For a long time, 20 years, much to the pain of my parents and loved ones, I was away from the church. I simply did not see a loving God in the agony and pain of my dying patients. I didn’t see a loving God as they lingered between life and death. I didn’t see Him in their struggles to stay alive, or when I brushed the hair of a chemo patient off her pillow, or held her as she puked her guts out. I didn’t see Him when I held their grieving family members. I just didn’t see him.
I grew up as a preacher’s kid, but the truth is, we can’t get to heaven on our parent’s faith, if it were true, I’d be a shoo in. I had to work out this God thing on my own, in my own way. There was the constant fatigue of going from reconciling the pain of the sick and dying that deeply touched my heart, as I worked tirelessly alongside many others to bring as much comfort as we could to their aching bodies, to embracing the idea of a loving God.
However, in my time on 4South, I saw many glimpses of faith. I’d have to wake my patients to get vitals and assess them. This one woman who had horrific pain, would greet me with a weak smile, and after I’d get her settled for her breakfast she would reach for her rosary with pain etched deeply on her face, and start murmuring the prayers of the rosary. By the time I’d finished getting her roommate ready for breakfast, the lines will have softened, her breathing easier, even her blood pressure was lower. And she hadn’t had her pain med yet. I couldn’t deny something was working that I could not put my finger on. As I look back, there were countless other stories as equally powerful. Something working other than good old-fashioned medicine and loving care.
For me, my faith journey came to a crisis when my 11-year-old son asked while we were in the car, “Mom, what are the ten commandments?” So, I ticked them all off, and could only remember 9. So, I ticked them all off on my fingers, and again, only 9. When we got home, I searched out my dusty Bible from confirmation, and we looked it up and there they were, and I’d forgotten “Honor thy Father and they Mother.” Interesting.
Then, Ricky asked, “What are the commandments for?”
“They are the law of God, sweetie.”
“Well, how can we follow the laws if we don’t know them?”
From the mouth of babes. In my quest to keep God at arm’s length, I chose not to give my children a choice to believe or not believe. From then on, we started going to church, and slowly but surely, the fatigue I felt in my twenty year search began to lift. I went through sorrow, anxiety, feelings of unworthiness, and through it all, I found answers to every need in that place of believers. I started to see how God worked from pain to peace.
This past weekend many women came together for a Peace Retreat, and so many told stories of pain to peace, or were currently in pain, working toward peace. God never said that the faithful would be free of pain and sadness, fear and sorrow, He just promised that peace would come. I believe.