Patient Theology

The past two Saturdays I've visited my friend Valerie in the hospital. She underwent brain surgery--her second in six years--back on May 24 (yeah, another reason to remember that day!). Since then she has been dealing with constant pain. Usually it's fairly excruciating-- something akin to having an ongoing brain freeze headache. You know, that sharp knife-like pain you experienced after every first bite of a snowball or slush drink, except probably about 10 times worse, and all the time. That's the kind of pain Valerie lives in. Since she's been in ICU and other parts of the hospital for about three weeks now, her back aches, too. She's in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive thinking skills therapy. She's having to learn to do just about everything all over again. If the hospital staff can medicate her sufficiently to stay ahead of the pain, she can make it through a day of therapy.

I can't really imagine what it's like to be her. When I have a headache--and I don't even suffer migraines--they don't begin to compare to her suffering. But I'm not the most patient mother when my head hurts. Let me tell you, my kids know when I'm not feeling well! Yet my vision remains the same, not double or triple as Valerie's does, and I can function pretty much normally, albeit in some discomfort. I could learn something from Valerie.

Both times I visited with her, she expressed in similar words her desire for this time of recuperation and re-learning. "I have a choice," she told me. "The only choice I've had since this whole thing began so long ago is how I respond to it. I can't make this go away, but I can be kind. Or I can be a [w]itch. I want to be kind to my caregivers. I want them to know that I appreciate their help and support. Maybe they'll see a little bit of Jesus that way."

Wow. This woman of faith uses her hospital bed as a pulpit, teaching the word of God through her attitudes, her trust, her words. She is not bound by her infirmity. She proclaims God's grace through her infirmity.

Every one of us has to endure something. We all have hardships. While Jesus never promised to remove difficulties--no, he instead acknowledged that we would experience them (John 16:33)--he did reassure us of his ultimate, sovereign power("but take heart, I have overcome the world."). Some of his final words to us were, "I am with you to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). Valerie is taking heart, taking his words to heart.

I can, too, and so can you. Despite our circumstances, we have a choice in how we respond. Make others miserable, too, or give them a glimpse of glory.

By the way, if you know Valerie and live in the Dallas area, she loves having visitors. She needs them! Make time to stop by for a short visit with her. She's currently at Presbyterian Hospital. If you are out of town, she would love any letters, cards, cookies, flowers, etc. Any encouragement you can give really lifts her spirits and beats back the loneliness and weariness. Make a little time for her!


Erica said…
I have found, in the little that I know Valerie, how much you can learn from her. It's amazing! Thanks for posting this...