The phone call had come at a little after 4:30 AM. I had somehow forgotten I was on ICU call and so was initially disoriented. Who is this? Why are you calling me? The soft lilting voice of the Kenyan head nurse told me that a patient involved in a motor-vehicle-accident was persistently hypotensive (low blood pressure) following surgery, and was being admitted directly to the ICU from the OR. Would I come and see him?
And so at 5 in the morning I found myself heading-out to see a patient. As I locked the door behind me I noticed that for the first time in weeks the sky was completely clear. I paused just a few feet into the 5-minute walk to the hospital and looked up. Without a single cloud in the sky the stars were like bright hard diamonds on a black background; it was absolutely beautiful. The stars do not appear like this at home. The many lights in the Philadelphia area reduce stars to barely observable overhead dots. But on this clear night in Kenya I could see Orion’s belt low on the horizon and the Pleiades in their tight cluster were not quite directly overhead. As I looked up I also noticed that the smells of the early morning were incredibly fragrant. I found myself marveling at the beauty and multi-dimensionality of God’s creation.
In the 5-bed ICU I found the new admission - a disoriented man in his early 30s who had been in a motor vehicle accident. He had been the conductor on a Matatu (Kenyan bus). Miraculously no one else had sustained significant trauma, but this man had terrible injuries to both legs. The left had been severely fractured and was now in an external fixation device to stabilize the bone. But the other leg had been crushed and so amputation was the only option. He had been drinking alcohol and chewing miraa (cannabis) prior to the accident and so his disorientation could have multiple etiologies. There was no evidence of other injury on physical exam, lab studies, or x-rays; and no localizing findings on neurologic exam. So I was left to conclude that the need for physical restraints would be short-lived. I wrote up my findings, added some orders to those left by the surgeons, and after chatting with the nurses about another patient, I left the ICU.
On the walk back the sky was already lightening to the east and so the stars were now quite dim. I thought about the contrast between the night’s testimony to the beauty and magnificence of God’s creation – and the evidence provided by this patient of the fallen nature of that creation. And I was thankful that we have a Savior who endured the cross on our behalf.
The gifts and the promises are amazing. Forgiveness for sins (past, present, future), the righteousness of Christ credited to our account, adoption as sons and daughters, coheirs with Christ, the almost unfathomable promise of a future perfect relationship with our God and fellow believers in a new creation.
The ultimate sacrifice was made on our behalf – but there is no regret. Instead we are told in Zephaniah 3:17 that God rejoices over us with singing. And in spite of the fallen creation in which we find ourselves we too are encouraged to be joyful. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. Isaiah 12:2 comforts us with these words - “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” And Isaiah 61:10 states “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me in garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
I do not want to seem disconnected from reality; Ginny and I are well aware of the trials and tribulations of this life. We realize that “joy is a fruit that comes in its own season”. Yet we also recognize that our trials are ‘light and momentary troubles’ in the light of eternity. There is an eternal glory that far outweighs them. Praise God for our Savior - who for the ‘joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame’. Even now he intercedes for us at the right hand of the throne of God.