Saturday, August 29, 2009

Weakness/Feeble Attempts

The progress that Jake has made in two weeks is incredible. This morning, before I headed over to the hospital, I got a picture message of Jacob smiling huge in laughter - he was cracking up while watching women's wrestling and women's mixed martial arts on TV. Good to see who he is come out again, his humor and emotions and joy in simple/weird things. He is still quite hazy and comes in and out of resting and trying to communicate things he needs. He recognizes everyone that comes in and is actually quite empathetic of what we need. One of the first things he did when I came in this morning and was standing over him was motion to a chair, telling me that I could sit if I wanted to. I respectfully declined but admired his acknowledgment of our presence and our situations. He also told me I could flip through the TV channels if I wanted, and turned his little audio speaker towards me so I could hear while we watched The Office toegether.

So he's taken some great steps, in ways that I am unsure of how to communicate. Mixed with that is still a feeling of heartache for the condition he is in. He describes how he feels as either dizzy or just weird. I think that a good word is weak. He can stand and sit up but it doesn't feel good for him. While his mental capacity is strengthening by the day, he must fight against physical weakness, as well as the weakness of understanding his condition... as he continues to be able to assess the situation better, he will likely go through psychological and spiritual weakness as he struggles with God and where he is at.

It will still be quite some time until we see bigger strides in combating his weakness, because he has an 8-10 hour surgery scheduled for sometime this next week to do work on his head and skull wound. It will involve removing the dead bone in the skull (which is likely dead all the way through). If they can they will also do some more work on the heel and the thumb. But head is priority. After removal of the dead bone, they will take a muscle graft from elsewhere on his body and place it over where his skull was as a sort of natural bandage/flap. Please pray for this process, as they might use the muscle that is most cloesly associated with paddling. The body can compensate, but it is not easy (especially since 50% of that muscle has already been taken out on his right side due to burn damage. The may use the entire muscle on the left side, or look into other options). After the removal of bone and placing of muscle, it will be 3 to 6 months before they go back and actually start skin grafting and stretching. He may be able to go home during this time, but it will be an incredible recovery process nonetheless.
I am so excited that he was upbeat, laughing, smiling and chatting with me this morning (even telling me about some bizarre dreams that he remembers from the last couple of months!). And then I despair and grieve as the day goes on and he gets tired, groggy, feeling crappy, feeling ashamed. Such a mixture of hope and then feeling more loss... yet knowing that maybe the idea of hope should tell us that loss helps us gain... that grief produces joy in the things that are truly worthwhile to joy in. I forget the source of this quote: "Happiness is a result of circumstances. Joy is a choice amidst those circumstances." Peace. love. contentment. Hope.

This morning I woke up. I got some coffee. I set out my Bible and journal to try to have some "time with God." Whatever that means. I got a text message from my mom. I called my mom, and she said that the mornings are when Jacob is most active and cognizant, and that they were both looking forward to me getting to the hospital. Jacob had been up and active since 6 AM.
So then I sat down to try and have my "time with God." I paused for a second, and then opened my journal and wrote this:
"Lord, my time with you this morning will be spent by being with Jacob. Not here. Not in writing. Not in intentional prayer. Not in the Bible. With Jacob. In him is hope and joy."

We hear that we are supposed to spend time with God. But what does that really mean? To a lot of people in Christian communities today, it means go off by yourself and study the Bible, not to mention making sure that you actually get something out of your time. This is valuable, to be sure. But for me, these times produce a lot of theories... but I actually experience God in my day to day living. In community with others. In stories that I hear. In events that I witness. In conversations that I have. The glimpses of the Kingdom that I see in the ordinary.
After all, we do not serve a metaphysical, transcendent, Deistic God. We serve a humanistic one, one who came down to be with us. We do not need to elevate ourselves to some vague spiritual plane in order to experience God... because he came down to us. He sent his Son, the very Essence of who he is, because he loves us and wanted his presence to be with us once again... and he accomplished this goal. We can tap in to this presence in Spirit, one that meets us at every point along the way, who guides us, who works through and in despite of the choices that we make. And I see this Spirit in the love of people in true community together.
After all, so many teachings in the Bible give me the impression that the actual medium in which we are to love God is in our loving interactions with other people... we love God not through an individualistic pursuit by claiming "God, I love you," but we show this love in the ways that we love those whom he also loves, whom he created.
So to tie this in to the journal entry... maybe i shouldn't be so focused on "getting something" out of my "daily time with God," because we constantly have time with God. He is all over our lives. We experience him every moment that he sustains us a little longer. I, of course, as a normal human being, need time alone and time to reflect and relax by myself. But maybe those times should be focused on prayer and existing and being real with God, not on a pragmatic, self-absorbed attempt to spiritually grow. Because we aren't the ones who can do that.

As I re-read what I just wrote I realize how condemning it sounds... even to the ways that I operate. And I once again feel like I don't actually know what I am talking about. Hopefully my rantings at least get you thinking about these things in your own right and openly engaging those in your own communities. Because God works through our weak and feeble attempts at living with him, in this presence that he has brought. Well, maybe he works in spite of our weak and feeble attempts.

-Robbie (Jacob's brother)

To get you thinking a little more along these lines, here is an awesome poem by C.S. Lewis:

Footnote to All Prayers
He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskilfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.


A. Christine said...

i really resonate with this line of thinking, Robbie! It is a struggle for me to have a balance of "time with God" and "time with people"...but actually, these are in no way mutually exclusive!! I like the way you are thinking. God is doing awesome things in your life. Jacob is sure blessed to have you as a brother! Thank you for your honesty and transparency, even with some of us whom you have never met!

Todd Millikan said...

Good practical theology that challenges much of how the Christian world thinks, lives, and teaches, Robbie. Well written and well thought through. Thanks for sharing.