About five weeks after Dad was released from the hospital, we were eating at a restaurant in McKinney. It has since closed, but Steak Kountry was a favorite of many old-time locals. Just as we were getting ready to leave, my mom saw a family come in the door to be seated. I don’t know their names, but we shared most of our hospital stay with them. They also had a loved one in ICU that summer, so we had spent a lot of time waiting together. Those difficult times made it easy to make friends. Their loved one had been released from the hospital a few weeks before this and they were on one of their first family outings.
The wife helped her husband to the table using the physical therapy safety belt he wore. He also required her assistance to sit down, read the menu, use a fork and eat his food. His road to recovery would be very long, so they just began taking one step at a time. I wish I knew where their story went from here, but we sadly lost touch with them after that evening. I can’t help but think that my dad’s journey could’ve been similar. When we g0t up to walk to the car, Dad was unassisted; he walked out the door as easily as ever, but that night the other potential outcomes were more than obvious. I’ve never wanted to dwell on what might’ve made us different, but the story is incomplete without this thought. How do you behave when you survive something others do not?
At the hospital, we met families coming and going. Some got to leave and go to rooms or rehabs, while others faced unexpected and sudden losses. Nothing prepares you to console others when you’re in the same horrible set of circumstances. Being unable to fix others or myself made me feel so much more lost and broken; I knew I had little to no control over my outcome, but I desperately wanted to be helpful and busy. Sometimes I had enough faith for my miracles, but there wasn’t much hope left over to believe with someone else. Every negative report or uncertain result tested our patience and resolve. On the last day, when the answers finally came, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised. Even in my faith, I was shocked. And I was scared. My whole world began to revolve around, “What now?”
We don’t understand how or why this happened. I was not entitled to a good outcome. It’s dangerous to believe that we deserved a good answer. I don’t think you can earn a miracle, but I know they exist and I am in awe and humbled when I get to see one take place. They say that Dad recovered from his injuries because he was healthy when he got sick. His heart, kidneys, lungs and brain were able to heal themselves in many ways. Their plan of a medicated coma was to keep him still long enough to keep him safe. But what if one little piece were different? I still don’t care to dive too far into the question, “Why me?” but I have to respect the inquiry so I will say this: We don’t know.
“I don’t know” is one of the truest answers I can share and I am not ashamed to do so. The fact that I will never know the answer to people’s questions about this topic has finally led me to a peaceful place. I am certain that my mother and grandmother fought death and some demons from hell in the waiting room that first day. I believe my father’s life was spared because dozens of our friends and family from all over the world began to intercede on his behalf. I know that God has numbered the days of each person on earth, so a simple thought would be that it just wasn’t Dad’s time. But each answer I find actually leads to more theologically depressing questions. I’ve often wondered if the other families just didn’t pray enough? Is this about being holy? Or did God just give that person less time? If that wasn’t our time, then how much time do I have left?
Many people I’m close to have lost loved ones even though they honestly believed in healing, those that held on but never received an earthly answer. Scripture teaches that God is sovereign and I know that will be the conclusion I ultimately find for everything. That answer doesn’t do much to help the question though. When I started to dwell on this topic, I went to my mom. I told her about this question and the ideas I wanted to share. She told me that this was the greatest lesson in trust she ever had to learn. She has now officially outlived both of her parents, even living longer than her father who died at age 68. She lost a brother to a drunk driver in the 1950’s at only 17 years of age. The fact that this crazy cosmic being gets to determine who we lose and who we keep is not a safe line of questioning; I don’t recommend following such discussions to their inevitable conclusions.
