It’s been two months now, living at the hospital. My daughter has spent the first two months of her life in intensive care, surrounding by the beep of heart monitors and the clinical decor of a sterile room. In between the bustle of nurses and pediatricians, I’ve been struck by how much I never realized about living life this way, despite the friends we’ve had confront similar situations.
I never realized how tired I would get, how watching someone you love struggle to grow could chafe at you like a bad pair of shoes, leaving you raw and blistered without your even noticing. I never realized the anger and frustration I would feel, the way even a good report could make you want to yell because it wasn’t the report you wanted – the news that she was coming home. I never realized how wrong the world could feel, when the question “how are you?” could never honestly be answered with “fine,” when a successful day is one you survive with your faith and hope intact.
I never realized any of this, and yet there’s something familiar about it all. It’s common in these situations for people to say “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” This is in some sense true, of course, and is meant as a gesture of compassion. Yet the fact is that, for all these last few months have felt like repeated kicks in the teeth, they’ve only served as an acute reminder of the dull ache I’ve always had in my jaw. The weariness and frustration and wrongness have all become painfully acute these last two months, but they’ve always been there.
Tragedy isn’t a break from the usual business of life. We’re always up to our necks in a broken world; it’s just that sometimes the brokenness sloshes over our heads, rushing into our noses and making us choke. For fear of confronting the frailty of our peace we distract ourselves with the glitz and hustle of this fractured world. But the waters of life are not to be ignored, and the waves that smack us in the face are reminders of our fallen estate.
The reality of this world as Scripture presents it to us is not a pretty picture. The bible consistently forces us to remove the blinkers and open our eyes. It shows us a world where tyrants triumph, innocents die, good men do terrible things and bad men often escape justice. Creation might be good, men might bear God’s image, but this goodness and this likeness are fractured into pieces by the fall, and we often get cut on the sharp edges.
This picture has little appeal to a people in love with Kincaid paintings and stylized movies, where everything is pastoral beauty and everyone is airbrushed. Yet it is precisely this picture which we need to see. In the gospel, God goes to war with this broken world, not to destroy it but to put it back together again, even though that’s the last thing it desires. It is the great strategy of the prince of this world to keep us from joining this fight, not by defeating us, but by making us fall in love too much with the way things are and keeping us from dreaming of how they will be. The Christian response should start not with a happy lie, but with a broken heart.
I’ll be damned if I ever accept life at the hospital as the way things ought to be. As much as some would like to talk about a “new normal,” as if a few adjustments in perspective could make everything better, I’ll never believe it. Children should not be struggling to breath. They should not have wires tangled around their little bodies. Nothing is okay about it; nothing is quite right here. Yet this isn’t an expression of despair. Instead, it’s to hope for healing, for redemption.
Redemption is what the Bible holds out to us in the midst of a world ravaged by the effects of sin. Redemption from our guilt, from our bondage, from our sin-sick hearts and broken bodies. We aren’t called to be Buddhists; we aren’t meant to deny the dissatisfaction in our souls. This world is a hospital, a place for the sick and dying. Nothing is quite right here. It is only when we realize this truth that we can begin to grasp the hope of a better world, a world of life and health and peace. It is only when we realize we are deeply wounded that we can endure the cure.