Hidden In Plain Sight
My computer connects automatically to the wifi at St. Anthony’s Hospital. I find this really aggravating. A little and unexpected jab in my gut as I sit in another hospital room, watching my dad sleep in another hospital bed.
Apparently I come here often enough that even my computer feels at home.
Yes I realize it is super smart like that and remembers the wifi after just one visit, but it frustrates me nonetheless. I don’t like ANY piece of my life getting “comfortable” here. We have been in this hospital more times than I can count. I have seen my dad in this position … more times than I can count. Every single time I can’t help but wonder, “Is this the end?” Usually when that thought arises, I snap back and tell it to do something I dare not mention here (I’m not gonna pretend I’m the Christian girl with a completely clean mouth … I love Jesus, but He is still working on my mouth).
I don’t like the feeling of slowly becoming desensitized to another call of my dad being rushed to the ER. It used to send me into an instant panic. Now, I can still feel my heart race, just not at the velocity it used to. The process, in some way, has become … normal. This time around, however, after learning my dad was headed to the ER in an ambulance, my heart once again responded as it used to in the youth of this journey. I was driving through Nebraska when I got the call from my mom - six hours out, trapped in a car that could not go fast enough and feeling impossibly far away from my dad. My elevated heart was accompanied by a cloud of panic and very rosy cheeks. Longest six hours of my life.
But now, thank goodness, I’m finally here and sitting in a room that is starting to feel a bit too … comfortable. I’m in my usual spot in the corner by the window; legs outstretched on the couch, computer on my lap, coffee within reach. To the left - mountains. To the right - my dad. My mom is using her usual hospital voice and whispering something about dinner, while simultaneously digging through her purse. The - now - white noise of hospital equipment is all around. The beeping and churning of machines used to really bother me. I found the foreign noises to be harsh and quite unnerving. Now however, they blend in and I don’t notice them in the least. It has become normal, no longer scary and no longer irritating. It’s very similar to the way parents eventually learn how to tune out the noises that go hand and hand with children.
It’s hard not to think of where we COULD be right now. Very recently my dad made a decision to forgo a potentially life saving bone marrow transplant. He sat on the big leather chair, nestled into the corner of his living room and calmly said, “God told me not to do it.” We were supportive, a bit relieved, but also heartbroken and forever left to wonder what could have been. Would it have worked? Could it have healed him? Turns out, “forever wondering” was much shorter than expected. Today he lays in a hospital bed with a partially dead spleen, critical blood counts, many scary unknowns, a lot of pain and whispers of hospice. I believed my dad originally about what he had heard, but today, believe him with more conviction than ever. God did NOT want him to have the transplant. Why you might ask? Simply because if he had gone through with it we now know …
He would have died.
I can’t help but play that on repeat in my mind. In all of the prescreening and weeks of tests prior to the transplant … they still somehow missed it. Had he gone through with the procedure last week … he would be dead right now. His body would have been unable to fight this underlying and undetected - but ever present and ever intensifying - problem. Had my dad ignored that still and small voice in his ear, I would not have the privilege of sitting in his hospital room right now. I would be curled into a ball on my bed, with no possible way to see my dad - regardless of the direction I looked. The mountains would still be standing, but my father, would not. The thought makes me nauseous and causes my heart to palpitate.
In all honesty, it feels like we are about to get broadsided. We can see the semi coming, out of control and barreling down the road in our direction. Regardless of how hard we try, we cannot move. Or maybe to be a bit more apropos … we can see it racing our way, but cannot move … my dad. He is standing in that intersection all alone and all we can do is watch in horror, as the unthinkable unfolds before our eyes.
Today as I sat by his side he - out of nowhere - told me a song he wanted us to play at his funeral. We have never spoken of his funeral before or even acknowledged a need to. I looked down and hid my face under the bill of my hat so he couldn’t see the fight to maintain composure. It is a great song and one that so reminds me of him. It’s actually from a children’s short film. I showed it to him months ago and it made him do this thing where he holds his breath and tries really hard not to cry. In turn, it causes his face to make a very distinct grimace. Even as a child I can remember him making that expression in an attempt to hide his emotion. The sweetness of the song choice softened the blow a tad and made me grin because he is - and always has been - such a child at heart. Catch twenty-two unfortunately. The choice also made the sadness in my heart swell. In that moment, I realized just how much I am going to miss EVERY SINGLE PIECE of who he is and what makes him so uniquely … MY DAD.
I turned 34 today and if I could have any one thing in the whole entire world … it would be a healthy body for my father and no reason to speak of funerals.