I pray that these ponderings allow others to see the power of “I don’t know.” Seeking these answers becomes a slippery slope, one where I strive for some assurance and no longer focus on the presence of Christ. A much more helpful thought process can start once I let that go. We live every day, inviting Jesus into our circumstances. Dad was happy he had spent a lifetime living well. A history of clean living didn’t hurt in this instance. Investing in the kingdom, living to lead others, serving the Lord wholeheartedly… all of these things led us to walk in the favor of the Lord. Like Pawpaw said, Dad was dedicated to God so it was God’s turn to go to work. I can’t even imagine what this blog would look like had circumstances been different, but I honestly believe that Jesus would’ve been in that outcome too.
If Dad’s life had ended in 2005, would he have been happy with the legacy he left? With no amendments, additions or explanations, would he be content with what remained? That’s easy. No. Absolutely not. Our story makes no sense without the continued work of today. The purpose of our hospital experience can only be seen from here, the other side.
Like the children of Israel waiting in the wilderness, only a few had enough faith to see the journey through to its bitter end. After spies declared that the land was filled with giants, the people had to wander in the desert for forty years. God preserved Joshua and Caleb, their families, and lots of the young people for the Promised Land but all the men of faith had to wait and wonder too. My forty days do not perfectly compare to the exodus of Scripture, but I think this analogy applies to my life all the time. I was preserved for a purpose, but I’ve seen several seasons of waiting and wandering. My home and family has never been the same and the journey took us to a new and exciting place, one that we’re still exploring today. The Promised Land had always been set apart for the Israelites, even foretold to their ancestor Abraham. It just took them a really long time to get there. The work we are doing for the Lord now was always a part of His calling on our lives, even though we didn’t always see the specifics this way. It just took a really long time for us to get here.
I have walked the width of my wilderness. I’ve wandered many miles. I have every right to be weary. So why am I not? How do I view this so positively all these years later? It’s not because I’m over it. I wake up with nightmares. I still hear hospital beeps when it’s silent and I’m alone. I sometimes stop and stare because I can smell the disinfectants and antiseptics. Every time it’s hot, I’m afraid Dad is overdoing it and I follow him around with a fan and a bottle of water. Every time our life gets stressful, I think my phone is going to ring with yet another medical emergency. I live my life just waiting for the next horrific reveal, the next proverbial shoe to drop. What will the world make me to face today? I am forever changed by these circumstances, but I refuse to be stuck. I find it much to easy to be jaded, so instead I struggle to believe that I have not yet told the complete story.
So how do we do this? Why in the world to we hold on? What’s so special about where our forty day experience took us? Because we know that this is Canaan. This is my Promised Land! Every single day asks me to trust Jesus just a little bit more. Every breath I take is an opportunity to praise the Lord, to recognize that I couldn’t even dream of being here without Him. The land and my days are not all sunshine and roses. There are still battles to fight; we are still surrounded by division and doubt. The giants we saw from the other side of the Jordan still exist, but we have chosen to tackle the future in faith and not in fear. In the actual Promised Land of Scripture, the people dwelt with God. They inhabited a place that belonged to them, they walked in God’s provision and relied upon Him daily. Being at the right place offset the trials they faced. That invitation remains today. God’s not inviting me to something totally unknown. He’s been here before with hundreds of thousands of other believers. He’s doing something new in my life, leading me to something beyond my wildest imagination, but walking by faith is not new to the Gospel way.
We are walking into a place we’ve never been. Why God led us here, how we got here when others didn’t, or what the big plan might be… I’m not sure. I don’t think those are the questions I’ve been needing to ask. I’ve avoided this topic for 12 years because I didn’t want to find the answers. I feel the Lord saying that I should make myself at home on this wild, new ride. I should settle into the questions instead of running from them and let Him reveal the answers only in the proper times. He’s not concerned about the resolution; He’s into the reveal. My faith has a destination, but I think the Gospel was for the journey. In this place where I still feel a little scared, I’ve finally started to feel a little free. I can see the promises unfolding before my eyes. I see pieces coming together; Scripture is being fulfilled, truth is being proclaimed and lives are being changed. I feel welcome here. This is home. Welcome to a place that I call Canaan, population: me.