I pace the waiting room floor. Eyes down, I watch my black sneakers step across the multi-colored lines of the carpet tiles. I’m not overly ancy, just need some movement in my body while I wait. Our daughter is back in the operating room, her surgeon cutting and stitching her palate and throat, renovating her anatomy to give her the best possible structure for speech. So, my husband and I wait. This hospital is familiar. The waiting is familiar, though it’s a familiarity I still don’t welcome, especially as a parent.
Step, step, step, step. I stare at the lines on the floor. Horizontal and vertical stripes, sometimes connecting to the next tile, but most are slightly off. One tile is turned a full ninety-degree angle, so all the vertical lines lines crash into the horizontal ones. If I look too close, all the lines have a dizzying effect. And there as my eyes try to focus, to hone in on the grouping of subtle colored lines, I find truth.
Life is like these carpet tiles. Lines leading, then stopping. Picking up the direction and continuing on. A full stop. Turn. Head in another direction. Lines blurring, movement evident but destination unseen.
This waiting room lays lines across my heart too. Here where parents wait. Placing your child’s hand (and life) into another’s – this is where lines begin to blur and I fight against the fear of the unknown – of not being able to see where these thin lines lead. My husband and I watched our three-year-old daughter’s little frame be pushed on a pink Minnie Mouse car through the threshold of the big automatic doors, the ones that sternly warn Medical Personnel Only. Medical Personnel Only. Not her parents. Not the two people who love her most, who traveled halfway around the globe to scoop her up and bring her home. No, we entrust her life to another. To an entire team who we know want the best for her. And we wait. I stroll across unsymmetric patterned carpet squares, praying, and trusting her life is in her Creator’s hands.
We waited in this same space eighteen months ago. Entrusting her and her palate repair to the same surgeon who works in her mouth today. Not knowing then, not able to see the lines of that day connecting to the lines of this day. We sat here six years ago too (though I don’t remember the carpet), waiting and praying for the same surgeon as he repaired our son’s cleft palate.
No visible destination.
And yet, here we are.
With the same surgeon whose valuable hands and knowledgeable mind work together to repair mouths. Two of our children’s mouths.
Often I try to make sense of the lines in my life, but the process of my third’s son’s unexpected diagnosis, NICU stay, surgeries, and recovery taught me (still teaches me) to not overthink, not try to understand it all, and tread lightly across the misleading waters of comparison or asking why. The one prayer I consistently whispered?
God, please don’t let this pain be in vain. I don’t know how you’re going to use this storm, but I know you will somehow. Please do it. Use this somehow for your glory, thought it’s hard for me to see right now.
Use it for Your glory.
Connect these lines somehow.
Turn this whole experience around to connect with something else.
And He did.
In several ways, but the most apparent way he used our boy’s cleft palate diagnosis was to prepare us, usher us into adopting a little girl with the same special need three years later. Those lines now meet up, and my head shakes slow in the wonder of it. Not only that he answered, but that his answer was so generous and life-altering to our family in the most blessed way.
Not all circumstances, struggles, and prayers yield such a clearly defined purpose. Not yet.
Our beeper buzzed and flashed red. Eager to see her, we move toward her bay, yet walking with slight dread of what we’ll see. How she’ll look, the cries we’ll hear, the endless beeping and alarms of monitors.
There is no greater hurt than seeing your child in pain. I’ve had a few painful procedures, but seeing your child hurt, the light in their eyes dim from discomfort and confusion, it hurts me more than any trauma to my physical body. Soul trauma. In those wild minutes when my child is fighting to come back from anesthesia land, I will myself to remain calm. Don’t let the screaming spots of red on sterile white linens weaken my knees. Be here for her (and not passed out on the floor). Stay strong. Breathe. Comfort her. Speak reassurance.
It is Friday now, forty-eight hours after they paged us into the post-op room to see our girl. Now I sit on the vinyl loveseat in her room, the one that has minimal padding but tries to make up for it with its alter identity as a bed. And “bed” should be in quotations (this you know if you’ve ever “slept” on one). The sun streams in making odd shadows of the rolling cart and IV stand on the floor. She sleeps. Breathing is more labored with a smaller airway now. Her throat hurts. Her IV sight is uncomfortable. She’s bothered by her twisted hospital gown. Recovery is hard. We’ll be here another night since she hasn’t met her fluid intake goal. The desire to drink was squelched after the painful burn of her first sip of water. Now we are taking baby steps (and baby sips) to meet her goal. We knew we’d be here one night. Now I’m hoping after three nights we’ll get our discharge ticket home. My sneakers are propped up on the edge of this loveseat and I remember snapping the picture of them on the carpet tiles. Those lines that don’t meet. Us not knowing how the recovery would go or what kind of extra motivation our smart independent three-year old would need. Unseen lines.
I missed the Good Friday service at church tonight. The somber moments in the sanctuary spent reflecting on Christ’s death. How he suffered. The weight of the pain he endured for me on the cross. My desperate need for a Savior. His life-giving hope through a horrific death. Jesus hung on the cross, body in more pain than I can imagine, but I believe he endured immense soul trauma as well. He cried to the Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus no longer felt His Father’s presence at his lowest darkest moment. Why? God couldn’t look at the filth of my sin on Jesus. He couldn’t bear the stench. He ignored Jesus’ cry because the volume of unrighteousness that rang on the hillside was deafening. Because the Father loves you and me, he carried out his plan of redemption for us which required not rushing to the side of his one and only son.
I think back to my hurried steps into the post-op room, anxious to see our girl, to get to her bedside where we could offer comfort and reassurance.
Jesus didn’t have that.
His Father chose not to be there.
Because of his great mind-boggling love for us, his adopted children.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.”Romans 8:32
That dark day on a hillside laid unimaginable lines when Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb. The One who came to save was now dead, sealed in and sealing off any foreseen hope of a new kingdom. No doubt the disciples were dizzy with trying to make sense of it all. His closest friends distraught, shaking their heads with grief and confusion. His followers with heavy shoulders and furrowed brow, now searching for the lines of faith that looked clearer before, with their Leader in front of them. In three days, Jesus would come back to life, bringing joy and understanding with him. The disjointed lines of Friday would be repositioned on Sunday.
Back to my carpet-tiled waiting room (and yours too). Here we wait. In this broken world we try to make sense of. Our individual lives of suffering and discomfort but also the greater whole of worldwide pain, the groaning of all creation for relief. We are all looking at lines, many of which don’t connect.
I believe that one day, God will come into the waiting room of this world and roll out renewal, making all things right.
All the pain and broken lines of our lives, He will connect in the most brilliant pattern of glory, his glory.
Then we’ll see.
We’ll trace all the linear movements of our lives, from beginning to end, and not spin with dizziness but nod with understanding.
He really was working for our good and his glory. That his plan (even the soul trauma) had great purpose, the best purpose for us.
As we wait, we walk. One step after another. Much like going through a surgery and then a recovery. You complete one task then the next. You motivate a three-year old to drink two ounces at a time with an Elsa sticker chart. You do your thing, take your step, and walk. You remind yourself of the lavish gift of grace God gave you in Jesus – that you are loved and forgiven, and that the light or heavy troubles of today are just one day. Just one of the many lines that one day, He’ll connect. All our lines, they lead into glory.