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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The broken edges

After a relatively encouraging month, February is ending in fracture.  Life on the broken edges.  Painful, possibly dangerous, definitely challenging.  Yesterday morning I walked in to find a colleague who had been resuscitating a newborn for an hour, with only intermittent heart rates.  The baby was gone, and I could see the weary pain in my friend's eyes.  And from that point on, we were all running ragged all day.  A convulsing month-old baby in the casualty, struggling for IV access.  Juggling beds.  Malnourished kids.  Three in ICU, trying to get my mind around terrible lungs and proper ventilator settings.  Blending into a call night where two babies died, and one was resurrected.

Both deaths were the end of painful journeys for kids a few months old with terrible congenital malformations.  The first had hydrocephalus, a collection of fluid in the brain, that had resulted in infection and seizures.  After a month of hospitalization he was no better.  While my partner kept his heart going a while longer I spent an excruciating half hour with the parents gently trying to help them accept the inevitability of the impending end.  His mom's tears actually soaked through my skirt, her head resting on me as she trembled and wept and basically shut down.  The second was a 9 month old with Down syndrome and a severe heart defect that had become infected, with raging fevers, a too-fast-to-keep-going heart rate, dehydration.  She had been dwindling for a day so her mom had more of a quiet, resigned cry when she died at 5 this morning.

In between, another baby a few weeks old who was post-op from a spina bifida repair, suddenly with no breathing, no movement, no heart rate.  Thankfully we were only steps away and could do a full code, rounds of drugs and CPR and oxygen, and we got him back.

Scott texted that he was taking care of a 15 year old girl with a hemorrhage, who nearly died, and he had to do a small surgical procedure he had never done before to find a vein for a transfusion.

And in between all this, a litany of other types of brokeness:  two missionaries from South Sudan with medical problems needing attention and phone consults, crisis in our school in Bundibugyo as usual as disgruntled people with ulterior motives stir up trouble, car issues with the mechanic, our ancient dog fell in a trash pit and needed rescue, running up to RVA clinic, following up on multiple kids and issues, local friends with deep sorrows, and a half-hour video-conference prayer time representing our field for a meeting in our mission's main office.

Bethany reminded us this week, that this very experience is part of the point of Lent.  The early disciples did not see the crucifixion through the lens of resurrection.  They experienced the pain and despair unmitigated.  In this season we enter into the broken edges of the world, where we get scraped and remember the desperation of a world gone awry.  Babies who do not live more than a few hours or months; slander and hate; hunger and hopelessness.  I will end with the quote she referenced:

“But in the economy of God, what seems the end is but a preparation…it is the experience of genuine grief that prepares us for joy. You see? The disciples approached the Resurrection from their bereavement. For them the death was first, and the death was all. Easter, then, was an explosion of Newness, a marvelous splitting of heaven indeed. But for us, who return backward into the past, the Resurrection comes first and through it we view a death which is, therefore, less consuming, less horrible, even less real. We miss the disciples terrible, wonderful preparation. 
Unless, as now, we attend to the suffering first, to the cross with sincerest pity and vigilant love, to the dying with faithful care-and thus prepare for joy.”

Prayer: Jesus, come again! You need never suffer again. That was done once and for all. But come and remind me of the suffering so that I recall and regain the utter joy of your rising after all.”

-Walter Wangerin, Reliving the Passion

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