Updates on Shirley: For updates on Shirley’s recovery from her stroke on June 4, visit Please Pray for Shirley. To read Scriptures that Shirley and I are focusing on during these trying times, you can visit Shirley’s Scriptures. For a major lesson we are learning together, check out What Do We Really Mean When We Ask God for “Help”? For another major lesson we’re learning, you can read Look Left; Look Up!
What About Bob?
Since Shirley’s stroke, many friends, after asking how Shirley is doing, have lovingly asked me, “How are you doing, Bob?” They’ll often share with me the illustration about how flight attendants remind adults, “In the event of an emergency, first put on your oxygen mask, then put on the oxygen mask for your children.” They’ll follow this up with, “If you’re going to care well for Shirley, you have to be sure your soul is being cared for.”
I get it. I agree. The illustration makes sense.
However…there’s another illustration that also fits. It’s the triage illustration. In an emergency room, the person in greatest and most urgent need receives the care and help first.
That’s how I’m processing our intense situation with Shirley’s stroke. Her needs come first. Shirley’s emotional needs come first. Shirley’s physical needs come first. Shirley’s spiritual needs come first.
So, how am I “doing”? Well, for these first four weeks I’ve been in crisis care mode. Every waking moment (and a lot of sleepless nights), my focus is on providing care for Shirley, advocating for the best care for Shirley, working with providers and insurance companies to cover the best care for Shirley, planning the future care for Shirley…
“But You’re the ‘Emotions’ Guy!”
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a very emotive person. I feel richly. I cry easily. I empathize deeply. I’m sensitive to life.
And anyone who knows my writing, teaching, equipping, and counseling ministry knows that I emphasize emotions as a vital aspect of how God fearfully and wonderfully made us.
So, yes, of course, I’ve had deep feelings about Shirley’s stroke. But I’m not sure I’ve “moved through” many of the “phases of grief” yet. Like I said, this is still “crisis care” time. I’m not shutting off my emotions or shutting down my feelings. But I am focusing my energy on Shirley.
So how is my soul being cared for? I have a cadre of people in place who care about me. There’s a group of almost a dozen men at church who text, email, call, and pray for me. There’s a huge group of colleagues past and present who are ministering to me. And, interestingly, there’s a huge group of past and current students and counselees who are reaching out to me, ministering to me, and praying for me. And my family—especially our daughter Marie who has moved back in with us for the next half-year to minister to us—is there for me. (And Marie has many people from her church who are there for her.)
“Mt. Rainier, Big and Near”
I’m also prioritizing my connection to Christ. Crying out to Him. Clinging to Him. Lamenting to Him. Worshipping Him. Trusting Him.
The picture associated with this post captures how I’m clinging to Christ. Shirley and I say this all the time:
“Mt. Rainier, Big and Near.”
It’s a reminder to us that “God is Big (Majestic/All-Powerful) and Near (Merciful/All-Loving).” I need these visual reminders of Christ’s greatness and grace.
When Shirley and I talk about this Mt. Rainier reminder, we always also talk about Isaiah 40:10-11.
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Do you see God’s bigness in verse 10 and His nearness in verse 11? God is King (40:10); He is our Shepherd (40:11). He is Holy and Transcendent—far above us—in 40:10. He is loving and Immanent—near us—in 40:11.
How am I doing? I am clinging to God’s affectionate (40:11) sovereignty (40:10). I am trusting in my King who is all-powerful. I am being held tenderly by my Shepherd who is all-loving.