Right now he is in a lot of pain, and yet, still cracks a few jokes on and off that make my mom chuckle. I’m trying to savor those moments, because I know a season is coming where it will be near impossible to rouse that wonderful noise out of her. Only my dad makes her laugh in that “rolling my eyes, but you’re still kinda cute and annoying and funny” … way. She laughs the same to my dad’s response every time his oxygen drops low enough that it triggers the machine to send a warning. His eyes get big and with a silly face he starts to take in quick, deep and exaggerated breaths; all in an effort to “trick the machine and keep the nurse out.” It actually works most often than not. Told you he was a kid.
I came upon a passage in a book that afternoon that caught my attention. Penned by the incredible Levi Lusko, it went something like this:
“Trust me when I say this: the issue isn’t whether your life is going well or falling apart; the question is, what makes you so sure you can tell the difference? Things are seldom as they appear.”
I got stuck on the paragraph and re-read it several times over. I’m a person who loves words, but in that moment - had none. I was perplexed and couldn’t articulate how it made me feel. I couldn’t even tell if reverberated in a positive or negative way. I sent it to one of my closest friends, who intellectually is a few tics higher up than me when it comes to her ability to find and master words. Surely she would have a thought on it or some clever insight to derive from it. She too is in the thick of her own chaos and more than most would be able to analyze this comment while IN the trenches. Her response?
Made me laugh, because that’s about all I could muster as well. Looking back, the passage made me a little angry, quite confused and maybe even a bit convicted. Angry … because it seems like something so easy to say when you are not watching your family crumble and your father fade. Do tell me Mr. Lusko … how that is not categorized as “falling apart?” Confused … because Levi wrote those words after watching his five year old daughter die and had more right than anyone in the world to make such a bold claim. Had someone made a statement like that to me and not personally known great sorrow, I would have told them to do the very same thing I dared not mention earlier (there is that mouth of mine again). Levi, however, had every right. Touché. Finally, I felt convicted … I knew there was truth in his statement, even if everything around me and everything my eyes could physically see, screamed the very opposite.
And then, as if God was really trying to grab my attention, the same premise was taught at church the very next day.
What we see is not always as it appears.
My pastor talked about a prism and its ability to grab light from its surroundings and then focus, reflect or redirect it elsewhere. The light was always there, but without the use of the prism, remained unseen. We don’t always see the whole picture. A veil exists, that many times, hides the truth. Only by looking at life through a prism or a “lens of faith” can we start to truly see all that was hidden before. Perception of the circumstances that surround us is everything. What we focus on is everything and in order to obtain the correct focus we are in need of God’s prism. Without it, we would have no way to reveal what the naked eye cannot see on its own. If we tear down that veil and start to look at our situations through the aid of God’s truth and grace - everything shifts. Does that which we are physically looking at change? No. However … it does change … WHAT WE SEE.
Faith is the ability to have complete trust and confidence in something we cannot see. And yet, it is possible to be a person of faith and still not see the world through a lens of faith. I am a person of faith, but I’m afraid my focus has been misplaced.
So … what do my eyes physically see right now? I see that everything is falling apart. I see that semi I spoke of earlier - the one that is headed to broadside my dad. I see irreversible pain coming our way.
Now … if I tear down that veil and look through God’s truth, what am I missing? Overlooking? What is so easily unseen? If I look through the lens of faith … if I look through God’s prism … what shifts?
That which surrounds my dad is in itself … surrounded by God.
My dad is not standing in an intersection, all alone with his feet glued to the road. My dad is standing behind Jesus, who with his head bowed and arms stretched out from one side to the other, will take the full impact of the collision. My dad is not alone. Death is not final. Pain is temporary. It is not goodbye … just goodbye for now. I can see my dad walking fully restored into Heaven’s glorious door … a crowd of loved ones eagerly anticipating his arrival … and a little boy standing out in the front, jumping up and down and squealing with joy because … Papa is finally home.
That is the truth and what FAITH ALONE allows me to see, even in the midst of unbearable pain.
So, do we solely rely on the naked eye and the black and white information it is relaying to our minds and to our hearts? Or do we trust that a prism exists? One created by the hand of God and gifted to us through His word, that allows all light and colors to funnel in and expose that which was hidden in plain sight? In the wise words of Levi Lusko, “Will we trust what we can see is there, or believe what God says is there?”
I want to live by faith and not just by what my eyes see. I want to stop letting what is all around me determine what God is doing FOR me and for my family. It’s much easier said than done and I more than most need to make a choice EVERY SINGLE DAY to look at my surroundings though the lens of faith. I can see it now and I believe it … I just wish it made this all hurt a bit less.
As sure as there are still stars in the sky even when unseen during the peak of the day … God is working in your life. My question to you is this …
CAN YOU SEE IT?
Much love to you all,
Credit where credit is due:
Lusko, Levi. (2015) Through the Eyes of a Lion. Nashville, Tennessee: W Publishing Group.
Johnson, Roni (2019) Can You See It? Colorado: Red Rocks Church (https://www.redrockschurch.com/media/detail/479/318/teaching/)