The 28th of December saw my first attempt at making roast beef — and spending the night in the hospital.
To be concise, I had swallowed a piece of beef that went down my food tube but not below the base of my throat, so I was unable to swallow anything else (including saliva). I was taken to A&E by Canon Neal and his wife Stella (who, honestly, deserve gold medals) after I had been repeatedly unable to dislodge what was in my throat. I wasn’t in pain, per say, just supremely uncomfortable.
It eventually went down of its own accord, after I was admitted to a ward and caught a few hours sleep, having been administered a muscle relaxant. I therefore avoided having to undergo an endoscopy to remove the offending piece of beef.
The picture above was taken about 3am Sunday morning on the 29th. The A&E doctor had just recommended the endoscopy and we were getting ready to walk me to a bed. I took this photo of my IV drip, which I was given to counteract the dehydration caused by not being able to swallow. I must have been pretty out of it, as I called it my “wall juice”.
Later on, I was attended by two very nice ward nurses who kept watch over me in the early hours of that morning before being discharged. They knew that I was a religious worker, and one said to me, “Trust in God, he will take care of you. Don’t worry, you’ll be all right.” I appreciated this gesture and word of encouragement during what was a, shall we say, trying evening.
But I also remember thinking how presumptive and a bit offensive I found the comment. Of course, I never said any of this out loud, but I remember thinking, You don’t really need to tell me to trust God. I already do. How do you think I have stayed sane throughout this whole fiasco so far? I also asked myself later that night, Wait, where is God in all of this? I know intellectually and even personally of God’s love for me, regardless of my current situation. But what is that love supposed to feel like? Did the nurse think that I wasn’t trusting in God enough that she felt the need to say that?
And here we have an age-old theological dilemma: trusting in a powerful, loving God even if he is unseen.
I look back now and think how silly I was for being offended at a well-intentioned and theologically apt word from the nurse, as well as the worry over what I thought I was supposed to feel. I can look back quite easily now and see God’s love at work behind the care of the excellent NHS staff at the Royal that night, as well as God’s call to me to remain calm and connected by reading the Offices of Compline and Morning Prayer to keep some sanity in a trying situation, as well as all others who have helped me out during and since my hospital stay.
I see God at work throughout the whole business, now, not in a flashy or miraculous sort of way, but in the quiet, ordinary-yet-extraordinary people and events that had me home early afternoon on Sunday: good neighbours, wonderful doctors and nurses, a muscle relaxant, a novel, Daily Offices, a bed, sleep, and tea and toast. An IV drip of “wall juice” for both hydration and humour during a long night.
I don’t recommend hospital stays for their particular comfort. But I do recommend the calm, ordinary mercies of God that are daily visited on us.
Trust me, they’re unforgettable.
But more importantly, trust God.
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Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.