While in the hospital, I had two opportunities to "chat" with an interesting guy named Al. He just so happened to be one of my nurses.
The first we met was my first day in for the "minor" procedure of cleaning the clot out of the vein. Al was friendly and quickly put me at ease...as much ease as one can feel mostly naked in a cold, sterile room on a skinny operating table. And as he was the one who held the power over my anesthesia, I was extra friendly. We small-talked all through the twilight drug laced two hour procedure. I was actually very alert as he had been instructed to keep me so. More alert then I preferred!
In the course of conversation he learned I was a pastor's wife in a town practically next door to him. He casually mentioned his religious upbringing. He had your classic five-days-a-week-and-it's-still-not-enough church experience growing up. He was done with religion.
And so I said the only thing I could think of...I invited him to try the Christmas Eve service at my church.
And then we moved on to mountain biking and other topics like "can I have some more of the good stuff now", etc.
The afternoon and evening after the procedure was truly awful for me. All the slim chances of side effects I had. In and out of awareness, the word "torture" just seemed to hover in my mind. I was a mess!
And to add insult to injury, the next morning came word from the doctor that they needed to repeat the same procedure.
So back to pre-op, back to the cold operating room under the lights, back on the narrow hard bench of an operating table...and back to Al. It was strangely comforting to have Al back in my corner with his syringe ready and with his steady stream of small talk to distract me. He was actually assigned to a different surgery but when he stumbled into me he switched out with the other nurse. And so we continued our conversations through another procedure.
Somewhere during this second chance to interact, in between the "this is a bit like de ja vous" and "can I have some more of the good stuff", he asked me to remind him exactly where our church was located.
That was the first clue I was permitted to see that God was allowing me to be in an extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable place for a purpose.
I do hope I run into Al the nurse, and his family, soon. Like on Christmas Eve. At our church. It would be a really great gift! But even if I don't see him there, I still can appreciate how God weaves hope and purpose into the hardest things we go through.