This past Sunday.
“Daddy had a stroke during church and is unresponsive. He’s in an ambulance now on the way to the hospital and Mom is driving herself there.”
My phone had rung at 12:30, just as we were wrapping up the final details of Sunday service clean-up. Never a good thing when family calls at a time that they should be busy and they know you are busy.
And while my earthly Dad was being rushed to the hospital, my heavenly Dad was already at work in these circumstances, leading, directing, and orchestrating like the Good, Good Father that He is.
That morning, my parents had a spot serving in the lobby between Sunday School and church. Mom was wrapping up and Daddy went in to find a seat. They typically sit in the middle of the middle. But that area was packed, so Daddy picked a seat on the end of a row in the back. Very unusual behavior for them.
When he let out a moan right as the sermon was wrapping up, Mom thought he was snoring and gave him a solid wifely whack to wake him up. That’s when she realized something was very wrong.
He was slumped over and didn’t respond to her “nudge”. She flagged down an usher to ask him to call 911. As God would have it, their church was having communion that day, something that happens once a month there. So the pastor they are closest to on staff was standing at the back, waiting to go forward for communion.
Mom was able to let him know that something was wrong and that an ambulance was on the way. And when he made an announcement to the church that there was a medical emergency, no one panicked – but the nurse, nurse practitioner and EMT who were worshiping that day all immediately went to my Dad and began helping.
My sister and niece were out of town, returning on Sunday. They walked in the door in time for Mom’s phone call. My sister was able to turn around and walk back out the door to head to the hospital with everything she needed to stay for a while packed and ready to go. She even had snacks already packed that were appropriate for me and Mom to eat – not a small feat with our food allergies and sensitivities.
Meanwhile, on my end of the world, I was sort of wandering the church in a daze, knowing I needed to pack up my stuff and get going the hour up the road to the hospital. Ministering angels, also known as my friends and family in the Lord, immediately jumped into action. One instantly made arrangements for her six kids to be cared for so she could drive me. One instantly agreed to take over my responsibilities for an evening event I was supposed to lead. And one offered to drop everything and come but it was all covered. Others immediately prayed with me and for me.
And as my friend drove, we talked. And I was struck once again by the peace, the security, the reality of what it means to be “in Christ”.
Because as we drove, I knew these things as rock-solid fact:
– No matter what I found at the hospital, God was going before me and was walking with me through it all.
– If I never had another conversation with my Dad in this life, I would spend eternity with him in heaven.
– God was in control of every detail.
– And I had nothing to fear.
Did those facts completely still the emotions in me? No, of course not.
But they gave me peace that had nothing to do with how I felt.
They gave me the certainty of Truth that is not based in circumstances or emotion.
And as I walked through the doors of the ER, I found a huddle of people who had come from my parents’ church to walk with them through whatever was going to happen. Mostly strangers to me, but instant family because we are all part of the Body of Christ, His Church.
But one of the guys I did know from years back immediately said, “Kathy, he’s doing well. His color is back, he’s awake and talking, sounds just like himself.”
Amazing grace. Amazing God. And amazing advances in medicine that God has allowed.
Because they knew exactly when it happened and because he got help immediately, my Dad was able to receive a clot-busting drug that was nothing short of incredible. Two hours after the stroke, he had lost every visible symptom that it had ever happened. No longer did his face droop. No longer was his speech slurred. He could hold both arms out evenly without one drooping. He could smile evenly and swallow well. Amazing grace. Amazing God.
That’s the story thus far.
And here are my exhortations to you (and me):
– Know God intimately before the storm hits. If you do not have a relationship with the Living God, it is as simple as asking for it. Acknowledging that you are a sinner and He is the Savior. And then, once you have done that, getting to know Him better through reading His Word and prayer. My earthly Dad made sure that those things happened in my life throughout my childhood. So now, when crisis comes, there is a heritage of faith, a bedrock of assurance and a history of walking with the Lord that holds us together and allows us, as a family, to say, “Blessed be Your name”, regardless of what God chooses to do or not do in our lives.
– Have a church family before the storm hits. Church has become a nice icing on the cake for many believers. The thing you do when it is convenient to your schedule. Kids don’t have a game? OK, we’ll go to church. Caught up on our chores? I guess we can do church. Not too tired this week? OK, let’s go. (Sigh) I am not advocating legalism here. Don’t go to church to check it off your list. But go – and get involved – so that you have an amazing extended family to walk through both the joys and the sorrows of life. Doing life together with other believers consistently – that is what church is meant to be. Will people hurt you? You bet. Because a church is a collection of sinners, all growing in their walk with the Savior. We are all works in progress. But when the storm hits, you will not be alone. You will have an instant network of people standing beside you, holding you up and cheering you on. It’s worth getting out of bed on Sunday – and blocking your schedule so that church is a priority. And you will also be giving a huge gift to your children. Long after they are grown, they will most likely engage in a part of the Body wherever they are if you model for them now that it is a priority. I know that is what happened in my life. I bet it is what will happen in theirs.
– Know His Word before you enter the storm. For example, learn Isaiah 64:4, which says, “For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” God is at work in every detail as you trust in Him! And of course, there are many other promises He makes in His Word that will be comforting blankets of Truth to your soul in these moments in life. Romans 8:28 – He’s working all things together for your good and His glory. Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Or even the rest of Philippians 4 – bringing Him my needs, coupled with thanksgiving, knowing His peace will guard me. So many rich, rich promises in His Word for you and I to cling to in these moments. But if you don’t know them before the storm, how will you cling to them in the wind and waves?
I once heard Pastor Tony Evans say something like, “You are either in a storm now, you just got out of one or one is coming shortly.” And it is so true! This flawed world is full of painful things. Storms WILL come. The question is, are you ready for them?
I have learned to lean hard on my Heavenly Father in the storms. The foundation of faith in my life came from my earthly parents making sure that I came to know Him early and well. And in the last decade, our family had weathered many health storms in regards to my Dad. This is just the latest in a long list of “things” that have gone wrong in his body. But every time – Every. Single. Time. – our Heavenly Father has been faithful. And the storms have only served to strengthen our roots, driving us deeper into who God is, trusting Him through it all.
A tale of my two Dads. One perfect. One imperfect. But I am eternally grateful for both of them – and that I get to spend eternity with them both. Guaranteed.