I’m leaving the Intensive Care Unit yesterday afternoon after having spent some time with one of our church families that has a loved one in the ICU. As I walk down the hall I pass a window that offers a lovely view of the southeast corner of Lancaster city, from the relatively high 6th floor vantage point. As is the case as often as not, a person is standing there gazing upon the view that remains between the older north wing of rooms and the newer Lime Street wing of rooms. It is just a body that I hardly notice, my mind focused internally on the church member who is currently struggling in the ICU unit.
Then I hear a voice from behind me ask, “Do you know what churches those steeples belong to?” I stop and turn back, not completely convinced the words have been spoken to me. But a glance up and down the hallway confirms that I am the only candidate. So to take a few steps toward the window to stand next to person I had ignored in my preoccupation. It is a woman who turns to me with moist eyes, who now says as she turns back to the window, “They are beautiful … so many reminders of the God they point to.” In my consistently eloquent way, I respond with great wisdom … “Uh … yeah, they are.” Wow. I bet you’re just so proud of your pastor who remarkably gets paid to speak like this.
Not knowing exactly what to say, I then answer the original question and identify most of them and the churches to which they belong. There are a few moments of silence and then the woman says to me, “I love how they stand above the trees. So many prayers going up to God. We need those prayers.” I ask if she has a loved one in ICU and she nods that she does. When I offer my hopes that the person is improving, the moistness in her eyes takes on droplet form and she silently shakes her head “no.” We have a brief conversation, and though I don’t get many details I come away knowing it is her mother she cries over, and her mother’s name is Carol.
As I headed down the hallway, she returned to the window. And I found myself thinking of her simple words … “so many reminders of the God they point to.” Those words could be our daily proclamation to a world that has not only learned to ignore steeples, but is also blind to the dozens of other reminders of God’s presence in our world and our lives. Those reminders are not promises that we will never face hardship or suffering. But they are a reminder that we never have to face those difficult moments alone. Consider that the next time you pass a steeple … or any of dozen other manifestations of God among us.
And pray for Carol if you have a moment … and while you’re at it, please pray for Barry, too.