Here’s how our family manages hospitalizations: I live with Carson through the week in his hospital room while Jeff works full time, getting the kids where they need to go and taking care of things at home. On the weekends, we see each other for an hour when he comes to stay for two nights so that I can drag myself the hour-long trip home to see my other two kids and get some desperately needed sleep. Then on Sundays I drive back to the hospital and we say hello to each other and he comes home for the week while I stay. (If you are unfamiliar with our son’s battle, you can read about it here.)
We have done this through 18 hospitalizations, and some of our hospital stays have been months long. All totaled up, I think we’ve lived here for over a year. It’s not just us. The hospital is full of parents doing this every week — exhausted dads and moms trying to hold everything together.
A couple of weeks ago, during one of our switch-offs, we decided to walk across the street to get some quick dinner while Carson was sleeping. From our booth at the sandwich shop across the street, we could look up and see Carson’s hospital room on the 5th floor. We knew it was his room because of the way we had left the blinds configured.
We sat down and Jeff said, “How about you pray over our food.” (I am not usually good at remembering to pray over food, but Jeff is consistently good at it.)
Jeff: (pause) Well then ok, let’s just have a moment of silence.
Neither of us could do it. Maybe that sounds silly, but we just didn’t have the capacity at that moment to simply pray out loud over our turkey sandwiches.
Understand that we had each been praying independently throughout the day unceasingly by ourselves with God. But at this moment, we didn’t have anything else to offer. Sure, we could have prayed out of rote memory some kind of disconnected prayer, made an effort to meet some kind of made-up requirement like we might have years ago, but that’s not how we roll now.
Now we have a greater depth of understanding His strength in our weakness.
“My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This happens other times when we both feel that we are at the breaking point. One of us will look at the other and will say, “You okay?” I might answer, “Uh, I think so. You?”
What we are really saying to each other is NOTHING ABOUT OUR DAILY LIVES IS OKAY AND HASN’T BEEN FOR YEARS AND I CAN’T STAND THIS ONE MORE DAY FOR OUR FAMILY BUT IT DOESN’T HELP TO THROW A SOBBING FIT EVERY HOUR AND THIS DOESN’T MAKE SPIRITUAL SENSE BECAUSE WE LOVE JESUS AND THIS IS NOT LIFE ABUNDANT BUT I AM SHAKINGLY HOLDING MYSELF TOGETHER TODAY AT THIS MOMENT. YOU?
Here’s my personal confession. God speaks to me about a lot of things, but usually not about Carson. This life-altering, major, extremely painful part of my life… and He is largely silent. Yet, He is speaking, and I know He’s here. I know His silence is building my faith. It’s for a reason I can’t see right now.
I’ve been writing these blog posts for a month now, but I don’t always FEEL them when I hit the “Publish” button through gritted teeth.
So I told him that last week, “Lord, I know you want me to put this out there, but I am not feeling it.”
He said, “That’s the point. You are teaching others how to fight in weakness, to trust Me instead of the lies that assault the mind.”
We sometimes think the strongest people in faith are the ones with the bold voices, the ones that seem unfazed no matter what comes against them. The ones who don’t cry easily or show any faltering. And I am not saying they don’t have faith — we certainly all have different personalities and expressions in our relationships with God.
But I propose that sometimes strong faith actually looks like desperate weakness from the outside. When you have no more tears left to cry or words to pray, and all you can do is cry out on the floor and whisper….Jesus. And you feel inadequate, but you are still crying out. Still coming to Him. Faith is not built in the light, but in these dark hidden moments. It’s when you make the radical choice to come to Him again, even if nothing has changed from the previous hundreds of times you came to Him.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. (Romans 8:26)
God understands not having words, He doesn’t need words. He evaluates differently than we do. He sees our hearts and the massive fortitude it takes sometimes for us to simply keep coming to Him… in our weakness.
That is real faith, indeed.
He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust. (Psalms 103:14)