I have felt the weariness of nearly dying settling over my body during the last few days. Last week held a bit of a “honeymoon” feel to it, as I came home, overjoyed to be able to stand, walk, breathe, and wrap my arms around my children and husband—things that no longer feel like givens in my life.
This week, however, has held a bit more of the heaviness of reality with it. Sepsis drained my body of the little energy that it held; Collapsed lungs don’t simply re-inflate without a bit of painful aftermath; The trauma of being one of the sickest patients in ICU doesn’t disappear overnight, though sometimes it seems to suddenly re-appear.
God worked and continues to work miracles, yes. There are no qualifiers on that statement. He is a miracle-worker, promise keeper, and great healer. Also, I must be gentle with myself after a nearly two-week stay in ICU, including over a hundred needle pokes, the world’s tallest, fastest, and longest rollercoaster of blood pressure highs and lows, heart rate dips and flips, and sleep deprivation. Strangely and graciously, our greatest growth comes out of our greatest trauma: That’s the redemptive work of God in our lives. Also, our greatest traumas deserve our attention, grace, and gentle care as we recover from them.
Everyone in our household is relieved by the fact that I came home so much stronger than three years ago, after a similar near-death experience. That experience, though not as severe as this one, carried with it nearly two months of agonizing recovery at home. For nearly two weeks after leaving the hospital, I could barely leave my bed. I was weak, sick, and terrified.
I am so much stronger this time. I am overflowing to joy, playing music freely, even able to navigate the stairs to the basement. I threw frisbee with the kids yesterday and bantered with Jordan at dinner.
I’m not huddled in a cocoon, shaking like a cornered newborn kitten. Still, I’m sore tonight. I’m exhausted most afternoons, and extra oxygen seems to take some of the stress off of my (literally) weary heart as it tries to circulate adequate oxygen to all parts of my body.
Two weeks ago, the pulmonologist, surgeon, and infectious disease doctor were discussing which intervention would give me the best shot at survival. They were having to choose between the lesser of two evils, and it was clear that the odds were not in my favor. And the weight of that time of hanging in the balance hits me a couple times a day.
How do we celebrate the miracle while honoring the trauma? How do we hold the tension of beating the odds while also recognizing that we live in a body that remains fragile, breakable, and vulnerable? COVID looms everywhere, and frankly, my only prayer is that if it were to hit me, that I would be fast to fall into eternity. This wrestling leads me back to Ecclesiastes 3, as I recognize that I can hold space for both celebration and grief, rejoicing and mourning, singing and weeping.
Didn’t Jesus do the same in John 11? Minutes before He raised “the one whom He loved” Lazarus from the dead, he wept bitterly. I picture him weeping with Mary. I imagine His weeping being that of total heartbreak. I don’t see a couple tears trickling down His cheek. I see Jesus “ugly crying” upon gazing down upon Mary’s grief. She is on the ground at his feet, pouring out her river of tears, which send Jesus to his knees. Grief over the reality of the death of his friend ripped through the heart of Jesus just minutes before He raised Lazarus from the dead.
Why didn’t He skip the crying and just raise him already? I believe that the grief was critical for some reason. It may have been for Mary’s sake, or it may have been simply out of the humanness of Jesus. But still being God, and knowing His next move, I am convinced that He held the tension of the movement into the miracle and the moment of deep loss oh so tenderly as He wept for His friend.
May we never push someone into celebration before they have a chance to grieve.
May we never gloss over loss out of a sense of duty to “choose joy” though it may be insincere. There is a difference between “wallowing” and grieving. There is a point when we must “do the next right thing,” but first, we must grieve. Just as Anna in Frozen II.
May we never shame someone into speaking false gratitude when what they feel is deep, profound loss. This does not get rid of the broken heart; it only covers it up, causing shame and infection, which can lead to a sort of soul-death. May we make space for lament in the healing presence of Jesus.
Mary’s tears found their resolution in the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, but her tears served a vital purpose in moving Jesus to compassion.
Mary held no shame in her experience of emotion. Mary, who held one of the closest spots near the heart of Jesus as He walked this earth, fell physically to His feet and once again bathed them, this time with her tears. Jesus already identified this gesture as beautiful. Her sincerity of emotion in the presence of the Healer always moved Him to compassion.
I want to be one of sincerity in the presence of the Lord. And so, I declare the tension that I live in this week: I am weary, I am sad, and I am broken-hearted. I am also deeply thankful, soaking in the moments of profound joy and transcendence as I wrap my arms around this life that I love so much and my beloveds as though I were juicing an orange.
I often frustrate myself with my tendency toward heightened emotion and feeling, extravagant gestures and words, but as I explore Jesus’s relationship with Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, I see so many hints of His relationship with me. The same Mary that poured the bottle of expensive perfume at His feet; The one whom the disciples condemned as Jesus turned and delighted in her offering; The Mary who, rather than preparing the meal, sat at His feet in sweet wonder, listening to Him speak, soaking up His presence. She’s my kindred spirit.
I am not administrative. I am not organized. I try so hard to make lists and be good, but there’s just so much beauty……squirrel!
I mentally thrash myself for not being more like Martha, but I am coming to see that my offerings are beautiful to Jesus. And so I will continue to pour out the perfume of my worship at His feet, as it intermingles with my tears (of celebration and of grief). I may struggle intellectually, I may have short-term and long-term memory issues, I may not check everything off of my to-do lists, but I meet Christ on my knees, weeping at His feet, and He kneels down to weep with me. I love our relationship, and He tells me that He delights in me.
And so, tonight, I have tears of grief intermingled with tears of rejoicing, and in this upside-down world aching for rescue, all of our tears directed at Christ are entirely appropriate, as He collects them in His own jar of fine perfume, labeled, “tears of the saints.”