"Show me Your strong love in wonderful ways, O Savior of all those seeking Your help against their foes. Protect me as You would the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings as You hover over me." Psalm 17:7-8

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Providence Behind The Scenes

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those
who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in coincidence.  Coincidence, the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection, leaves me wanting!  Providence, on the other hand, explains the Unseen Hand behind coinciding events.  This wonderful word means divine guidance or care.  When capitalized, Providence means God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.  Catching a glimpse of Providence behind events, seeing by faith Providence at work behind the scenes adds to life’s mystery the love of a PERSON working all things together, at all times, for my good.

The past few years I’ve been employed by a local hospital which happens to be named Providence.  From the moment I stepped through the doors of this hospital to interview for a nurse tech position, I somehow knew life would never be the same.  By faith and with the insistent encouragement of a friend and fellow nursing student, I applied and soon found myself reporting to the surgical department.  Little did I know that Providence (the Lord) had planned for me to undergo months of “heart surgery” while gaining experience as a believer in the medical profession.  Have you ever entered a surreal setting in which it seemed all sights, sounds, and forms of stimuli were at once bombarding you right and left, yet in slow motion?  I have.  Surgery for me represented culture shock, sensory overload, and daily reality checks in the company of strangers comfortable in this sterile world that totally terrified me.

I recall my first visit to the locker room to don scrubs.  The memory causes me to laugh now, but at the time I could easily have lost control of all emotions and done anything but laugh!!  I pulled on clothes not my own, covered my shoes and my head with the prescribed disposable coverings, and looked at this clown in the mirror who felt so incredibly silly, like an imposter in this get-up!!  My own eyes frozen in fear stared back – the look of sheer panic did nothing to cheer me on.  Still, by faith I stepped out of the safety of that locker room into the inner corridor designated for surgical personnel and patients only.  I might as well have stepped off a plane in Siberia or set foot on Mars.  I found myself totally outside my comfort zone in the Twilight Zone!

I have to backtrack for a moment and tell you of my first visit to the break room of this department.  While I would have preferred to remain invisible, that not possible, I hoped to at least make a good first impression on coworkers.  So I strolled into the room where a number of OR staff were talking shop and eating the strangest of fare, and just so happened to choose the funny ha-ha chair.  I don’t really think that this chair had a name, nor was torture for the sake of everyone’s entertainment on the menu, but it just so happened that when I planted my rear end on this chair the hydraulic base immediately took me for a ride nearly to the floor.  My chin now level with the table edge, I looked around the room like a two year old child and surveyed all eyes on me and wide grins beneath them.  Never good with timely comebacks, I’m sure I said something equally ridiculous to my circumstance, and then laughed nervously in an attempt to recover composure.  Hopefully, you begin to see the work of Providence in me, for you see God had me exactly where He wanted me.  Surgery to deliver me to the uttermost from performance-based thinking and living was well underway!!

While I’ve already alluded to the terror I felt on entering the world of medicine, I must say Providence, The Heart Hospital, supernaturally appealed to me.  Following my husband’s sudden death twenty years ago from an MI, I found myself compelled to take CPR, to issue warnings regarding signs and symptoms, and to share the comfort I received from God as a young widow with many.  I didn’t consider nursing at the time, but heart disease had touched my life and left its mark.  Add to this experience, my Mom suffering for years with CHF, and it is easy to understand my growing desire to somehow make a difference in the lives of people dealing with heart disease.  More so than these events, Providence chose the perfect time, perfect location, and perfect conditions for beginning a new work of liberation in me.  He drew me to Waco, to MCC to study nursing, and to Providence Hospital where He opened a position for me.   My lack of confidence as a nursing student screamed in protest, but God carried me over the threshold of that hospital, and began equipping me to stand by faith on the threshold of heaven with the hurting and dying.

That may sound overly dramatic, but to God be the glory for the DRAMATIC changes He has made in me.  I write of these changes out of a compulsion to do so.  I write to reveal Providence behind change – not the changes themselves.  I write because God who lives in me longs to express His desire to liberate all of His children into their destiny and purpose on the earth, to love them lavishly in the process, and to fill them with unspeakable joy on seeing Him over and over working behind the scenes of their lives.

