7 years ago today I got to see and touch Tim for the first time. Yesterday he turned 7, born 2 months premature. None of my children were born at their due date ranging 2-4 weeks early. Each time we had avoided the NICU even if we had some complications. This time we knew we would a hospital stay of weeks, not days. I've been quiet for several days - not posting devotions here, not texting folks or spending too much time on social media. I did reach out to a group of preemie moms to see if what I was feeling resonated with them as well. The overwhelming answer was yes. So what was I feeling?
Survivors of the NICU talk about anniversaries as terror-versies. They are not days that are always celebrations but occasions where you remember how scared you were. The further you get away the easier they become - especially if your child is kicking butt - it's easier to celebrate the plus sides. Something that I saw in this preemie group was everyone that was having birthdays were struggling - I was no different - but it wasn't because of the birthday. People who have lived in the NICU (and other medical situations as well) learn very quickly that time is measured differently - weeks not days - and that it is always a marathon not a sprint. It's also not a flat - straight - run, but more of a roller coaster that you cannot get off.
What I discovered while I was quiet was that so much of our current existence reminds me of our NICU life. We limited contact, we had health screenings before every entrance, lots of hand washing, etc. Except instead of it just being immediate family it's everyone - like everyone in the world. And it's exhausting. And it's overwhelming and there does not appear to be a clear cut finish line. Just like when we were in the NICU and we wanted to come home we knew we had to meet certain criteria. But you know what, the drs and nurses never told us ALL of the criteria at once. I bristled at it but now understand why - because if they gave us every step it would be too overwhelming and we would shut down. I think this is where we find ourselves now.
It's been more than 100 years since the majority of this nation has faced a situation like this as in the Spanish Influenza. We know that there is a health crisis as well as an economic crisis. This will not be a situation that we get back to normal or even a new normal quickly. This will not even be like when we recover from tropical storm systems. This is something that affects us all. But you know what - as people who've come through Rita, Ike, Harvey and Imelda (all in the last 15 years) we know that a new normal will emerge and that we will not just survive but even thrive when we care for each other. We know that we can look beyond our community for ideas but what works one place does not always work well in others. Not only can our personal experience teach us but we can look to scripture.
The story of God and the story of us found in the Old & New Testaments reminds us that there have been times of exile, destruction, occupation, persecution and even death. But we also know there are times of come homecoming, freedom, resurrection and new life. What we will become we do not yet know. But the promise is that the worst day will not be our last. Through the season of Lent our response to the benediction were the words from the Hymn of Promise verse 3 by Natalie Sleeth:
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; in our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
God indeed can see how this plays out. Life will be different but I trust God knowing that there will be an end to this all which will bring new life to us all.
Let us pray: God grant us peace so that in this season of uncertainty you may come to rely on you as our strength and redeemer. May we see the best way to live our lives be loving you and neighbor first so that together we may experience new life and love. Through Christ our Lord, amen.