When I thought, “My foot slips,”biblegateway.com
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:18-19
Can you remember a time when you felt like you were slipping into a crisis, and a resolution or solution seemed to come out of nowhere? Or so incredibly anxious about something you were facing and or peace and clarity overwhelmed you?
In seminary, I spent a summer at a local hospital being mentored by the hospital chaplain. I remember the day when he tossed me the pager (yes I am that old) and told me that I was on call; he was going away for a long weekend. I froze!
When my composure returned, I asked him “the question.” This question had tormented me since the first time I had heard it in pastoral care class; “What if I’m asked to baptize a dead baby?’
According to polity, students were not allowed to baptize anybody. let alone the theological conundrum of baptizing a person who was not alive. Yet there is a pastoral care aspect as to how to help grieving parents who have just given birth to a stillborn. This is the seminary student’s equivalent to a Federation cadet’s “Kobayashi Maru” test (the no-win scenario…go look it up if you want more.) My mentor’s answer: “You’ll know what to do if and when it happens.”
The next morning, my first day on my own at the hospital…my first “solo flight,” the pager goes off (for the first time) and I call the number. It’s obstetrics; A woman had just prematurely given birth to a stillborn and wanted me to come up and talk to her about baptism. !woW
Hold that thought…
In Psalm 94, we hear the psalmist cry out to God in a amidst a corrupt and evil world. But then in the midst of his anguish we hear the verses above. He is reminded of the Comforter who holds us up and consoles us in times of fear, struggle, anxiety, etc.
What this demonstrates is a reliance upon the God we call LORD to be there with us even in the most difficult of situations, and actually holds us up when we find ourselves in perilous circumstances. When are feet are slipping, he catches us. When we doubt or fear, his consolations will bring us joy.
Back to the hospital…
On my way up the elevator to obstetrics, I cried out to the LORD as my knees shook. How can I help this woman who just lost her child? What if she asks “the question?” I feel like I am falling; please be there for me. Give me the words.
I can’t tell you the details of the conversation, but I can tell you that one of the most holy moments I have ever experienced came out of it. Our Lord was there for the mother and me with upholding arms and deep powerful consolation in the midst of her grief and my fear.
That evening, the family and I gathered in the hospital chapel and celebrated a naming ceremony. The personhood of the baby was recognized, mom was comforted, and I became a “pastor.” God gave the words and guided the actions!
When God gives you the words, or actions, or simply peace in chaos, take off your sandals because you are on Holy Ground!
Recognize him, and acknowledge him.