Strength to Endure

Strength to Endure

Author: Pastor Chad Johnson
January 21, 2021

With each new day, the pictures of folks we know and love receiving their Covid vaccinations brings relief to weary hearts and minds.  We need more days and more moments filled with these stories.  Those days are surely coming. 

And yet, we know we have a long way to go.  Questions abound: when, how long, what about for the poorest of the poor, what about out of the way and forgotten places, what about equal access for all? 

In the days to come, even more so than the last eleven months, we need abounding love and grace to lead the way. 

Persistent questions of when can this and that happen again wash over everything.  Hounding moments stating that others are doing this or that -- so what about us?  We are living the in-between times of the almost and already, but not yet.

Every persistent question needs to be led with thoughts of the people and not just the project, event, or detail.      

One key area where this is playing out in the world is with our schools and educational systems.  Each county and district seeking answers to the driving questions for getting back into the buildings of education.  An overwhelming amount of information to absorb and an abundance of people to consider at every level. 

For our family of seven, we are making the choice to delay sending our kids back into the building for this spring academic season.  As the emails and information were given, at each step we asked wholistic important questions.  Then came the email that it was time to decide.  Nothing like a deadline to force an answer.

We decided to continue remote learning due to our concern for the staff of our children’s schools.  We did not see enough in terms of full protection and care for all, along with full access to the vaccinations, in order to walk back thru the doors.  We understand our privilege in making that decision.  We have the resources, home, and schedule that allows for our children to continue to grow and learn at grade level.  Not everyone has that as a possibility. 

And this is why I say for educational staff, districts and counties and states across the land, parents and administrators, we need abounding grace and love to lead the way.

No judgment. 
No harsh critique of the other. 
No finger pointing of superiority or speaking as though one has a corner on the market.

Humility, hope, love, and abounding grace is what is needed. 

Everyone trying to do the best they can with what they have as we slowly work our way through another major disrupted area of life.  Grace and love for all -- and all really does mean all.

I challenge all of us, to be the most loving and grace-sharing people on the face of the planet, in every single area of our lives!

I was reminded of this need through the words of Sara.  Below is a reflection written by a member of the congregation I served in Colorado, Sara Schuster, who is a doctor on the front lines fighting COVID.

Quiet Love

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2

When someone's heart stops in the hospital, it’s not like in the movies.

It’s quiet.

The beeping monitor doesn’t provide any information we do not already know, so it is turned off.
No one is yelling. The doctor stands at the foot of the bed and calmly leads the code. The rest of the room is quiet so as not to miss anything.

When someone dies no one screams or throws a tray in frustration. The doctor runs through everything that has been done, asks if anyone has any other ideas, and when no one does they pronounce time of death.

The patient is quietly and respectfully cleaned up and made ready for family.

This is when, as the doctor, I leave.

 I take a quick moment to compose myself in the hallway before I go down the hall to where the patient’s family is waiting.

I admitted this patient. His PCP diagnosed him with COVID the day before. He’d been sick for a few days but nothing too out of the ordinary. He was having a harder time breathing so came to the emergency room.

When I admitted him, we talked about the usual things; how long he’s been sick, his other medical conditions.

Then the question that scares everyone. I’ve reworked it a thousand times but there just isn’t a way to ask it that doesn’t frighten someone. But I still must ask:

“If your breathing were to get worse, or your heart were to stop; would you want us to do everything we could including intubate you or perform CPR?”

He says yes. He’s 32 years old and healthy. He has no reason to say no.

Which leads to where we are now.
The monitor has been turned off. I’ve asked if anyone has any other ideas. Now the nurses are covering him up, and I need to go talk to his mother.

She knew something was wrong. We can’t let COVID patients have visitors, so the fact that we asked her to come into the hospital to see him was not a good sign.

Last night we outfitted her and her daughter in gowns and masks and shields and let them go sit with him for a while. The nurse braided his long hair and adjusted the breathing tube to look less frightening. They stroked his face and told him they loved him. We stood in the hallway as a quiet vigil until they were ready to go back to the waiting room.

I want to pretend she couldn’t hear when the code was called on the overhead pager. That she didn’t see a crowd converge around his room. That she didn’t see it slowly disperse as we needed less and less people to help.

Based on the tears on her face I know that isn’t true.

I try to be brief; no one wants the details. Right now, I am nothing more than a confirmation of what she already knows happened. They reach for each other and cry quietly. I stand beside them silently until they are ready to turn and face me again.

I’m afraid. Do they blame me? I told him I would do everything I could, and though deep down I know I did; I can’t shake the fear that maybe I could have done something different. I’m afraid they’ll hate me. That I’ll be the villain in a story they tell for years to come. That I am inadequate and not deserving of the sadness I feel.

She grabs my hand.

She thanks me, tearfully and genuinely. She tells me she is grateful for everything we did and will never forget it. I barely get away before I feel the tears pricking the backs of my eyes.

Not from sadness alone this time. But to feel love in such a dark place. It’s like a small ember that grows to life suddenly on a cold night or a faint light in the darkness. It is startling and unexpected, and I am completely overwhelmed.

It is a God kind of love. Love that is shown not because I deserved it; not because I pulled off a miracle or brought good news.

It is love shown because we are both children of the God who is love.

As I sit in the stairwell and cry, I feel a sense of peace that wasn’t there before. The peace that only comes from love. A peace that allows me to dry my eyes and resume rounding on my other patients; that lets me smile as I enter the next room to tell my patient he can go home today; that lets me laugh when the older gentleman in the next room makes a joke about the food.

Peace that carries me onto another day.

Dear God, thank you for the strength to endure the difficulties we encounter in this life. Knowing that our strength does not come from our skills or power alone, but rather from the love and peace you bring to our lives. Help us to use that strength to serve others with love and mercy, that they may find their own strength and salvation in you. Amen.
-Sara Schuster


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