In the surreal confusion and bustle of Sunday night's car accident, a figure emerged from nowhere in the trauma ward of the bowels of Abington Hospital. He was elderly, tall, and dignified in a brown business suit, which made him stand out from the medical scrubs swirling around my daughter on her ambulance gurney. And I thought he was either the hospital CEO or an angel. Turns out he was the latter.
The hospital chaplain moved deftly and quietly, navigating me, like a skillful ballroom dancer, clear of the emergency team members who were cutting my child's clothes off her body. And in spite of myself, I was impressed with the way he functioned as the part of an effective organism that the Apostle Paul would have called "the modest part" of the body, the part that we are discrete about. He was not a medical person, but he was indispensable.
The chaplain knew the way to be calming and helpful, with just the right touch of pathos, but not so much as to foster maudlin impulses. Before he disappeared from my life to be Florence Nightingale to some other person sucked out of the commonplace and into an altered consciousness, we prayed together, and then he asked if he could leave me with a Swedish saying, even if it wasn't from the Bible. I said he could. He quoted:
"Fall down seven times, stand up eight."
It was an inspirational proverb, and I received it with thanks, resisting the urge to tell him that the Bible has a similar saying:
"For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity" (Proverbs 24:16).
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (Psalm 34:19).
It strikes me that the difference between the Swedish saying and the Bible's teaching can be the difference between unabashed godless humanism and biblical faith. But in the context of the overall conversation I had with the dear chaplain, I made the assumption that God was the understood power behind the eighth "standing," and not a spirit of defiant, fist-shaking independence.
In any case, my hope in the present situation is in the Lord alone, who showed mercy to my daughter in sparing her life and health, and who spared me grief upon grief. The Lord has delivered me, and will deliver me. It is not promised to the righteous that they will not have afflictions. It is implied that they will have afflictions-but as many deliverances.