Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB)
On July 3rd mid-afternoon, my dad is sitting up, covered with warmed blankets in room 4012, on the fourth floor of the Silver Tower at Evergreen Hospital. His room faces south, where the old Totem Lake Mall now hosts the county bird—(construction) cranes, hard at work lifting burdens for the apartment complexes and retail under construction. Dad came to the ER around 5 am with respiratory distress, and he’s just been admitted to the hospital. His respiration rate varies between 30 and 50 breaths per minute. Oxygen saturation at his fingertip vacillates between 80% and 100% with 8 liters of oxygen flowing to the cannula in his nostrils. He leans forward, coughing for a few seconds, and then back, exhausted.
I’ve been praying all morning. I know that Jesus is here in room 4012. I ask Him a question. When Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with fever, You went straight to her room and cured her immediately after Peter told You about her. And she got up and immediately began serving you and the household. So, since You’re here, why aren’t You lifting Dad out of this sickness right now?
I ponder that for a bit and then ask: What do I pray for? What time is it? What are You doing now?
When Kent was in the ICU in California last year, my daughter chided me, “Pray for a beating heart and breathing lungs.” I say “chided” because she thought my prayers were centered overmuch on trying to accept a potential outcome of God releasing Kent from his suffering through death.
So I take her advice to heart, again, and pray for breathing lungs and a beating heart for Dad. I also pray through the Lord’s prayer and release my dad and my emotions into the comprehensive care of that prayer.
Later on, Dad says, “My eyes are itching.” He’s practically scratching them out, and there’s a lot of discharge collecting in the corners and on the eyelids. We push the call button and Draga, NAC, comes. As she goes off to talk to the nurse, Dad asks me, “Did she say I was a pain in the neck?” I laugh and tear up. Dad’s still there.
And Jesus is too, right? He hasn’t gone anywhere, other than His amazing ability to be everywhere at once, attending to His children. I ask Him: What do you want from me?
My mind drifts to something Jesus said:
While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom do not fast, do they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But, the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. (Mark 2:19-20)
This is a piece of the answer to my question: what time is it? The bridegroom has gone away. Jesus is not here in the flesh, visible, walking into rooms with human legs and arms, as He was on earth so long ago. It’s different. And that difference is a loss of some kind, at least of the immediacy of the bridegroom’s presence. This is a time of mourning and fasting, says Jesus.
What does that mean, Jesus? Is my sadness over Dad’s distress appropriate? Or does fasting imply it’s time to let go of pleasures and necessities to focus on the battle against the still-present evil I see in sickness and aging and death?
The presence of the Holy Spirit is phenomenal, a gift, a comfort, a grace, a miracle. It’s “better,” said Jesus, that He go away and the Holy Spirit come. But it’s not yet the “best” of times.
It would make no sense to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” if we were living in a time when God’s will is already reliably happening. No. We’re in a time of distress and prayer, sickness and medical practice, forgetfulness and pastoring, loneliness and community, challenge and endurance. God is at work in a different way, a slow, even an excruciatingly slow way, in a world still sin-sick and incomplete.
On July 8th, I bring Dad back to the Corwin Center, where he’s rehabbing. I’m grateful to God that Dad is better and out of the hospital. What about my questions? God answered them with His presence and with Scripture and spiritual direction. He worked alongside Dr. Lamba, Dr. Donlan, Suong, Draga, Jorge and many, many more in bringing Dad back from the crisis. God guided decisions and gently brought these two words into my mind again and again: Trust me.