 Only recently did it TRULY dawn on me that during every minute of every day God has been working in me (and around me), completing what He began.  I’ve read verses promising God’s ceaseless activity on my behalf countless times, but to know on the cellular level that this is indeed my reality – always happening -- is quite another thing.  It is to be in touch – in touch with His Presence.  And it is glorious.

This awareness of God, ever for us and at work, is progressive in nature, and will be so until the day of Christ Jesus, but it seems to me that of late God is “popping up all over the place.”  His doing so is not new.  He has been here from the beginning, evident in His works (creation), and in His tireless working.  The problem lies with me (us), with perception or better put reception.  Like an old television set with foiled rabbit ears, we tend to have poor reception, and often don’t detect what is really happening in our world, both our inner world and the world we live, breathe, and move about in.  We are receivers (recipients in every way), and until we really explore the meaning of that with God, somehow we miss out on the abundant life and exceeding joy He longs to bestow.

Perpetual change describes well the hospital where I work.  Construction and remodeling are ongoing seemingly without interruption.  During my time in surgery, we often congregated at the one window in that world of stark artificial light, and watched the building of a multi-story employee parking garage topped with a heli-pad.  Like children gathered around an anthill, we discussed as though experts all the phases from ground up, and laughed at times at the actions of the workers below unaware of our intrusive eyes.  The daily ritual of men in colorful hard hats lined up at the taco truck tickled us.   Sometimes we amused ourselves with made-up dialogue for random scenes observed through this porthole to the outside world.   This provided a welcome break from the gravity of what went on in this department.  I welcomed the distraction from remembering the faces of gravely ill patients wheeled by on gurneys.  Here at this window, believe it or not, I also did a lot of soul searching.  Directly below the window were large compacting trash receptacles.  Many times I looked out over the medical waste and those handling it, and then beyond at the new construction.  Metaphors were everywhere.   As a member of the cleaning crew in surgery, I started my career in the best place possible.  Providence (God) saw to this.

And I Know He Watches Over Me!
 One experience in particular lives on in memory.  I stood alone for a moment at this window I’ve described and while looking at the waste below, the dam on my tear ducts broke unexpectedly.  About that time, Ed, a coworker, walked up and noticed I was crying.  I had over time gotten to know Ed fairly well and we enjoyed a mutual exchange of encouragement and prayer.  He had a penchant for making me laugh – for helping me not to take life too seriously, desperately needed at the time!!  He also on occasion shared his grief and sorrows.   More than once I tried to “fix” things for Ed, to be a diplomat.  I set about trying to mend and mediate relationships, to right wrongs in surgery (on a small scale, mind you), to fix people or the way they treated one another.  Surely I was good for something in this interim time here in this department – even as a pip-squeak ORA.  I kind of saw it as my mission, I think – to bring about something good, particularly since I seemed to be failing to fix matters at home, and my heart was broken in two over it.  I probably redoubled my efforts on the job to in part to feel I had some value and purpose in life beyond motherhood – there at that window I came face to face with my inability to fix or save anyone.  I don’t recall if it was raining outside that day or not, it seems like it was, but I do know that internally dark ominous clouds swirled about and cast a gloomy shadow upon my heart.  I risked sharing that day my sadness over my son’s loss of the desire to live.  I didn’t say much, but just enough to release a small measure of the pain in me, and to open my hand in humility to receive.  Ed didn’t say much either, but much was communicated, and for what seemed an eternal moment, I received God’s understanding and comfort.  I came through my first heart surgery humbled, experiencing through members of the “cleaning staff” the friendship of God, appreciating them for who they were, who WE were, in this messy world of ours.

Safe in the Shadow,

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  1. Terry, I loved the analogy you used about heart surgery. I've experience many times in my life when Providence orchestrated a "heart surgery" for me. He is ever molding, ever conforming us into the image of His son.


  2. Awesome testimony. Praise God for His providence in your life!

  3. Thank you for sharing your inspiring testimony with us. I am always amazed at how God works in the lives of His children.