You’ve fallen and hit your head, and you’re in the emergency room alone. Your old mind is groggy from the pain medicine, but you’re alone and you’re scared.

You’re a 16-year-old kid, the kind who gives his parents hell, keeping them up at night. You’ve flipped your 4-wheeler, severely injuring your not-yet-fully-formed brain, and now your parents are still up at night, holding vigil by your bedside.

You’re homeless. You’re sick. And you’re mad as hell that no one will listen to you. You’re reduced to trying to convince them that you’re crazy so that you can stay a night or two, get a few meals and a place to sleep, maybe something to numb the pain.

Your mama, who is also your housemate, has had a stroke and the prognosis is uncertain. You maybe could have gotten married, had some kids, a house, but instead you stayed home, stocking shelves at the Kroger and taking care of your aging mama. Now you’re scared, and your mama is drooling instead of listening, so you fill the silence by assuring this preacher guy that everything is going to be okay, she’ll be back on her feet in no time.

Jesus, you’ve been through a lot this summer. 

You’re not sure how you ended up here in this place where the door at the end of the hallway is locked and people sometimes scream in the night, but you know that you would be okay if you could just get to the driver’s license office so you can get your ID and your social security. You tell this in frantic, half-intelligible sentences to anyone who will listen, your fear and frustration painted across your face.

You, too, are a hospital chaplain, but you’ve been sidelined by yet another stroke, your third one in your brief 31 years of life. You give the new chaplain advice and wait for your husband to come visit so that you can celebrate your first anniversary with pain pills and hospital food.

You were “just minding your own business” down by the railroad tracks at 3:30 in the morning when someone came up and shot you in the arm. You’re mad, you’re scared, and you’re abusing the staff to try to regain a sense of control. Large men cry large tears.

Your middle-aged daughter overdosed. You knew she was dead when you found her, but, in a father’s unfailing and irrational love, you called 911 anyway, hoping you were wrong, that the blue in her face just meant she was sick. The emergency room went through the motions before the inevitable, “I’m sorry, we did everything we could do. Here’s the chaplain.” You tried to distract yourself from the grief by asking the chaplain if he was saved.

Jesus, you’ve been through a lot this summer. 

You’ve always known you drink a little too much. Then last week you woke up in a hotel room not knowing what you’d done or how you’d gotten there. You decided maybe it was time to get some help. Now your hands won’t stop shaking and you cry at the drop of a hat, but dammit, you’re sober for today.

You had a stroke back in June and took the second helicopter ride of your life. You worked hard, made the nurses laugh, and finished your rehab. That was two months ago, and you’re still here because the government won’t approve your disability claim and you just don’t have the money for a rehab facility. You still believe God is going to turn it around, but sometimes you cry.

You’re 19, and this baby that you created with a long-gone boy decides that it’s time to enter the world way too early. Try as you might, you can’t stop him. You name your dead baby Noah and hold him and cry and eat your lunch because they told you to and everyone around you acts like it’s no big deal and maybe even a relief.

You gaze lovingly into the place where your son’s face used to be, wondering what made him pull the trigger, your tears bathing the mangled flesh of the boy that you raised into a man. You turn to a bystander and ask, your voice a mixture of hope and fear, “Will…will he go to heaven?” And all that bystander can think of to say is, “You’re damn right he will.”

Man, Jesus, - you’ve been through a lot this summer.

Butthrough all of itthe pain, the rage, the grief, the hope, the confusionthe fire of resurrection has been in your eyes - sometimes barely a flicker, sometimes a raging infernobut always there. And I think that maybe a spark got into my eye. Because I am in the midst of a resurrection that I never expected, didn’t even know I needed. All because you allowed me to stand beside you as you went through a lot this summer.

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