When we decided to stop going to church, I wasn’t worried about those things that used to keep me awake at night. I wasn’t concerned about the state of my soul. I wasn’t worried if God could love a sinner like me. I no longer felt like I was living a life simply in the pursuit of avoiding hell. I had grown weary of a fear that had led me down the aisle to so many an altar call. The thoughts that haunted me for so long were no longer a burden.
I was gonna be ok.
What I did worry about were things that I always assumed the church would be for us as I had witnessed for so many others over the years. Who would mentor my children? Who would conduct a funeral when one of us died? Who would help us renew those wedding vows like we kept saying we were going to do? Who would show up at the hospital when we were sick? Who would take care of us if something tragic ever happened?
Three weeks ago Drew was in the shower and I was getting dressed to attend a funeral. The kids were all off to school and we were attending to the morning details of our day. First, Drew’s phone rang. It went unanswered as he was showering. And then, moments later, an unfamiliar number popped up on my screen. I answered and our lives came to a screeching halt.
Tragedy had come knocking. Our 14-year-old son, who had left on his bike only 20 minutes before, had been hit by a car. As the chaos of that morning progressed, what had first appeared to be only a few lacerations and a badly broken wrist quickly turned into a life threatening situation when the CT scan showed a growing bleed, pressing on his brain.
Thankfully, with the expert care of the trauma team and the neurosurgeon, he survived. Four long hours and 34 staples later we were led to his room in the pediatric intensive care unit where he was resting peacefully under the merciful cover of anesthesia. When we stepped through the sliding glass doors, they shook him awake enough to ask him, Who is that? In a groggy stupor he turned his head and opened his eyes ever so slightly.
That’s my mom.
We all began to breathe again.
I had come home in the middle of his surgery to pick up our high schooler. As I stepped out of our garage I saw bags of groceries hanging off the rails of our back porch. Help had already arrived. I knew that my family was in their car and on their way. My phone was ringing and the messages were coming in. Friends were already planning to take turns taking care of our youngest for the weekend. All we had to do was keep breathing and cling tightly to hope. The rest was being carried by other people.
Food continued to show up at our door step. (On a side note, it’s amazing how food is the way people take care of each other. And with a houseful of family it was so nice to know I didn’t have to provide meals for them. But personally, the last thing I could do was eat. I don’t think I had a full meal for an entire week, my appetite was completely wiped out.) Offers kept coming in to help out. He received flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and so many notes of encouragement. All three of our kids schools stepped up and watched out for us. Every teacher was amazing. Friends from the runner’s club dropped off baked goods and cards. The School of Rock, one of his favorite places to be, sent personal videos to encourage him and a backpack full of gifts and notes. One of his buddies even made a video of him playing a song on his guitar, just for him.
Turns out, church isn’t the only place to find strength, love and community. It had been that for us at one time in our life but the doors had now opened into the village we lived in. It was the people on our block, our new and old friends, the family around the country and the world that keeps on giving and spinning.
Really hard things will happen to all of us but we don’t have to be a certain religion or type of person to be a member of a caring community that wraps it’s arms around each other.
Thank YOU, dear world, for erasing my fears and doing that for us.