Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Empowering Love or Enabling Love, Maybe Both???

She smiled so much. Her big grin looked almost too noticeable as it contrasted to her little bitty 19 year old body. She stood below 5 feet tall. She would be lost in a crowd, but I kept noticing her. I knew that I had seen her in clinic, but the rest including why or when was forgotten. But day after day I saw her sitting on the benches outside of the hospital. Then I realized one day that she was sleeping outside on those same benches. She began to catch me as I walked by. The pain, constantly present, was worsening. Medicines weren’t helping. Blood wouldn’t stop coming, always dripping, then gushing, then dripping more. The story was the same from day to day. I kept giving her medicines to help, hoping things would change while we awaited the surgery date. But, I didn’t realize that the surgery date had already passed until she appeared again in the office. Turns out that she didn’t have enough money to have her surgery, so apparently she was turned away at the door. All emergency cases get performed regardless of ability to pay, but since she was a scheduled admission, she had not been considered emergency status. Week after week she had been staying at the hospital. She joined the ranks of others who lined the hospital benches and floors. Her family was to bring her the money, but they hadn’t come yet. She was too weak and in too much pain to leave without surgery. So, she waited.

Until I realized her condition. Then, we moved to operate. She required blood transfusion before she could withstand surgery. But she did well thereafter. I discharged her routinely on post-operative day three. She stayed outside the surgical ward for a few days waiting for her family to bring payment. It seems strange and harsh from outside of the culture, but that is what almost everyone does. The family takes care of their members, but it takes a little time to go collect the money and bring it back. So, I thought nothing of it.
But then I saw her a few days later, and then again, and again. Until Christmas Day. I greeted her warmly with a “Merry Christmas” and asked what she would be doing to celebrate. Well, that was an absolutely stupid question. What in the world did I think she would be doing – feasting and drinking in mad celebration? Of course not. She was back on the bench every night, still waiting for the money to come. No money for discharge, no money for chicken to feast on, no money for anything. I asked when the family was supposed to come, two more weeks was the reply.

Well, finally (it takes me a while), I decided that it wasn’t going to be okay anymore. I realized that I couldn’t help everyone, but that I could help her. So, I brought her home for dinner. Honestly, what I had cooked wasn’t so good. I felt kind of bad for that. But compared with hunger in the chilly air, it was tolerable. Her pain was still pretty strong, so I made her a hot water bottle out of my Nalgene and told her to lie down on the couch. And then, you know how things like this end up…I told her to go get her stuff because she was going to stay with me for ONE (1) night.

She thought that was great. It is warmer inside than out. I thought it was a great idea because she was bleeding too much and wincing from pain throughout dinner. I didn’t want her lying uncomfortably on that bench when she already was in bad shape. So, I drugged her up (with only ibuprofen and tylenol, don’t worry), made her get in the hot shower thinking it might help her pain, and then sent her to bed. By the next morning, she was getting a bit better.

I realized the next morning how different the lives of the two of us are. I mean, it’s obvious to everyone that we have lived our lives in different spheres, but it really becomes practical when you let someone in the house. You can’t imagine how funny, or how difficult, it is to teach someone to use a flush toilet or a shower. I did really enjoy the humor of the toilet and shower stuff, but it hit me when I looked at her bed. It was not unmade, it was never turned down. She had slept under that same piece of dirty cloth that she had been sleeping on outside on the bench. Though I had made her shower, the washcloth and towel still sat folded on the bed, untouched from how I left them.

I told her to come back before dark the next evening. Again, she didn’t like my food. She wouldn’t say anything of course, but she just picked at it a little until it was gone. The bleeding was still there, and the pain, but improved a little. I started to tell her a story, the story of a similar woman centuries ago. She bled so much, for twelve years. And then one day she saw Jesus. She was too ashamed to tell Him her problem, but knew that if she could just touch the edge of His robe that she would be healed. She did and was, but surprisingly, He knew immediately that she was there. She looked up to Him and told Him everything. She came empty, but left filled. Came sick, but left healed. I told the young woman in front of me that I didn’t have any other good options to help her, that we needed that same Healer to work in her.

Two nights later I came home too late. It was already dark and I hadn’t been there to let her in. I looked at the hospital on my way back home, but couldn’t find her. Next night, again I arrived late. I went to the hospital to find her. I looked from bench to bench, called the surgery ward, had the hospital security officers take me to places I had never been. But I couldn’t find her. I fell asleep wishing she were in the next room. Finally the next day I found her.

I thought as I searched for her both of those nights about how God had searched for me. He took me from darkness and cold and put a Warm Light in my soul. I wanted her to have light and warmth, temporal yes, but eternal more. But I couldn’t find her to help her. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to anyone else why, but I wanted to find her so badly. I knew that she was still in pain and not doing very well. The whole time I was going about looking for her, I thought of the parable of the lost sheep. I thought of it with regard to myself, and with regard to her – those sought so hard by a loving Father. There’s a song about that parable which I’ve only heard once, but I love the words to. It says:

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away
Far off from the gates of gold
Away from the tender shepherds care
Away from the tender shepherds care
Lord Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine
Are they not enough for Thee?
But the Shepherd made answer
“This of mine has wandered away from Me
And although the road be rough and steep
I go to the desert to find My sheep
I go to the desert to find My sheep”
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night
That the Lord passed thro’
Fore He found His sheep that was lost
Out in the desert He heard its cry
Sick and helpless and ready to die
Sick and helpless and ready to die
Lord whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountains track?
They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.
Lord whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?
They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn
They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn
And all thru the mountains, thunder riv’n, And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne
“Rejoice for the Lord brings back His own!”
“Rejoice for the Lord brings back His own!”

 So, she stayed a while, and a bit longer, and longer. I talked to the social worker time after time to try to get her some help financially. Eventually, they let her do some work at the hospital to help earn money to pay her bill. She got better physically. Then I had to go away for a meeting for a couple of days. I told her to take all of her stuff with her in case her family came to get her while I was gone (since she wouldn't be able to get back in to get it). But alas, when I looked, she had left her bag of things there. Then I understood, that what started as need had become want. She had grown to enjoy my house a bit too much, and had made it her own semi-permanently. That hadn't been the initial agreement, or the course offered her. But I found out that she had notified her family that she was staying with me, so they knew that she was well cared for, and lost the initiative to come get her (and pay the rest of her bill). When I came home, we had to set a deadline for when she would leave. It brought some sadness for me to tell her that she wouldn't be able to stay longer, but at the same time, I didn't want her to lose her desire to get back to her own home. Who knows how to do these things perfectly. To navigate through people's needs, and yet not make them more needy. To empower them to live instead of empowering them to take. To love them well without making them dependent on you. We are all learning that - every culture and every family. May God grant us wisdom to know how to love others and yet to teach them how to rise up and walk on their own. 

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