Light at the end of the tunnel

Some nights after hospice ministry I feel covered in death. I don’t know if it’s an actual odor or a heaviness that clings to me after close intimate contact with those laboring toward death. Either way, a hot shower, a snuggly red pup, and a good night sleep provide a temporary fix.

For quite some time my parents’ health has been failing. My dad’s heart is giving out, and mom suffers from memory loss. Both of them live in rock bottom denial, and seem to close up more and more each day. My siblings and I try to piece together situations. I talk to my sister about it. I talk to my sister about nearly everything, every day, but it’s a temporary fix.

I write for a global ministry focused on kids. Those I talk about come from poor, developing nations and have experienced unfathomable trauma. Their stories never cease to shake me. I’m caught up in the politics, religious beliefs, culture, and general human brokenness that cause the damage. While our ministry builds eternal hope in these children (where there is none to begin with), at the end of the day my heart often is burdened. Leaving work and walking into the arms of a bustling, loving family brings the world into a new light. But it’s a temporary fix.

My church experience is a temporary fix. A small circle in the body of Christ love me, have my back, and speak life into me. This fix, as are all other temporary fixes, are necessary. Life would be void of hope and joy without them

Perhaps because of my past, of coming out of abuse, the scab was ripped off early in life. I experienced trauma at the earliest age. Nothing was processed or dealt with until later in life, and even then it didn’t fully take. My unhealed wounds mingle with a broken world. This gives me crazy cool compassion and empathy—add a dash of Jesus and that’s a recipe for powerful ministry. But it also buries me some weeks. Sundays the heaviness descends and it bleeds into Mondays. I roll in it as my white dog Wrecks rolls in wet mud. Quick fixes are hard to come by.

So what’s not temporary? My faith, however imperfect, is permanent. From the front lines of hospice care I can honestly report that in the end it’s all that’s left. Last week I ministered to a 66 year-old woman whose daughter had abandoned her, the “system” couldn’t find a bed for her at a long term care facility, and the stress caused her to lose her train of thought over and over. The day I visited she had been forced to give up a 13 year-old blind cat named Calvin. She had nothing left but a worn, marked up Bible, and an unflappable faith in Jesus. When I looked into her eyes I saw a reflection of heaven. Indeed, she is nearly there.

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Surprised by the balloon animal left in my car this morning. Nine year-old Hope is the culprit.

When dark clouds hover over head, I try to refocus my heart on eternity. When I meet Jesus there won’t be a litany of questions. I won’t be looking to rub elbows with great heroes of the faith. I doubt I’ll be dazzled by streets of gold. I picture myself sinking into my Father’s arms and having a deep, safe sleep, free from sorrows of this world.

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing—to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from—my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.  C.S. Lewis


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