My last-minute preparations for a Friday-night dinner with friends were interrupted by Ivan’s uncertain voice as he thrust his left hand over the kitchen sink in front of me. Although it took a few moments to realize the severity of his injury, I knew at once that his fourth finger had experienced some trauma.
I called for Jared with growing intensity as blood dripped into the kitchen sink and I realized that the tip of Ivan’s finger was missing underneath an empty fingernail.
The next several minutes were a blur of activity as we bandaged the wound with gauze, put the severed fingertip in a plastic bag, greeted our dinner guests (and excused ourselves), paid for pizza that was being delivered, and left for a local emergency room. All the time a feeling was growing inside me…Not again. Why us? Why now? What next? Haven’t we already been through enough?
Our local hospital was unable to treat the wound and transferred us to another general hospital in a larger city, 1.5 hours away. We arranged transportation and made our way uncertainly to the recommended location. Over the next few hours our minds were filled with doubts, wondering what was the wisest course of action in this situation that required fast response. Visions of infection, further trauma, a life-long “disability” that could hinder Ivan’s participation in certain activities like playing guitar, sports…all this consumed my thoughts as we drove and prayed and tried ineffectively to contact the hospital we were headed for.
Irritation welled up in me, too. What kind of place is this where you can’t arrange immediate medical attention for a severe injury? This never would have happened back home, I unjustly thought. I began yearning for my home country, where accidents never happen. I knew I was being irrational. Practically every traumatic event we have experienced in the past few months has been something that could easily have happened anywhere in the world. My frustration came from the stress of dealing with these situations in an environment that is still quite foreign to me. Worrying that I may not be able to understand the doctor’s instructions as he spoke from beneath his surgical mask. Wondering if the sanitation would be up to par in the operating room. If I could trust the prescriptions and follow-up care.
As we unloaded ourselves from the vehicle and walked into the emergency room of a large city, my thoughts were immediately rebuked. Here before me was human suffering in tangible form. The bustling hospital was crowded with people in pain. There was a slender boy of about 15 who had suffered a motorbike accident, lying alone, bruised and crooked on a gurney. Around the corner an old woman lay on a bed, struggling to breathe, while her wrinkled husband muttered pleading prayers with eyes squeezed shut and palms lifted upward. A team of doctors and nurses worked on an elderly man with a tracheostomy tube who was soon rushed into the resuscitation room followed by his wife, who kissed him gently and wiped his grey, sweaty brow before stepping back in tears.
With these vivid images before my eyes, shame swept over me as I considered how minuscule our plight truly was. Ivan had walked into the hospital on his own two feet, gingerly holding his bandaged finger aloft and grinning a little when he considered that he could later brag about his experience to his older brother. And yet, despite small smiles of bravado, my heart was aching and crying out for relief from worry and fear and trauma and sleeplessness…by now I was familiar enough with the round of emotions involved in an accident and already dreaded the bad dreams and the stress of wound care to follow.
But God still cares. Even when our situation is minor in comparison to (fill in the blank), He cares. For me, His love was evident in Jared’s silent, reassuring hand-clasp on the way to the hospital. In the ER doctor’s self-assured handling of the situation and confident cutting and stitching and issuing orders. In the sacrifice of neighbor-friends who stayed on watch till the wee hours while our other sons slept peacefully at home. In the tear-filled eyes of our helper lady as she hugged Ivan the next morning and shouldered some of my heartache for me.
And God heals. Ivan’s swift healing has amazed us all, and we give the thanks to God. His finger is a bit stubbier than before, but three weeks later, all that remains of the injury is a small scab, fresh pink skin, and a missing fingernail.
God heals hearts, too, and this is a process which may take a bit longer than three or four weeks. He is urging me gently to let go, surrender, and trust that He’s got this thing we call life. He cares more deeply than I can imagine, but He doesn’t promise to orchestrate my family’s journey through life according to what I think best. He’s writing my story–your story–OUR story to be an epic which, whether through laughter or tears, points inescapably back to His faithfulness and love. And one day He will redeem every tear with diamonds of joy and exchange our meager hours of suffering with unblemished eternity.