When you are a child, it’s easy to reach up to your father and trust that he will grab your hand. As adults, we sometimes forget how easy it should be to trust that when it applies to our Heavenly Father. The photo above is of my husband and my three children when they were still small. My husband is a wonderful father. He holds the hand of our children, just as our Father in Heaven holds our hand.
This October 1st 2018 marks the one-year anniversary of one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history. A crazed gunman fired from the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of 22,000 souls. That night 58 people were killed, 413 people wounded, and 456 people were wounded fleeing the carnage. My husband works with a man who was with his wife in Las Vegas that night. He and his wife were in the crowd, and though he tried to protect her by crouching overtop of her body, she was shot through the head by one of the 1057 bullets that rained down into the crowd in a horrifying 11 minute spanse of time.
Immediately after, no one knew if she would live. She was put on life support, but since she didn’t regain consciousness for a month, doctors were actually advising her husband to remove her from it. Due to a miraculous chain of events they were able to airlift her from the hospital in Vegas to Barrow Neurological Institute here at home in Phoenix. They still didn’t know what to expect. This was uncharted territory. Their story was featured on the local news. Everyone we know was praying, and the prayers of many others as well rose to the foot of God’s throne. I vividly recall prayers begging God to help them and to let her children keep their mom here on earth. I worried for her family and even for what it might mean if she lived but didn’t recover from the catastrophic damage that could severely inhibit her life. Months passed and she improved. First she was able to swallow, and then eat, and then move her limbs, and speak. It’s been over a year now, and she is coherent and comprehending, speaking, and doing the best she can to navigate this new and more difficult way of life. Her husband is undergoing massive adjustments just as she is. None of this is easy.
I still pray for her. I understand what it feels like to live the unknown. I’ve also had my health stolen from me. I wrestle with guilt, frustration, sadness and fear at what my future may hold. Our stories are drastically different and we may not understand all of what got both of us here but the result is the same. We are learning to navigate a path that we did not choose. This is not what little girls dream of. We’ve had our plans derailed and our physical bodies damaged in a way that is tragic. Only God can change the course of nature for both of us.
Lately, I’ve been fighting burnout. I only operate on short bursts of steam before I find myself stalling out. Physical pain, lack of sleep, and dwindling motivation seem to usher in the deep need for encouragement and comfort. Ironically, my experiences have led me to understand that the most encouraging thing someone can do or say is to be there with you, and sometimes if possible, empathize. Hearing “me too,” can be very comforting. To know you aren’t the first person to feel the way you feel is reassuring. Amazingly, this empathy surpasses inspirational quotes and pep talks. Empathy reassures you that you are not alone.
It’s no wonder that Jesus has done the unfathomable for us. He came to this earth from His throne to suffer all we suffer and walk all the roads we walk. He knows and He understands. Jesus went beyond all this even in His promises. He is with us always, still walking alongside. Nothing I suffer is lost on Jesus. He knows. Though He is sometimes very quiet, I am sure He is still with me. Jesus didn’t have 21 joint and spine surgeries like I have, but He suffered terrible physical pain, exhaustion, and desire to be delivered from His burdens. Even Jesus had to go to God for strength.
Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
I recently went to my husband’s police department awards ceremony. I usually look forward to this once a year shindig because I get to refamiliarize myself with the people my husband spends a great deal of his life alongside. That, and the food is great. You want me somewhere? Offer a meal I don’t have to cook. At the end of the night, I was tired and in the pain that never fails to let me know I overdid it. Just as I was hoping to make a graceful exit and get home to comfortable clothes and my chair, I turned and froze. Across the room was a beautiful familiar face. She was in a wheelchair, but was moving around and looked wonderful. I’d been praying for this woman and her family for over a year. I looked at her seated by her husband smiling and talking to the people next to them, and my heart filled with a joy I can’t describe. I felt a deep compulsion to go over and talk to them. I told my husband Aaron, and he spun around in his chair. I asked him to come with me. As we nervously made our way over to them. I was trying to pep talk my brain to be sure I didn’t say anything stupid. This is exceptionally hard because I really have a natural knack for it. Thankfully, my husband knows her husband, and that easily broke the ice. They happily greeted each other, and I just reached out and grabbed her hand. I told her, “I can’t tell you how thankful I am to see you here. I have been praying for you, and it’s so incredibly good to see you.” She thanked me for our prayers, and so did he. I paused for a second thinking about how hard this all must be for them. I looked into her eyes and said, “I know this is a long hard road. I am still praying for you, and I will keep praying.” I know this sounds strange, but for a moment her whole face changed and she looked relieved. She said, “Yes, it really is a long hard road. Thank you. I need the prayers.” For a moment we were able to speak to each other’s heart with perfect clarity. The simple human understanding that this is still hard, and we both know it.
I can’t tell you what that moment meant to me. I prayed for this miracle, for her life to be spared and for her to be mentally clear. I prayed for her more than myself for a time. I feel such a love for her and her husband, due to the time I spent in prayer for their family. I was standing in the hallway with my husband later, and her husband walked by and patted my back. I felt reassured that our brief moment together was good for all of us, and they knew they were not alone. I couldn’t help but weep as I drove home. I felt such gratitude to God for every single answered prayer. I was thankful that her hand was warm and alive to hold for just a brief moment. I was thankful she could smile and recognize that God worked miracles to keep her on this earth for us. He could have taken her, and almost did. I believe the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, and it did. Many righteous men’s prayers, answered by a faithful God, and many miracles wrought. I needed desperately to see that and remember the God of miracles that I pray to. He moves mountains. We pray to God all the time to make the impossible, possible. This miracle I got to watch. Though hurdles still lie ahead, we have the peace of knowing that God sees the finish line and runs this race with us, holding us up when we are too weak to go forward. He has experience running this race, and He understands it all. We must keep reaching up to God, so He as our Father can guide us and hold our hand. He will never leave us alone.