Lockdown. Two sets of double doors that need a special key to open. Patients in a variety of situations--some not yet medicated (screaming, yelling, pacing, chattering); some medicated (stooped over in chairs without visual recognition of anything around them, many in bed facing away from the door);others experiencing the positive results of medication (speaking when spoken to, peaceful and relaxed, side effects hidden from view).
Leading services for these patients at the medical center is a challenge, especially if one or more are disruptive. I can always call for help if I need it, but I try not to because I want to establish good rapport and communicate a sense of acceptance.
On a particular Sunday, a young woman sat across from me. As we read responsively from Psalm 136, she spouted gibberish while others read the repetitive lines. We were not totally in sync but enough for me to notice that she was trying to be disruptive. Should I stop? Should I say something? No (and this is a judgment call I make often with hesitancy). My background training always raises the question of “Why?” and “How is this helping her cope?”
“I’d like to play a song for you now to wind up our time together, but before I do, let’s pray together.” I said a short prayer, asking God to work out his ways in each of us. I put on the CD. The song began with a mournful violin, and then Josh Groban’s voice filled the room. I had passed out the words of “You Raise Me Up” so that they could follow along. I leaned back and closed my eyes, thanking God for this unique opportunity.
Before long, I heard quiet sobbing. I looked up and saw Gina,the young woman across from me, the one who had been deliberately disruptive, holding a paper in front of her face. She was crying, and I could see her shoulders shaking. Idecided to wait until the song had ended before I responded.
As soon as the song was done, I pushed the “off” button. I usually play music at the end of each service. “You are welcome to leave or you may stay and listen to the music.”
A young man sitting in the corner ventured, “Can you play that song again? I really like that one.”
“Of course I can.” I pushed the button, and the violins began their slow climb to the measure with lyrics. Gina lowered the paper in adagio tempo, shifting it to her other hand. She gingerly stood up and raised one hand into the air, and then she began to point upward.
It was one of those magicalmoments when the Spirit of God was moving, and so, I stepped over to her, slipping both of my hands into hers and together, we raised our hands to God. The papers she had been holding glided to the floor, and we held the pose until the song finished. I happened to notice that, when her shirt lifted slightly, she had stretch marks crossing her belly where one or two pregnancies had resided not too long ago.
Seconds later, she began to sob. I put my arms around her and held her close. As she rested her head on my shoulder, she whispered, “I just want to go home.” She then slowly drew away from me. “I’m sorry I cried all over you.”
“No problem, Gina.”
And then she smiled. I lightly touched her cheek.“I like that.”
Lockdown. Sometimes our world feels like lockdown, and there is only one exit. Whether you have had a good month or a very challenging one, we all have times when we feel as if hope is afar. However, because of God intersecting our universe with God’s son, Jesus, we too can raise hands in recognition of the light breaking into the darkness. Even if we find ourselves in a very good place, we can lift the hands of others and join them in solidarity with their suffering, giving God the glory for coming into our lockdown and setting us free, both in the here and now and in the future