This morning I wore scrubs, a hair net, and shoe covers. I held a perfectly-created 3-year old and a gas mask. Arms thrashed, eyes rolled back, and then sleep came. I laid that slumbering body on an operating table, and I walked out, empty-handed and silenced by my screaming heart.
Sweet baby Given and I made a 5-hour road trip for Given’s government hospital appointment. Given’s mother had no means of making this appointment that could not be missed. So I came as the back-up mama. For privacy’s sake, I’ll spare procedure details, but we are beginning a long process of restoration in Given’s life.
Now, post-op, I watch Given sleep in the pediatric surgical ward.
We’re Bed 1 of 6 in this room.
I look around and see 3 babies with fluids dangerously misshaping their skulls.
I see two little boys confined to watch the clouds roll by from their hospital beds.
I see 4 exhausted mothers bent over babies’ beds.
For the first 10 hours of this hospital day, I couldn’t catch my breath.
It’s not my baby. It’s not my body. But I started losing my grip.
I couldn’t hear or reach anything that mattered 10 hours before this.
I couldn’t open my Bible or pour prayers into my journal, much less quiet myself to hear the Spirit of God.
I couldn’t look beyond the sight of Given’s abdomen, empty for almost 24 hours now and rising and falling a little too quickly for my liking.
And this is not my baby. Not my body.
I think about Given’s mother.
I’ve been praying for a huge spiritual breakthrough in her life for a year now. I spend hours with her every week and walk through all parts of life with her.
But, in just 10 hours, I have a new tiny taste of what one moment is like. Five children under five, one full-sized bed in an otherwise empty shack, no running water, no income, no family, one serious medical condition and one newborn.
And I can’t still my heart over one baby on an operating table.
How can she reach for a Bible when 50 fingers are reaching for her?
Hopelessness was lunging for me. And I was losing the battle.
And then I looked across the room to Bed 4.
Longing eyes of a sweet little boy were peering over a bright green balloon – an eye-catching combination of color and life breaking through the hospital-blue surroundings.
We’re going to just call him Green Balloon Kid to respect his privacy.
Green Balloon Kid was the only one alone. He’s about six-years old, has a partially-shaven head, swollen and offset jaw, and wears a giant bib as mucas-drool pours out of his mouth constantly. And he’s absolutely precious.
I take over the little blue racecar.
The toy blue racecar that zoomed through the back seats of the little blue Mazda that brought us to the hospital. The little blue racecar that has passed between children in waiting rooms, has scaled the corners and walls of this hospital that I’m sure the brooms have never even made it to, and has even done some flips through pre-op.
I sit on that hospital-blue floor and send that little blue car speeding into the hands of Green Balloon Kid.
Green Balloon squeaks. I giggle. Straight off of the hopeless cliff, I giggle.
I look at Bed 3. A ten-year old wears only an open robe because his surgery incisions and his pain are so fresh. (He’ll be Robe Kid.) I gesture; he nods; then he hobbles over. And the little blue racecar drives back and forth between the three of us.
These bodies still break. These mothers still bow. Every child in this room faces an avalanche of surgeries and appointments. Systems, papers and oceans of hospital-blue are on their horizons.
But that blue racecar zooms.
And, suddenly, Green Balloon Kids’ eyes start dancing. He says, “1, 4, 2, GO!” And the little blue racecar zooms on command.
Robe Kid offers a sympathetic smile, and says, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” Little blue racecar goes.
And I realize that we probably speak 3 different languages.
And we only have that moment. A moment that is not ripe with hope and healing. But a moment with one little racecar connecting the three of us.
Green Balloon Kid paints on a devilish grin. He ties the green balloon onto the little blue racecar. And they both take off!
Robe Kid adds a sound system.
Green Balloon Kid adds shocks.
I can’t stop surgeries. I don’t know if I can stomach the sight of another operating room.
I certainly can’t stop the emotional commotion to whisper with the Spirit.
Maybe my blog’s “not supposed” to say that.
But I can’t. Not in here. Not with this baby on that bed.
But my hands can receive and send off a little blue racecar.
I can hit that green balloon back and forth, even as the drool splatters all over it.
And the Spirit splatters too.
When five fingers release a green balloon to reach for mine for help getting to the bathroom, I can release this day to reach for the Helper’s Hand.
And I have to believe… I HAVE to believe, even if it’s only to feel like it’s worth staying in South Africa (because, today, that’s what it is), that when 50 fingers grope for Given’s mother, a Holy Hand can still reach her.
I HAVE to believe that as she expends all of her energy walking uphill with buckets of water on her head, that Living Water can splash out over on her life.
I HAVE to believe that when we have no capacity, we’re held.
I HAVE to believe that when our bodies and our babies’ bodies scream death, He gives Everlasting Life.
I HAVE to believe that hours on the road, days away from home, never-ending hospital hoops, and gaping language barriers can spread gospel seeds that last.
I HAVE to believe that HOPE comes in the shade of hospital-blue and racecar blue. And green balloons and red plastic chairs.