I was in the hospital chapel with some of my family while she lay dying in a private room upstairs. Heartbroken, confused, we grieved. Too young and too loving and too good to die, she was the best person any of us knew; she was the best of us. Nothing made sense.
We hadn’t really gone to the chapel to pray; rather just to find a place to get away from the smell and feel of the intensive care unit; a disheartening place filled with the sickening combination of alcohol, sterility, disease and mortality. The steady stream of doctors, nurses, attendants, machines flashing, beeping and whooshing can wear you down. So we wandered the floors of the hospital together, no real destination, just trying to escape our dread. We stumbled upon the hidden chapel no one else seemed to even know was there; a silent and welcome refuge from the calamity that lay just outside the door.
So as we sat there and talked, whispered and cried, it occurred to us to pray. We prayed even though the doctor’s said there was no hope, and we prayed for what we didn’t even know, maybe comfort, peace, answers for ourselves? But suddenly something changed. The lights seemed to dim, the cold and austere room became instantly warmer, hazy, foggy even, and I felt as if I was whisked away to another place. A holier place.
None of us knew how long that feeling lasted. We seemed to come to ourselves about the same time. No one was where they’d been when I’d first closed my eyes to pray. Surprisingly, without knowing it, I had left my seat and was standing by a stained-glass window, looking intently at a window into nothing. But I had heard something while we prayed. Not audibly, but clear and powerful and unmistakable just the same. From deep inside me it rose up like a strong wind, full of power, passion, wildness almost, but gentle and loving all the same. Like a first kiss from a lover it stirred my soul like nothing else and I felt literally undone, changed, broken and then put back together. “This is not about you,” this voice, this feeling said, “This is not about you.”
We all talked about it, those of us that were there. We had all “heard” that same thought, that same idea. And we were peaceful about it, even though we weren’t really sure what it meant. “This is not about you.” Say what? What was God trying to tell us really?
Years later and I’m only just beginning to understand that day and its message. It seems my mind doesn’t readily comprehend what my spirit so easily embraces. And I’ve found that love is not so simple that it can be contained by a complete thought, a song, a kiss, even a person. But true love is undeniably the most powerful force you will ever experience; it is eternal, unstoppable, undeterred. I’ve learned that even though this mortal body we live within will eventually cease to function, God did not make a mistake that day, or any day, and nothing takes him by surprise. Just like the caterpillar leaves one body and is resurrected to another, more beautiful body, so we too will be transformed, “…in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:52-53)
Do you believe that? Really? If so, then “This is not about you” any more either. It has become, at least for those of us who believe, all about those who don’t know. Cause love, that eternal, unstoppable, undeterred, undeniable kind of love, shows us a better way.
1 John 3:16-18
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”