I could tell you many stories of things that happened while my husband was in the ICU this summer. There were so many ways we got to see God move I could fill up the pages of many books just with those stories alone. One story in particular stands out to me and that is because it was someone else's story that for a brief moment I got to be a part of. I will explain further. The ICU is really a glorified large cubical. The rooms are designed so basically one wall is completely open to the nurses station in the center. The 3 walls formed a U shape around us and the fourth wall was mostly windows with a curtain separating us from where the nurses and doctors congregated. Our hospital was a level one trauma center which means they get the worst of the worst cases. Joel's room was at the far corner so I had to walk past many patients to get to him. I would try not to look but most rooms were wide open and you could tell many patients were in bad shape. I would see someone with tubes coming out of every part of their body one day and the very next day the room would be empty and the patient gone. My heart would break each time because I knew it meant the patient had passed away. I knew with each death was a story and a family now left reeling at their loss.
I was in the ICU 8-12 hours a day, every day, for 6 weeks total. Never before had I seen such extreme sickness and even death up close and personal. A few weeks before Joel passed away I noticed people going in and out of the room of a patient next door. Every time they would walk out they were sobbing. This went on all day, every day, for many days. Each day I sat in a chair beside Joel's bed, wrapped in a blanket with my feet pulled into my lap, and I would watch this family. My heart ached for them as I could tell their lives were being torn apart by the situation involving the patient. Eventually I found out she was a 28 year old girl who one day fell to the floor of her home. Her family rushed her to the hospital to find out she had an unexplained brain bleed. One day she was a healthy vibrant young lady the next she was in an ICU bed. As I watched this family for days it became apparent the situation was becoming more and more dire. One day as I was walking into the hospital, headed towards the ICU, I saw the family in the "family room" taking to the doctor. I knew what the "family room" was. That's the room they take people into to tell them their loved one has either passed away or is about to. In this case they were informing the family there was nothing more they could do and it was recommended they remove their precious loved one from life support. For the next 24 hours I watched as this young girls family filed into her room one by one to say goodbye. Each time they would emerge with tears streaming down their faces, visibly shaken.
Later that evening I was heading out of the hospital to go home for the night. I passed the family room and saw the patients family sitting there together. There was probably 20 people stuffed into this tiny room each of them appearing to be in different states of shock and despair. As I passed by the room I heard God clearly speak to my heart "go pray with her family". I kept walking. No way was I going in there. At heart I am a shy person and never one to walk into a room full of strangers and ask them if I could pray. They were enduring one of the worst times of their life, I didn't know where they stood spiritually and I was a stranger to them. I told all of these reasons to God while I picked up the pace and started to round the corner. I felt it again, more urgent this time "go pray with her family". I stopped dead in my tracks. There were not many times in my life I knew so clearly I was supposed to do something, but this was one of those times. My legs were shaking and I felt nauseous but I turned around and headed back towards the room.
I briefly paused outside trying to gather my bravery when I realized it was a futile effort. Slowly I knocked on the door and let myself in. Silence. 20 pairs of eyes were staring at me and no one was saying a single word.
"Hello," I started in, knees still shaking. "I was wondering if I could pray for your family?" Silence. More silence.
"My husband is in a coma in the room next door to your loved one and I have seen you all here for days. I just wanted to let you know I'm here to pray if you feel like you need prayer." Silence again. At this point I wanted to just say-oh sorry wrong family and run out of the room.
Just as it was starting to near the awkward point the biggest, burliest, older gentleman that had been staring me down in the corner started to soften. "Well...I had been thinking that maybe we should say a prayer or something...."
"Ok, I would love to pray for you guys" I said in relief.
I prayed over them out loud. I don't even remember what I said. I probably just spoke out what I was believing for in my own dire situation. As I prayed many in the room held hands, held each other, or started to cry.
When I was done I told them I would keep their family in my prayers and quickly exited the room. As I left the big burly guy in the corner caught my eye, smiled, and nodded his thanks.
The next morning when I went to visit Joel, I was told the young girl had died that evening. My heart broke for them and I prayed for their family continually for many months thereafter.
So what is the point of this story? The point is you never know what part you have to play in someone's else's story. Going into a room of strangers was terrifying for me yet as I listened to the family I realized maybe they wanted to offer up prayer but didn't quite have the words to say. Maybe God sent me to them in that moment to speak the words their hearts were seeking by couldn't quite find. Maybe that was a defining moment changing the way they viewed prayer or even God. I won't ever know. What I do know is the ways God can use a moment are endless.
There are hurting people all around us. While a hospital is the most obvious place you can also find the same hurting people in Target or at a coffee house. My prayer is God will start to put more encounters like this in my life and my heart will readily recognize when I'm supposed to take action. Yes, for someone like me it's terrifying, but so is the thought of a missed opportunity. You never know how God wants to use you. It may be the smallest of things that touches someone in the deepest of ways. I will never know here the reason He had me pray for that family. One day I will. And I have a feeling I played but a small role in a much larger story to be told.