On my way out of the hospital the other day, I passed the two people at the screening desk. One of them handed me a parking token, and as I approached the doors to leave, I heard the other woman ask, “How are you doing?” I turned around, surprised, and said, “How do you know who I am?” “A young woman told me about what’s going on. You’ve been on my mind so much, and I’ve been praying for you.” The other woman chimed in, “Trust in the Lord. He is there for you. He hears you. You can be sad, you can be angry. He can take it all.” I teared up as I listened to them take turns reminding me of God’s promise to be faithful, reminding me to trust him.
As I walked through the parking lot to my car, going over the exchange in my mind, I kept thinking of the word sentinels. These keepers of the gate felt placed there on purpose–this place where we now live was being guarded by people who fear the Lord, who remember him and who reminded me to remember.
It was surprising but not. We are continually brought into intimate contact here with people who love God and want to encourage us and remind us: Don’t lose hope. Trust in the Lord. He is with you.
A week in to our hospital stay, our nephrologist was rounding very early in the morning. I was in bed but vaguely listening to her talking to Chris. As she left she came over, set something on the window ledge near me, and said, “This is for you,” and left the room. Half awake, I sat up and reached for it. There was a card with a painting of wings on the front. Written on it was Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Along with the card was a leather bracelet that had a wing on it. The next day when she rounded, I held up my wrist showing her the bracelet. She asked, “Do you like it? A woman in my community makes those bracelets. I had a friend with brain cancer, and I bought two of those bracelets–one to give to my friend and one to hold on to. I knew someday I’d find the right person to give it to.”
On one of our hallway strolls, Chris and I stopped to chat with Mary, a nurse from Kenya. We didn’t know she was a believer until that conversation, and standing there in the hallway, we basically had church. Mary’s words were so poignant and grounded in Scripture. She has lived through many hard things. Her faith in Jesus is unwavering. Her confidence in him and her joy are undeniable, and she called us to that same confidence. She said, “I never have liked the phrase ‘hang in there.’ I say ‘dwell in there,’ because no matter our circumstances, we can always dwell in God’s presence with us.”
Our chemo nurse, Carol, overheard us talking about God with the Shuffles who were visiting. She chimed in and affirmed and encouraged our pursuit of godly wisdom and counsel. She has since told us that she carries us in her heart even when she’s away from work, and she prays for us often.
Now that Chris is on IV nutrition, we have a nutrition doctor. His name is Dr. Olson. I was home the other day when Dr. Olson first came to see Chris, but Chris told me what a wonderful man he was–how he made Chris feel so free and unburdened by the pressure to be eating and drinking, how he assured Chris that he would be taking care of his needs and that Chris would start to get stronger. Chris said, “I wonder if he’s a believer.” The next day when I got to meet Dr. Olson I was awestruck: He wasn’t just kind and gentle; he seemed to be from another realm. He said, “It is my pleasure to take care of Chris. I really mean that.” He paid attention to me, too, asking if I had questions for him. After some technical questions, I said, “Dr. Olson, do you practice a faith? You seem like a man of faith,” to which he replied, “God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are my three heroes.” He went on to tell Chris that God is with him. He will never be alone. God’s promises are real and true. He is faithful. All he needs is a mustard seed of faith, and we will see him do big, big things.
This hospital is an amazing place. So much is going on here, not just in bodies but in minds and hearts. I like to remember the sentinels, guarding the gates. And within, at every juncture, there are more standing guard, ready to remind us, sent to us to tell us: Remember his promises. He is here. He will not leave you.