When I was in high school I was in an interdenominational Christian youth group. I learned some, but mostly it was just a weekly reminder to keep praying. It was lead by a great leader who was open, honest, and a great listener. He was just what teens need in a youth minister. He knew what he was talking about, he was aware and honest about imperfection, and he was on a journey of faith which was dynamic. He made you want to get on the path, and made it seem doable.
One year they went on a retreat. Honestly, I cannot remember a lot about the retreat except that toward the end of the weekend there was an altar call. I am a Catholic. It was not familiar.
"If you feel God calling you, if you truly believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, if you want to spend the rest of your life following Christ, come on up now. Dedicate your life to Christ. Accept Him who is calling you and be His. Invite Him to save you."
So up I went. There were a lot of people who came to the altar that night. But honestly, I was surprised to see that not everyone went.
A few months later, I had a similar experience while visiting a church with a friend. It was not until I was in conversation with one of the adult leaders that it began to dawn on me that I was doing something different.
"I remember when you were saved."
While I was trying to recall what she could be referring to, she went on about how special it was to her to have shared the experience.
I am not sure how many times I was "saved" before I figured it out. I did not know that this was a unique experience. It was life changing, but this sinner needs her life changed pretty often. Invite Him in. Accept Him. Decide to follow. I thought the altar call thing, was pretty cool. A little slow on the uptake, I could not figure out why everyone did not go up every time. Why are we gathered in church if not to accept Him and commit to change?
Pressed, I can usually find words to talk about my faith. Not always, but often. But am I living my faith or just talking about it?
We spent all of Lent, and a few extra weeks on either end for good measure, in the hospital. Briefly, for those not following, we came in for three surgeries which we expected to take six to seven hours total, including sedation time. We expected to stay in the hospital recuperating for about a week. Our expectations were dashed when they were unable to pull Sarah's breathing tube after surgery. A few stressful weeks followed, with two failed extubation attempts and a code event resulting in twelve minutes of CPR, but no lasting brain injury. Sarah self-extubated successfully. (Yes. That means what you think it means. Two days after the failed attempt that resulted in a code, Sarah pulled the tube out herself, and breathed.) But we were unable to wean her oxygen support, then being alternately given through a nasal cannula and a mask. Her lung collapsed. So, we got her on the surgery schedule for a tracheostomy. Post surgery, we (again) thought it would be a week or two of healing, then home. After a couple weeks, we transferred to a sub-acute hospital to recover slowly in her own time.
Meanwhile, we are supposed to be getting ready for baby number three. So far, we have not even picked out a name. Well, maybe we have. I am not committed to the name yet, but Josh and Lily agree.
I have been thinking about how often I fall off the path and how long it takes me to notice. Then, having noticed, how long it takes me to recommit and to invite God to be in charge again. There are always reasons. There are always stumbling blocks. There is always an excuse. I was in an argument recently about the nature of culpability. But right from the beginning, we have our example. Is it so hard to put yourself in Eve's shoes? Who wouldn't want to eat that apple? There was the snake lying to her. But she was certainly culpable. She ignored God. It was easy. It was understandable. It was wrong.
I need another altar call. This time around it was harder for all kinds of reasons, but the biggest difference between this hospitalization and every other hospitalization was that this time around I was battling for control. Not just over medical decisions, but over the whole situation. I did not want to be here. It was easy to focus on all the things going badly, and to complain. It was easy to feel sorry for myself. It was easy to lose perspective. It was easy because bad habits always are easy.
The same story, told another way, could have gone like this:
We came to the hospital with a child who had had pneumonia at least once a month since the fall. She never quite had time to recuperate before she got sick again and needed to go back to the hospital for a few days. We knew she needed to see a Pulmonologist, but we decided it could wait until after the surgery which had already been delayed three times due to illness.
The surgery was successful! It went well, except that she had a pneumonia which declared itself when they tried to extubate. She was going to need more support. So, we spent a few weeks in the hospital, followed closely by plastics, ENT, pulmonology, and even neurosurgery checked in on her. Plastics were able to see her every day until she was well healed from the surgery- and the casts came off a little early because of that. They were seeing her every day, so healing was on her schedule. ENT and Pulmonology were specialists we needed on board, but did not have yet. With those relationships in place, we got a lot of imaging and a lot of new information about Sarah's anatomy and needs.
When it became clear that Sarah needed a trach, it was a matter of days to get her on the surgery schedule. it could not have happened that fast outpatient, unless it was an emergency. So that need was also met.
Ever since recovering from that surgery, Sarah has been a stronger, happier child. My Aunt Lucy was holding Sarah a few months ago, and she said that Sarah struck her as a happy little girl dreaming about pink ribbons. The biggest change since the surgery is that what Aunt Lucy felt is not a secret anymore. She lights up and smiles and communicates and plays. Apparently, not working hard to breathe leaves you with more energy to do the things you want to do.
Since she was on a vent with a new trach, we had to figure out what her "new normal" breathing would look like. How much support does she need? Getting that answer matters, and it takes time. So, we left our dear friends in the PICU at Children's and went to a hospital that does long term care in a sub-acute facility. The new hospital specialized in therapy! So, although we were there for the vent, we were able to begin to meet Sarah's therapy needs. She got speech, physical, recreational, and occupational therapy each three times a week. She tried out all kinds of cool equipment. Under the care of some fantastic therapists, she has blossomed. She is making daily progress on all fronts. It is very exciting! And, though it will take quite awhile to get Sarah's own equipment, we are going to borrow theirs until hers comes in. Inpatient care meant that we could try these things out over weeks, not hours, and get the right one for her. Inpatient care meant that we would not have to wait for months to begin to fill her needs. Inpatient care meant much more intensive therapy than we will be able to do at home.
It is not terribly hard to find the silver linings here.
What does it mean to call Jesus Lord? The word lord implies power and authority. When I again claim Jesus as my Lord, I am giving him the authority which he already has. I am submitting.
Father, I ask once again that you direct my heart. Take control, and show me your way. Help me to hear the whispers of truth, truth which will not abide with pessimism and doubt. Let your Spirit be my guide and my strength. Show me how to be the parent you have asked me to be. Occupy the space in my heart prone to selfishness, so that I can be the mother my children need.
Jesus, I am asking you to be my Lord and Savior. Amen.