Prior to getting “out” of the abyss, one must be “in” the abyss. How does that happen? First, what is the abyss? One definition seems appropriate: “a deep or seemingly bottomless chasm or pit.” I think there are several ways to get in. We can voluntarily jump in knowing fully well what we’re doing. Or we can jump voluntarily without knowing where we’ll wind up. Either way, we put ourselves there. Second, others can throw us in or drag us in with them. More often than not, we’ve put ourselves in a position to be pushed or dragged so it is a cousin to the first case. Perhaps the worst scenario is, we’re thrown in by unfortunate circumstances; no one is at fault and no one is to blame. All of the questions go unanswered, nothing but rampant speculation and misery. No favorable outcomes, just bad alternatives that no one wants to select.
The phone call came on an ordinary Monday morning. It was short, quick, sharp- like a dagger to the heart. “Carter is unresponsive, bleeding from his nose and being carried to the ER by ambulance”, our frantic daughter told her mother. Earlier that day, Carter was a healthy, happy, adorable 3-1/2 month old, cute, sweet (and any other “grandparent-adjective” you want to throw in) little boy. By lunchtime he was on life support in the Pediatric ICU. How did we get here, and where did that train come from? By mid-afternoon we were packed, loaded and on the way to an all-night drive from Huntsville, Al to St. Petersburg, Fl.
Throughout the day and night the updates seemed to go from bad to worse. We arrived at the hospital at 5:00 am Tuesday morning; it is now Tuesday afternoon and I had to check my phone to see what day it was. The minutes of the day “flew by” like hours with no encouraging words from the medical team.
Before I proceed, as the old saying goes, “let me tell you about my grandchildren”. Specifically, in this case, Carter (not that I wouldn’t want to tell you about my other one and the one on the way). Carter has captured the hearts of literally hundreds of people scattered over at least 6 states. Hardly any of these people have met him or even seen him. Just some proud “Papa and Gigi” photos we’ve snapped along the way. Carter was born Feb 4, 2017, six weeks prior to his due date. He spent the first three weeks of his life in the NICU, one floor above the PICU where he is now. He weighed six pounds at birth and has more than doubled that to about thirteen now. But then something went terribly wrong yesterday. We don’t know what, we don’t know how and we most emphatically don’t know why. The prognosis is terrible and from where we sit at this time I expect Carter’s mom and dad to have the life support removed in a couple of days. How does a parent do that? How does a parent not do that? Just questions, no answers. Now, our entire family is in the abyss and we need to know how to get out. Furthermore, I feel it is my responsibility to lead us out. And I don’t know quite how to do that. I do know that it won’t happen quickly, nor will it be an easy, painless task. Right now it feels somewhat like climbing Mt Everest. Climbing Mt. Everest requires well-trained and well-prepared individuals with people who “know the mountain” (i.e. Sherpas) to lead. I’m neither well-trained nor well-prepared and I certainly don’t “know this mountain”. I’ve never been here before; don’t want to be here now or ever again.
Anytime a tragedy strikes I think about Job and re-read parts of his story. Job lost everything including all of his children in a day’s time. His wife turned against him and his friends turned out to not be very good friends. Job simply said “shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” God didn’t cause Job’s problems, but He permitted them to happen. Job had a lot of questions too, starting with “why was I born?” (Ch 3) He also says, “what I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Sounds familiar to me right now. Sounds like Job is in the abyss.
The book is lengthy, 42 chapters. Most of it is filled with Job’s friends trying to help him figure out what he had done to deserve this. Job maintained his innocence all along and said God owed him an explanation. God, however, is God, and He remained silent until Ch 38. Then when He spoke it wasn’t the answer Job expected. It says God “answered Job out of the storm”. I wonder if the storm is literal or the storm of events Job has experienced. God says in 38:2-3 “Who is this that darkens my council with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me.” Instead of answers Job got more questions. But through this “examination” Job realizes he knows nothing, that God is God and doesn’t have to explain His actions to anyone.
Perhaps this is our first step out of the abyss. To realize Carter was a gift from God, that God loaned him to his mom and dad, and God did that for a reason. We must also realize God doesn’t have to tell us what the reason(s) are. And apparently Carter accomplished his mission quickly.