Walking down the hall of a cardiac ICU will change a heart.
I tried not to look at the other patients as we walked toward my brother-in-law’s room, but I couldn’t help it. Every single one of them looked so small lying on their hospital beds, hooked up to so many humming and beeping machines. The sun streamed through the windows behind them, casting an ironic golden glow over a room filled with the sadness of a life interrupted in the worst possible way.
I greeted my brother-in-law, chatted for a few minutes, told him how good he looked, then made my escape. This time I didn’t look at anyone. I walked straight ahead, my mind filled with memories of another ICU cardiac unit that I found myself in eleven years ago on that very day. That time, my father was in one of those cold and sterile rooms and all we could do was watch helplessly as his damaged heart gradually stopped beating until at last it was still and he was ushered into eternity.
As soon as the ICU doors closed behind me, I felt like I could breathe again. I told my sister-in-law that I wouldn’t be going back in there. My head was pounding and all I wanted was out. Out of the hushed halls, the sounds of muffled sobs, the somber atmosphere. I wanted to be out in the world, amongst the happy hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I wanted the bright, twinkling lights, the joyful music, and the fresh, pine-scented air.
After our nephews had arrived to be with their mother and we were able to leave, I took my husband’s hand and practically ran out of that place. I took a deep breath of the cold December afternoon and felt like I had been given a new, fresh start. A major reality check that is still being felt in my life to this day.
This life is short, fleeting, precious.
And it is the season of Advent; the time when we willingly choose to carve out an oasis of quiet in the midst of the busyness of the season to remember.
To remember the fact that God Himself broke into this world of sadness and death and sin as a tiny baby over two thousand years ago to bring life and hope and healing and love to this war-scarred planet.
I’m sad to say that many Christmas seasons have passed without me taking the time to celebrate these precious days of Advent.
Not this year. Not with this fresh reminder of how life can change in an instant, how thin the veil between time and eternity truly is.
So, with the help of Ann Voskamp’s new advent book, The Greatest Gift, I have made time to celebrate every day. I have realized afresh and anew the sheer miracle of grace that this season so beautifully gives to us.
He came to us. He came to rescue us from our sin-stained selves, to set us free, to heal us and make us whole.
HE alone is our Greatest Gift. He is all we need!
And I get to use this one life of mine to give my love back to Him…one long, continual, (sometimes messy and definitely imperfect) THANK YOU to the One who loved me enough to give His life for me!
“…no good thing does He withhold.”—Psalm 84:11
And the good things in life are not health but holiness,
not the riches of this world but relationship with God,
not our plans but His Presence—
and He withholds no good thing from us
because life’s good things aren’t ever things.
Over the next few days of Advent, I am going to record snapshots of the gifts—and many graces— that He is giving me during this precious time. As I continue to count my 1000 Gifts during this season, it is taking me deeper into His love, waking me afresh to the stunning and startling beauty He places all around me, and filling my heart with the absolute certainty that He alone is the only Gift I will ever need.
Ever so slowly, my heart is being wooed away from the tinny treasures of this temporal world by His relentless, fiery, consuming, intense, and passionate love.
Joy to the world; the Lord has come!