Earlier this week, a friend and I decided to go and try out Zumba. It isn’t the most Sabbath-like or spiritual thing we could have done, this being Holy Week and all, but we had these Groupons that were expiring sometime soon, so we went.
We got signed in. We changed. We put our stuff in our cubbies. We lined up at the back of the room… at the very, very back of a room full of people who had clearly been there before. The instructor didn’t even warm up. She started us off strong right away with a whole lot of movement, and for the first 40 minutes or so, we didn’t even know what time it was. We were having that much fun even though we weren’t really sure what we were doing. We were having fun just moving, and there were people of all shapes and sizes and all abilities, people who knew exactly what they were doing and people who didn’t, people with rhythm and people without a whole lot of it.
Then there came a time when we started looking at the clock… probably at minute 41. Our energies were flagging. I was dehydrated. My throat felt dry breathing in the humid Georgia air. With 10 minutes left to go, the instructor changed the song, and I whispered to my friend, “This must be our last song. We might be cooling down.”
Well, the intro to the song might have been slow, but the rest of the song was the fastest, most energetic of our entire session. We were already tired. My legs were dragging. My glasses were sliding off my face. And there was still this obstacle left to face, this song that was trying my endurance and asking me to dig deeper. My friend whispered between the grapevines we were doing, “You should blog about how you thought this was the last song!” I was finally able to say, “There’s a life lesson in there,” after the song was over and I had caught my breath.
I wonder whether life isn’t often like the Zumba class: just when you think you’re done, when you think you’re about to cool down and get a break, there’s another obstacle to face. Or as the Korean saying goes, “There’s mountain after mountain.”
This is true for so many of our ICU patients and families. One infection clears up and another one takes its place. They make great progress in the ICU, enough to leave, only to find that their lack of funding means having to stay in the hospital because no other facility will take them. They buried a loved one 3 weeks ago and another loved one 6 months ago, and now they are in the ICU, basically living there, wondering whether this loved one will make it. There’s mountain after mountain. And sometimes when they think they’re about to cool down and get a break, there’s another obstacle… and not just any obstacle, but one that tries their endurance and asks them to dig deeper and tests their faith in God.
Today is Maundy Thursday. It is the day on which Christians around the world remember Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and his betrayal by one of them, his excursion to the Mount of Olives and his prayer for the cup to pass, his fly-by-night trial and his undeserved abuse. There’s mountain after mountain. As if that weren’t enough, there’s still another mountain yet to come, one that tries his endurance and asks him to dig deeper. And he has to trust that his spirit can be safely offered into God’s care.
When there’s mountain after mountain for patients and families in the ICU and there’s a silent question, “Where is God in this?”, I remember that God’s greatest promise to us isn’t that life will be easy, but that God will be present with us. And the incarnate Son of God, who knows what it means to face mountain after mountain, will be present with us and will weep with us through his Spirit.