They say that lightening occurs when opposite, attractive charges build up between the chasm of heaven and earth. That it results when positive and negative powerfully surge toward each other. Remaining apart, maintaining separation – it’s simply too difficult. This deep, natural longing for reunion is solemnly echoed by the low and forceful groans of the billowing thunder clouds.
With a magnanimous flash, dust and sky become one.
And it lights up the darkness.
I sat in the consult room, inches away from this precious little boy. I could almost feel the heat that emanated from his fever-stricken, mangled body. His chest rose and fell rapidly. He was ten years old. And I have to tell you about him.
He had one arm. No legs.
From his wheelchair, he smiled. Sweat dripping from his temples.
It wasn’t that warm today.
Infectious abscesses ravaged his body. One fluctuant mass stared at us from his wrist, perturbed at the attention we were giving it. The other was perched on his shoulder. It had clearly invaded the joint. He had been battling these infections for years. And his missing limbs seemed to announce that they were winning.
Yet he smiled. He was a smart boy, I could tell. We handed him a sucker and it was clear we had made his day. Perhaps his week.
His fever, combined with increased respirations and a rapid pulse indicated he was septic. This means that the bacteria had likely made it into his blood. And was spreading.
He was still smiling, the sucker lost to sight in his mouth. But there was a deep-seated fatigue to his eyes. He was a tired little child.
My heart ached.
Suffering, pain, disease, heartbreak. I saw it in his face.
I see it in the mirror.
They are the dark, menacing clouds that rumble. That cry out. Reminding us of the deep canyon between earth and heaven. Between pain and healing.
Between that which is Whole and all that is broken.
We talked to his mother about making the 5 hour trip to Huambo, where he might be able to have the abscesses surgically lanced open. It was the same hospital where he received his amputations. With a look of anguished resignation, she informed us that she would not take him. She was tired too. How long can a mother watch her little boy fight a losing battle? When does a mother break?
Moisture flooded my eyes. Sometimes I feel that to care is to hurt. This curse called compassion seems to end far too often in tears.
But, I suppose to feel is to be fundamentally human. To love is to mirror our Maker. How I wish I could just see Him. With my own two eyes. I wish I could wrap myself in His embrace.
Since there was no way to get him to Huambo without his mother, we would have to treat him here. The first step was antibiotics. The treatment regimen would cover everything we could think to suspect, including milliary tuberculosis. We needed to weigh him to calculate the correct dosages. Because he couldn’t walk on his own, I stooped over and picked up what was left of his tiny frame. Like a newborn baby, I held him to my body and stepped on the scale.
The heat from his fever surged into my chest.
His rapid heartbeat was introduced to mine.
I realized then that this boy and I were not so different. His physical deformities only a visual narrative of my own inward condition. Like him, I was ravaged, broken, hurting. In desperate need of healing.
Thunder rolled across the skies. Yearning for that healing. Calling out for a reconnection between the Healer and the sick.
We calculated the dose of medicine he would need. Our plan was to lance the abscess on his wrist, clean it out, and allow it to drain. I asked Dr. Kubacki about the abscess on his shoulder and he wisely taught us that opening up a joint in the outpatient setting would be asking for complications.
He reminded us of the mandate of every physician: First do no harm.
In preparation, Kyle skillfully inserted an IV line to run much needed fluids into the child’s veins. The boy was whimpering now. Not crying. Just whimpering. After giving him some numbing medicine, Kyle lanced his abscess and wrapped a bandage around his wrist. Dr. Kubacki stood near, guiding him through the process. With one hand on the boys shoulder, and the other gently on his head, I watched.
And prayed. As the sky cried out in my heart.
My mind went again to One who says He can heal. When faced with suffering, pain, brokenness…there is just nowhere else I can go.
With eyes that bespoke the weight on His shoulders, Jesus turned His back on the splendor of heaven to willingly walk the dusty streets of humanity.
The deep thunder of distress reached his ears. The agonizing cries of our broken hearts, longing for wholeness. He could be silent no longer. He would come to be our Comforter. He would come to hold us. And as His gaze panned across our world, He hurt with us. He entered humanity and experienced what it meant to be called mortal.
He came to show us the way to life. Deep, satisfying life.
And as He did, the charges between soil and space began to accumulate; Electric chills fired through the spine of every man, woman, and child who recognized what was about to take place.
The chasm was preparing to be bridged.
He didn’t come to die. He came to drink. To drink in the separation, the darkness, the pain. Hell was poured into his chalice. Yet He did not back down. Instead, He drank deep. The moments when he hung on the cross were not the moments of a man dying. The Son of God breathed into his heaving lungs the agony that would have consumed and ravaged us. From the cross, Jesus moaned to His Father: “Why have you forsaken me?” Because in that moment, His Father looked away. In taking on the blackness of our evil, He existed in complete isolation from God. And every fiber in his weak and tattered body screamed in utter despair.
It was because of love. Sweet, mind-numbing love.
A flash of electricity brilliantly illuminated the horizon.
Heaven and earth met in a spectacular display of force. Hardly was this a safe scene to be near. Lightening can be powerfully destructive, after all. We had to back away, with our heads bowed low as Love did what only Love could do. And our only hope was to allow Him to suffer. To watch as He inhaled death, in all its fury. For us.
And He lit up the darkness.
How often have I wondered how such a beautiful story could be true. It seems too much to hope. Too breathtaking to be grounded in reality. That my Creator loves me and wants to walk with me is the stuff that fairy tales are made of.
But what if it is true?
What if we really are loved deeper than we dare believe?