Clink, clank, clunk. One dollar and ten cents earns me a solid two hundred calories worth of almonds at the rest area vending machine on the side of I-95 half way between Jed’s hospital and my home. If I eat them ponderously, one at a time, this enough to keep me awake for the remaining 76 miles to home. Words fail to express the thorough disgust dripping from my stare that reflects back to me in the vending machine glass door as the blue bag of almonds dangle in midair, provokingly refusing to fall. The only thing worse than an uncooperative falling bag of almonds, is the insolence of a machine that plunks the wrong item down into the tray.
Dear machine, we had a deal, I put in the money. You give me what I want. You flubbed. Try harder next time. Thanks.
My phone dinged, and the text message scrolled lazily across the screen. “Stay close to your phone.” The number was from Jed’s hospital. My body instantly froze, I stared hard at the startlingly vague words, as my mind kicked into overdrive. Like a stop watch spinning numbers, I mentally spun through the options of what Jed could possibly have done now. Did he pull a line out? Is he bleeding profusely? Did he turn septic? Did his bowels fall out? (It’s actually happened) Did his blood pressure tank? Are they taking him to surgery? Did his heart stop? How much epinephrine is he on? Are they doing chest compressions yet? Just as suddenly as they had begun, the options screeched to a stop. A liver. He’s got a liver. He’s got a liver!!! I mechanically started throwing things into my backpack while keeping my eyes glued to the phone. Sure enough, the explosion of text messages and phone calls soon to follow sent us scurrying off to the long awaited liver transplant.
Not just any transplant, but a transplant on a little boy who a year ago came home to live, what we fully expected to be, his last days at home. I will never stop seeing the seconds count down in my mind, or stop hearing the deafening tick of the clock, never stop feeling the obsessive drive to capture every funny little face, run my hands over his fuzzy head one more time, tickle his fat toes, and memorize the babbling sound of his happy baby gibberish. Every day had to be an “on purpose” sort of day, because just how many days did we have left anyway? What if today was it? We knew the facts, and knew them well, but we gave the medicine, changed the bandages, and mixed the food as carefully as if the paperwork did not exist. And by the kindness of God, we were given more time. Another chance. A liver. And a flawless, textbook perfect surgery. We even got a few chubby cheeked grins a day or two post surgery just for good measure. Certainly more than any of us ever expected. Isn’t that just the way of God, to do things in an “exceedingly, abundantly above, all that we ask or think” sort of way!
Clink. Clank. Clunk. The machine is broken. We put in the money, and God didn’t count the change right. He gave us something we didn’t deserve, we didn’t earn, we didn’t make happen, and we didn’t even have mountains of faith to see. Again.
Two weeks after surgery, a random cardiac arrest left Jed fighting hard yet again. Haven’t we seen this? Doesn’t this feel ominously familiar? Haven’t we stood here before? Oh yes, three years before Christina did the same thing, and we watched her fight the same fight. The scenes we seem to watch on a repeating loop are not new, nor is the weary treks to the hospital, tense days, disheartening news, or the sights I wish I could forever scrub from my brain. It is not fun to so see a child, who should have sticky fingers, sandy toes, and dancing eyes, lay day after day, resembling something out of a bad science experiment with quiet hands, sad eyes, and life support machines for toys. It is nothing but heartbreaking to squeeze the lifeless hand, walk away, and pray that there will be another day tomorrow.
Clink. Clank. Clunk. The machine is broken. Why this. Why now. Can’t it ever end. We put in the change. We didn’t give up. We all did our best. Can’t God see this?
Yes, yes He does, and it hurts His heart more than it ever will mine. It is hope He knew I would need that He gave His life to give me for this moment, this scene, this unanswered question. It is His hope that removes the sting from the painful experiences of a broken world. The thing, whatever that horribly-unfair-badly-timed-thing maybe, which we so achingly hate to see happen, only ever happens on a foundation of the sturdy stuff called the goodness of God laid long ago with precise precision by a Master Designer. Nothing bad happens but that something good has not first happened! I must first always see the kindness and careful keeping of God’s hand before I can be at peace with inky darkness of the unknown. I must understand that no amount of change in the vending machine will ever be adequate to produce what I actually want from God. It is always, and has always been, by His great mercy and boundless grace that I know anything at all of good things.
Jed’s big sister Christina is three years old and cannot speak a word. I would do anything in the world for that girl because I love her, and she has never, not once, ever told me that she loves me. Make no mistake about it though, she knows well the language of love. She knows when she is loved, that it feels like hugs, and singing, and makes her feel very happy. Sometimes I’ll ask her for a hug, and on an exceptionally good day, she will lay her beautiful blond head down on my shoulder with her toothy grin, and burrow up against me for her version of a wiggly hug. Oh how that means the world to my mamma heart! This is what my love is to my Savior. His great love for me will never be matched or deserved in all my life by a single act of mine, and yet He loves. Generously. Lavishly. Unearned and completely satisfactorily.
“Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above!
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching o’er me,
I can sing though billows roll.” (F.J.Crosby)
Clink. Clank. Clunk. The Machine is broken. This is the eternal kindness and goodness of God, let us be thankful to our last day that it is.
1 John 4:9-10 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.