It's All the Real World

What good is it to have your own web site if you can’t use it to post a picture of your first grandchild? Matthew Phillip Moilanen was born on August 4. I’ve just spent three days on the second floor of the Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris, New York. Roughly half that time was spent standing vigil, nervously waiting for the event. The other half was spent celebrating, making phone calls and taking pictures.

I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals. I’ve held the hand of an elderly woman as she breathed her last. I’ve cried with people who got bad news. I’ve sat through surgeries. I’ve stood with families as they waited for their loved one to pass. I’ve sat with people for hours after the death of a loved one because it was so hard for them to leave the room. And I’ve made more trips to the ER than I can remember. But I’ve also had a lot of good times in hospitals. Births, successful surgeries, good news from the doctor, going home. It really is a mixed bag.

But my time at Catskill Regional was like being in a bubble. I wasn’t checking in on a number of people on different floors. The only places I frequented were labor and delivery, the cafeteria, and the gift shop. It was all good. Even watching my daughter go through pain was a positive thing because I knew this pain had a purpose.

But every once in a while the rest of the world would try to invade my bubble. Every time I saw the “Labor and Delivery” sign I could also see the “Oncology” sign in the background. Several times when I walked to the stairwell I passed the open door of a man groaning in pain. The exit we used was by the ER and more than once as we were leaving the hospital someone was arriving—on a gurney. And when I walked through the lobby to go pull up the car so Scott could drive his wife and new son home, I overheard a man talking on a cell phone saying, “We’re just going to try to remember him the way he looked before.”

I was tempted to think, “That’s the real world.” But, of course, it’s all the real world. Death and birth. Good news and bad news. It’s not that we live in two worlds. We live in one. So today as I was rejoicing at my grandson coming home from the hospital I was also checking my email to see how a friend’s cancer surgery had gone.

Dallas Willard says that we live in a “God-bathed world.” One of our challenges is to see God in all of it—birth and death and everything in between.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the Kingdom of God—both in its present form in the here and now and in its future form in the here and then. I couldn’t help but think about it this week. You won’t be surprised at the Kingdom passage that was going through my mind…

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:22-25)

I know God is redeeming His creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the hope for which I patiently (well, sometimes patiently) wait. At times when people I love are going through cancer or depression or death I can vividly hear creation groaning. This week reminded me that Paul says that groaning is part of something meaningful that God is doing. It also reminded me that it’s worth the wait.