The One Where Its OK

Today our hearts are broken over the loss of a young patient.

The beautiful 5-year-old girl from Northern Madagascar passed away on board the Africa Mercy on Thursday 10 March, at 5.45pm. She died two days after a very unusual, rare and severe reaction to the surgical procedure in combination with general anaesthetic, during treatment to remove a complex tumour of her lower face and neck. Her mother had been at her bedside since their arrival to the Mercy Ship on 20 January and her senior uncle joined them Thursday evening.

Official formalities with the local authorities were completed Friday morning and the family and the body are flown back to their village in the afternoon to prepare for her funeral.

Our prayers and our love leave with them.

-Mercy Ships Press Release

There are times where God doesn’t make sense, where our life and beliefs collide and it just seems altogether unfair.

And that’s OK.

A five year old patient died this week from complications during her surgery. Its tragic, understandably difficult and terribly sad. Personally I didn’t have a connection to her other than she was one deck below me, but as a community we have a connection. She was a precious life that was fought for even before the complication, she was a patient our nurses looked after and gave stickers, smiles and hugs to. She was a beautiful person whom God loved dearly. And now she is no more. And that is always hard to understand. Especially when as a community we prayed and interceded and begged for her life. But God did not answer how we hoped.

And that is OK too.

I’ve given up trying to figure out how God could allow tragedies and evil. I will never understand or make sense of it, I will always see it as an injustice and unfair. I could go round in circles trying to make sense of it and justify God’s decision. But that is not my job, my job is to love God and love others. And if I really love him, and really believe he works all things together for good, than the logical manifestation is that I trust He knows what he is doing even when bad things happen… trust that in his infinite wisdom and knowledge He makes the perfect call.

But it doesn’t make it easy and I don’t think we should cover that up.

I have friends whose hearts are aching right now, friends who have come across the world to help people and have just lost one instead. How do we connect those dots?? Maybe we don’t.

And that, too, is OK.

Instead of demanding answers to the why questions, “why didn’t you heal her?” “why did you allow this?” “why didn’t you perform a miracle?”, perhaps we need to quietly ask the where question, “where were you God?”

We’re reading through Esther as a community, the one book in the Bible that never mentions the name of God yet God is everywhere in the story, He is active behind the scenes and works to bring about his will. In my own life there have been seasons where God seems absent but in reality he is active and working to bring about his will. Just because he’s quiet doesn’t mean he’s any less good. I have learned to ask where instead of why.

A friend shared that this little girl had fought already to live after a few complicated surgeries, that this wasn’t the first time she’s had a complication while in surgery. And while this knowledge doesn’t make it easier, it does paint a bigger picture as I ask God where he was in all of this.

I see that He loved this child enough to bring her to a place where she would pass into his arms with dignity. Had she passed away in a local hospital I can only imagine the lack of care and reverence her life and body would have been shown, perhaps no one would have comforted the grieving family, and with little fanfare or intention she would have become just a number on a piece of paper somewhere, another empty statistic.

But here she was more. She was Amerista and she was loved well.

Medical staff fought valiantly for her life in the OR, hospital leadership discussed and reviewed her case with hearts and eyes that desire the best and value life, nurses provided world class care and kept her alive until the last moment, and chaplains came alongside the family and entered into their grief and pain with love and compassion, and an entire crew of housekeepers, cooks, deck hands, and more set aside whatever we were doing to pray for her precious life as it hung in the balance and then to pray for her family.

Moreover, after her passing, a carpenter crafted a coffin with compassion, and not just a haphazard box but a proper and beautiful coffin with smooth corners and sanded sides. Women quietly covered cushioning to line the inside of the coffin and sent down a beautiful dress so this little girl could rest in peace as a honored life. When the time came for the family to leave the ship, the hallways were cleared and path blocked from general crew, the family was escorted by people who entered into their pain as they walked.

As I said, I will never understand or be able to explain the why, but I will accept the where… God didn’t show up how we hoped but he showed up nonetheless, he showed up in how this family experienced respect, dignity and love in what is probably one of the hardest things they will ever endure.

And its still OK to be upset, to be disappointed, or confused, or frustrated,or angry, sad, doubtful, numb… its all OK because that is the reality of living in a broken world. Its not easy and its not fair and its certainly not comfortable… but its OK to be uncomfortable, God will meet us there and sit in that space with us. And that is beautifully OK.

Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. 

-Anne Lamott

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