. When our lives hit this huge crisis and Bob almost died, it was difficult and practically impossible for me to hold to any discipline. I was upheld by the prayers of the church, but my study time failed completely. And then the Lord would drop a line here or there into my mind and spirit to encourage me. “Show us Your mercy, O Lord,” from the morning prayer suffrages, Book of Common Prayer. And I would go forward with whatever the day held for us. Often I prayed the full armor of God from Ephesians six as I drove to the hospital or dressed in the hospital bathroom after spending the night with Bob.

I began to approach the situation with stillness but no presumption that I in any way knew the ultimate result. Though I was often unconsciously holding my breath, there was a stillness in me. The stillness came with a peace that I recognized as coming from God. Reporting the day’s events and blood work results to prayer partners via email, without forecasting the next step or event or outcome, was about my only “productive” output.

The stillness was related to Habakkuk 2:20 NRSV “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him!” Another prayer that surfaced from the BCP “We do not presume to come to this Thy table trusting in our own righteousness but in Thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table. But Thou are the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.” (Holy Eucharist 1 P. 337)

Part of my struggle was yielding to the facts and in stillness letting my wishes die, placing my hope in the plans of the Almighty. The “ISness” of the many illnesses he was suffering including the ICU psychosis. The nurses and doctors assured me he would come out of that, but no one knew when or in what condition afterwards. I could not see the outcome at all, but I trusted God’s goodness and His love for both myself and my family.

I learned that crucified, you must hold perfectly still.

Ephesians 3:16 helped me to trust more. “I pray that, according to the riches of His glory, He may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” I prayed for Bob and our children to be strengthened. I prayed for myself to be strengthened by His Spirit with power penetrating to my innermost being. Yes, crucified you must hold perfectly still. I was not “going” anywhere.

Brother Lawrence taught “Useless thoughts spoil everything and much mischief begins there.” I needed to still my thoughts and dwell in the present moment. “What if” thoughts brought needless anxiety. I just had no extra energy to waste on that.

The power of thanksgiving had been my study several years prior to this. Now it was difficult to even remember to give thanks.  I saw in 2 Corinthians 4:15b “So that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may INCREASE THANKSGIVING, to the glory of God”  but I was unable to do much of that. I became numb with fatigue and stress. His grace carried me and turned to thanksgiving in the signature of my every email with lyrics from “Good, good Father” written by Brown and Barrett, recorded by Chris Tomlin.

Eventually that signature changed to “Acceptance becomes the sacrament of the present moment, the point at which your struggle becomes useless and the unknown becomes the next step in life.” Joan Chittister