Saturday, February 21, 2009
As I write this, I'm sitting in the waiting room of Methodist Hospital, Dallas. I've just heard a piece of very difficult news about a treasured colleague and friend. Shortly, I'll be speaking with her about this, but right now, all I can do is weep.
My distress is obvious, and a woman sitting across from me comes over and puts her arms around me. "Just cry. It's OK, let it out." We talked for a little while. She speaks of losing a daughter to leukemia and the way they've kept her memory alive by telling stories, so many stories, about her. She tells me of her husband, successful survivor of two liver transplants, and still in active practice as a pediatrician. I look at her face and see powerful strength and beauty in the clear eyes, the lines, the hair gone fully gray. We are the same age. We have both learned something over the years: life just hurts. Life hurts. There is no escape from pain unless we die, and she and I had both decided that we would live.
A decision to live means that we will indeed embrace the pain of life and find in it reservoirs of courage and strength. We'll need it. When those hurts come, we'll need every drop of it. When the bad news hits, we've got to be able to go deep inside and find our rock to stand firmly upon. When we do stand firmly upon those rocks of integrity and faith and courage, the blows come, but we're still standing. The blows come like the never ending waves on the ocean shore. Some big, some small, some like huge storms where we've got to hold on with all our strength, some are more gentle, and almost no trouble at all. But they never, ever stop coming, for if they did, it would mean that life itself stopped.
So we choose life and when we do, we see the hope and possibilities in those never ending waves. We must be like the woman in labor who is sure she cannot endure yet another gripping contraction from the powerful muscles in her womb, yet does so because with each more powerful contraction comes the hope that this one indeed will bring forth a new life. I spoke recently with a friend whose fourth child was born at home while the fury of Hurricane Ike spent itself in her neighborhood. It was a hard labor, nothing quiet and gentle about it. Hours of never-ending contractions. She said she was just hanging onto the end of the bathtub, staring at the drain. It was all she could focus on as she endured the increasing waves of pain.
As she told me this story, I looked down. In my arms was nestled the beautiful result of those hours of pain, a gorgeous daughter, peacefully asleep.
Yes, life does hurt. It never, ever goes quite the way we want it. We certainly do get respites periodically. The tide goes out, we bask in the warm sunshine and watch diamonds of light flicker over the waves, and find something close to absolute peace. But those waves are coming back. It's time to stand up again and get ready to embrace it with courage and dignity. We may emerge wet and sputtering and bruised and gasping for breath, but we will emerge or we will die. Stand firm, my friends. The Lord is with you.