The loud and painful anger of his cough tears the silence in our home. Temperatures outside are wintery white but the heat and pain of disease rages in his chest. It is worse when cold winter air is thin. Lungs suck sparse oxygen and require machines to supply enough. I am helpless to stop the tearing. Hopeless with the ache to still the sound of death that hisses and wheezes his breath.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came (Jesus said) that they might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Later in John 10, there is mention of the Feast of Dedication, which is “a feast of renewing…an occasion of much rejoicing and festivity.” At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. And then this statement: It was winter. (John 10:22).
I am greatly intrigued as I read: It was winter (John 10:22). Why was that important? First the mention of the sheep and the thief – one who steals, kills and destroys – contrasted with the One Who provides life abundantly. Likewise, mention of the Feast of Dedication – an occasion of much rejoicing and festivity – with the solemn reminder that It was winter.
It is winter in our home – not only outside but in. There is a chill that comes rushing in with labored breath and need for oxygen. Ice can form on hearts that fight against the goodness of God’s presence when the darkness of winter presses in. My heart pushes away from the pain of watching him suffer with disease – yet I strain and stretch to reach through my fear of abandonment if/when he is gone before me – when our us becomes me and I – those solitary words that threaten to rip heart from cage of ribs and flesh. It is a familiar ripping from childhood trauma and pain – it hurt too much to hope for more. But it is not then. I am not there. I am here. Now. With him. Not without. And we are held in the grip of the One Who breathes His hope into us. It is a hope that will be realized. A hope for His presence and strength. A way through. There can be a Feast of Dedication – an occasion of much rejoicing and festivity – even when it is winter.
It is a journey of trust from this step to the next. I do not know – nor does he – what lies ahead. We only know we are held and that in the holding we are free to hold tight to one another. For better or worse, in richer and in poorer, in sickness and in health, till death…the words of promise remind me to look fully into the face of him to whom I promised my troth – my truth – 44 years ago. I will stay present. I will walk into this with you. We will walk together.
The words of Mary’s song, by Amy Grant, serve as prayer for us.
Breath of Heaven
Hold us together
Be forever near us
Breath of heaven…
Breath of heaven
Lighten our darkness
Pour over us your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven…
I pray for him, my husband, my love, for the Breath of Heaven to hold, lighten, pour over and keep. Breath of Heaven, course through his lungs your health and sustenance in the winter months of this life. Hold him together…be forever near him…Breath of Heaven. The journey is sweet and full of the warmth of God’s breath over us, keeping us close, leading us into winter with our Shepherd’s protection and watchful eye. We are safe here – together – in Him.
Christine Browning is a lover of story—including her own. She loves to hear and longs to respond well to others’ stories. A late bloomer in the field of education, it is her absolute delight to teach at Milligan College in East Tennessee. She also counsels women who have experienced trauma and abuse. Christine is the mother of three adult children, three incredible grandchildren and has been married for 42+ years to her delightfully playful husband, Tom.