Thoughts from a Hospital Bed
It is all too familiar, walking down the hallways; the grey walls, the sterile floors, the miniscule squares on the ceiling. And the smell.
Room after room filled with beds. Beds filled with people. People simply lying down. People simply trying to keep themselves occupied and comfortable. And the smell.
Neither stillness nor silence exist within these walls. The ever present noise of machines beeping and of feet scurrying is the soundtrack. And the smell.
The laughter that’s present outside these walls is swallowed up by moans and cries. And there is the smell.
We all know the smell. Even in a building that was once a hospital, the smell lingers. We walk into buildings that are no longer hospitals, and immediately say to others: 'This smells like a hospital.' I am not exactly sure what the smell is, but perhaps it is the smell of suffering.
Certainly people suffer outside hospital walls, but somehow a hospital brings out the distinct smell and being in a hospital heightens that particular smell. I mean, what does suffering even smell like? Surely suffering has a smell. Perhaps its peculiar smell can get lost. Suffering's aroma simply combines with other aspects of our lives. Or maybe, outside these walls, the smell of suffering is more easily be disguised, hidden or simply ignored.
I’ve been sitting in a hospital bed for nine days now (and still counting). It’s like there is a big neon orange sign dangling from my ceiling that reminds me that I have a chronic illness. It’s not that I forget that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis – believe me, every step I take is a constant reminder that suffering is real and that, indeed, I do have a chronic illness. But, it’s like I’ve been pulled off the field for a time, and it’s not easy to watch the game continue when you have been benched for an unspecified amount of time because of something out of your control.
So, while the doctors keep monitoring my progress to make sure that I am ready to get back on the field, I simply have to wait. I have to have patience. I have to wait and wait. And while I keep the bench warm, I am reminded that just because I am on the bench, it doesn’t mean that I am not part of the game. You see, when a player gets benched in, that player isn't removed completely. That player is able to cheer on the people on the field, and consider the game from a different perspective. So, I sit on the bench and from this angle, I get another viewpoint. I see the game differently. I learn lessons, new and old. I discover (again) the role of trials and suffering in our lives – and specifically, in my life. I learn to fight against thoughts that would destroy me. Ultimately, I grasp more about the God of peace and how He works to quiet my soul.
A friend visited me recently. She gave me John Piper’s little book titled Lessons from a Hospital Bed. Many things have resonated with me. However, the greatest help has been his wee chapter on how your life and illness are not meaningless. In it he states:
You need not worry about the slightest slipup. Not a bird falls to the ground apart from your heavenly Father’s will (Matt. 10:29). Every throw of dice in every casino, not to mention every medical procedure, is guided by God for God’s purposes: 'The lot is cast into the lap [the therapy is chosen], but its every decision is from the Lord'' (Prov 16:33).
For a season, God has made you like a helpless child. Trust him. He is a good Father. All-wise, all-strong, all-loving. Rest in him. He has much to teach you. This is what I found when my time came. And what I hope I will find again. For there will almost certainly be an 'again'.
So, I sit here, inside these walls, smelling that aroma of suffering, Yet, I sit here, inside these walls, with the smell of hope; hope because I know, I have not been cast aside.
Medical update: Physically, I am feeling fine. Unfortunately, I am just now playing the waiting game. The surgery was successful in removing the infection from my hip but in order to make sure it is gone I need to be on an intense course of IV antibiotics. Once my ‘markers’ have come down (and they are coming down every day), I will then be able to switch to oral antibiotics and then go home. Until then, I wait.
I am able to walk without crutches but tend to use them for long distances (that being the café for a latte).