My wife and I went to bed early, knowing that we had to rise earlier than normal to begin a long interstate journey to spend Christmas with my 91-year-old in-laws. That’s when a text message from my sister-in-law woke us. My father-in-law was being rushed to the hospital. His heart was beating erratically and he was having difficulty breathing. We got little sleep afterwards, rose even earlier than planned, and hit the road. Thankfully, traffic was lighter than we had expected.
My father-in-law was experiencing atrial fibrillation, his heart rate approaching 200. His doctors were sequentially trying several medications to get it back down to normal. It looked as though he might have to spend Christmas in the hospital.
This brought back memories of another time when we had had to make an unexpectedly early trip at Christmas time. We had planned to travel to Tennessee for the holidays as soon as the school where I was teaching got out for the Christmas holidays. But my mother, father, and sister were hit by a drunk driver while on their way to church to participate in the annual Christmas cantata. Mother was in ICU, fighting for her life. Mother passed just days before Christmas. Daddy was so badly injured that he had to spend Christmas in the hospital.
Such incidents around the holidays, days that are supposed to be filled with joy and laughter, are especially hard on family members. And those memories returned to my mind as I visited my father-in-law.
Then the next day we got word that my wife’s aunt, who lived in the same town, had been rushed to the hospital with breathing difficulties. She was admitted to a different hospital across the street from where my father-in-law was. When it rains it pours!
The good news, in this instance, is that the doctors finally found a medication that lowered my father-in-law’s heart rate, and he was discharged late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. My wife’s aunt was able to come home two days later. Through it all, my sister-in-law worked tirelessly to keep her parents on an even keel, active enough to feel needed yet not so active as to threaten their health.
During all these events, I had been reading (in snatches and grabs of time) a book that provided some perspective, reminding me of a valuable lesson and helping me regain a right focus. The book, I Shall Not Want by Robert Ketcham, deals with the Twenty-third Psalm. I thought that for today’s post I would share a few quotations from it; perhaps you will be helped by the thoughts that helped me during a trying time.
Our little stream of life is on a rampage. It is rushing by with a crashing crescendo of frightening noises, the spray of it is dashing into our faces. We cannot see, and we are afraid. Sorrow, affliction, heartache and heartbreak are breaking the speed limit in our lives. Bewilderment and confusion swirl about us like mighty whirlpools. It is then that our blessed Shepherd moves into the situation and “stills” the waters about us, and we discover . . . that we are refreshed by the very thing that would otherwise have been our ruin. . . . The whole question of whether life’s experiences are going to be times of refreshment or ruin is determined by whether or not we constantly recognize the presence of the Shepherd. . . . [L]ife may become a thing of beauty if the Shepherd goes along. . . . It is how we react that makes the difference between defeat and victory. If we become preoccupied with the shadows, we will become cynical, bitter, discouraged and defeated. If we become preoccupied with the sunshine, we will become self-satisfied, self-centered, thoughtless of others, and worse still, forgetful of Him. But if we remain preoccupied with the Shepherd, regardless of shadow or sunshine, we will survive the peril of both with victory!
Now everything and everyone is back to normal again. We enjoyed Christmas with the in-laws and returned home safely amid very heavy holiday traffic. We were protected from any accidents, though we saw a couple of bad ones along the way. And now we anticipate the resumption of our daily routines with a greater trust in that Shepherd. But it’s a lesson we must often be reminded of lest we again are assailed by fears and doubts. May you find comfort in this truth as well.