The story is often very different in our hospital, where peace is often disturbed by suffering. Recently, we got to know a heroic mother, who sat at the bedside of her baby boy for 38 straight days. Late at night, you would see her slumped over the crib, on a hard wooden chair, her eyes fixed on her beloved child, Daniel. It was a sight as sad as it was inspiring – like a sunrise and sunset at the same time. This mom believed that if she left the bedside, her child would die. She believed if she took her eyes off of him for a minute, he would die. So she would do anything, and bear any suffering, to keep him alive, by keeping him in her sight and in her heart.
His death was a mortal blow to her. We would do well to pause now, and keep her in our sight through prayer, and in our heart through compassion. She highly deserves our efforts to be spiritually close to her. She is a great woman brought low by terrible loss.
In the Bible, prayer is often seen as begging for God to remember us, to keep us in sight. It can’t go well for us when God’s gaze is somewhere else. The fear is that out of sight really does mean out of mind. We would fall out of existence altogether if we were no longer in God’s thoughts. Even though it took too literal a meaning in her understanding, that mom was onto something very true, and she fought her son’s death with all her might, with her vision. She fought it with her eyes, the pristine windows of the soul. Death cannot negate the steadfastness and faithfulness of love. Love is stronger than death. It is the greatest of the only three things that will last.” p. 102 of Haiti: The God of Tough Places, the Lord of Burnt Men
For many reasons suffering and loss and parenting through them are on my mind. I can very much be like a 9 – 10 month old baby who frets when the beloved parent is not seen. When I don’t see God showing up the way I would like, I fear He is absent. Of course as the loving Father He is, the Lord doesn’t let me wallow in my misperceptions.
This morning, I was searching for the Bible verse that says the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy . . . I knew I needed the words; I knew they would have hope. I was right – the hope of life, of abundant life. What I had completely forgotten is that the passage is smack in the middle of Jesus declaring He’s the good shepherd. Shepherd’s let animals wander, graze, roam, make choices, until their safety or wellness are vulnerable, or until it’s time to come in. Then the sheep respond to the voice of the shepherd. Sheep aren’t leashed to the shepherd. (So thankful for James Rebanks’ book The Shepherd’s Life that has left me with a richer understanding of the shepherd’s role.)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:10-11
So when I feel my Good Shepherd is out of sight, I don’t need to panic. I’m loved and perfect love casts out fear. I can live loved and extend love to others – real love, not a needy me-centered kind.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV)