Underneath my calm exterior, I’ve been an emotional wreck. Mom woke Sunday night with a fever, and I don’t mean a little trifling temperature. In a matter of hours, we went from everything appearing normal to her looking like she’d been exposed to nuclear radiation. I rather dislike it when someone I love starts glowing like some Godzilla creature and radiating heat like hot coals…
There are no other symptoms. We’ve eliminated the lineup of the usual suspects. We can only assume that she picked up a virus during our last marathon day at the hospital. There’s really nothing left to do but stick to rest and fluids. In the mean time, I’m holding my breath, waiting to see which way her fever will go.
The fact that her condition can change so fast is part of what has me on a knife’s edge. One moment I think she’s on the mend. I’ll even start thinking about running errands and seeing a movie. For one deep exhaling moment, our lives seem headed back to blissful normalcy. But then, moments later, her fever goes back up. Suddenly I’m stashing the grocery list and double checking our hospital bag instead. Sleep deprivation aside, the whole process is emotionally exhausting.
Over these past few years of caring for my mom, I’ve lived in the land of uncertainty enough that I should be use to the routine by now. But I’m not use to it.
Yes, I am better at adapting when “plan A” gets thrown aside. After all, I always have a whole alphabet of contingency plans waiting on the sidelines. My poker face remains solidly on my face. I can dole out meds and wield a thermometer with a calm, purposeful attitude that helps to keep our world in balance. But however cool I may appear on the outside, I’m still silently freaking out on the inside.
I’ve lived in hospitals enough to realize that none of us knows when our day will come. I’ve seen enough people on the verge of dying to fully grasp that it can happen without warning. Something seemingly small can go wrong, and suddenly the hospital monitor no longer registers a pulse.
Life is fragile, and it’s sobering to realize that I’m not in control. Life can slip so easily, and there’s very little my thermometer and handful of pills can do to stop it.
So yeah, I guess you could say that I’ve spent the last few days bordering on terrified. I just haven’t wanted to show it.
The only thing that grounds me through this whole mess is God’s steady presence. Every time I feel my gut twisting like a tangled mess of a cat’s cradle, there’s still this otherworldly sense of calm assurance. Paul once described it as the peace of God that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:7). In the eye of my swirling chaotic emotions, there’s this sense that God is here. He’s my wonderful counselor, my prince of peace. In quiet moments, I can feel it and believe that his loving mercies are made new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).
Yesterday, I couldn’t sleep. Before the slightest hint of morning began to glow over the foothills, I was reading the Gospel of Luke and praying for my mom. I didn’t know what else to do, so, while she fitfully slept, I just kept reading and kept praying. Then, in the quiet of that sleeping house, I received one of those gleaming sapphires of God’s mercy.
As I prayed, the scripture I was reading suddenly came alive. As I sat on the sofa, I flashed back with tangible grittiness to a time when I was utterly terrified.
I’d been trying to fly into Chicago for a meeting, and under normal circumstances I would have been fine. When the sun is out, I can keep fear at bay by push images of burning mangled metal from my mind, but all that changes when I fly at night. On this one trip, my afternoon flight had been delayed endlessly. The sun had already set by the time we took off.
As the clock ticked past midnight, I sat clutching the armrests with aching hands. Then the speakers crackled to life, and the pilot announced that we were making our final approach. All I could see out my window was a dismal starless fog. I felt fear creeping up from the pit of my stomach into my throat. How could the pilot land in this mess?
Then, as we circled the airfield, I let out a deep breath that I hadn’t known I’d been holding. Suddenly, I saw the runway lights glowing brightly through the fog. The pilot could see where we were going. He would get us safely home.
Then I felt God whisper gently to my heart, and suddenly I was back on the sofa again. At that moment I understood: God is our runway lights. In modern terms, that is what Zachariah meant as he prophesied over his newborn son, the infant John the Baptist:
“Because of and through the heart of tender mercy and loving-kindness of our God, a Light from on high will dawn upon us and visit [us]
To shine upon and give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct and guide our feet in a straight line into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79 AMP
God’s light shines in our darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5), not even in the valley of the shadow of death. The words of an old hymn sang sweetly in my mind. It is indeed a blessed assurance. Jesus is mine. No matter how dark or uncertain my night, God knows where we’re going. He’s guiding me in a straight line. His runway lights never go out. He’s here, leading me day by day into the way of peace.