Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. Genesis 28:16
Christian or not, there are times in life when it would appear that God is nowhere to be found. For me, one of those times was during my acute care internship at a large university hospital. Fresh out of the suburbs, having just finished the academic portion of my education and newly married, I found myself working in various intensive care units of this teaching hospital. To say it was intimidating is an understatement. Never before had I seen how far a human body could be punished and broken and still maintain a tenuous grip on life. Sometimes it was the result of disease or accident; other times, the result of violence. The pain and suffering of patients and their loved ones (if they had someone holding vigil for them) were excruciating.
Type A me was struggling at my internship and my clinical instructor told me that I should have chosen a different field of work. I was full of selfdoubt and ashamed that perhaps I had just wasted my parents money and the last four years of my life pursuing a path with a dead end. The peace of God alluded me and in stepped my Esther in the place least expected.
She was a new bride and her husband was a patient of mine in the ICU. He had sustained a massive head injury and high level spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident. He had been on life support for a month, was unresponsive and the prognosis was poor. He looked nothing like the beautiful young man she had fallen in love with. I came in twice a day to treat him and when I did, she and I talked. This went on for a couple of weeks.
At the end of the long day in which my clinical instructor had suggested I find a new line of work, I took a few moments to have a good cry in the privacy of a garden outside the hospital. I felt alone and forgotten by God amongst forsaken, suffering people. Who should find me, but my patient’s wife. God showed up in the new bride of a dying man to speak words of vision and encouragement. The irony of her consoling me! The internship didn’t become easier, but knowing that God heard my prayers and answered them through this woman dramatically changed my understanding of who He is. It gave me the strength to stay the course.
We are no different from Jacob. God is always present, but when our eyes are finally open to it, we are changed. We need to be like the people of Israel and sit around the fire (or computer) and tell one another stories of how God has opened our eyes to his presence. We can share how He has provided Esthers in our lives. We will be strengthened for the days to come.
Addendum: It’s thirty years later and I have saved a letter from my garden friend. Here’s her closing line, “And don’t get too busy to remember to live and enjoy that husband, ok!” I take take that advice to heart.