Four years ago this week, my daughter underwent surgery on her spine to repair a broken neck. When I re-visit memories from that time, I turn over many questions that remained unanswered until the surgery itself. One of those questions was if the pediatric neurosurgeon would be able to correct Faith’s problem — a malformation of her second vertebrae — the more secure way or the less secure way.
If the doctor was able to correct it the more secure way, by inserting a pin into the bone on each side of her vertebrae, she would be able to wear a neck brace post-op. But if her bones were too small for this procedure and he had to use a less sturdy means of treating her injury internally, she would have to wear something that provided additional security externally during recovery: a halo. A halo is a more restrictive apparatus than a neck brace, a type of headgear that attaches to the forehead through 4 pins and keeps the head and neck completely and totally still.
Obviously, we prayed circumstances would allow our girl to wear the neck brace rather than the halo.
The neurosurgeon, Dr. Grabb, told me a nurse would call us in the waiting room from the OR just as soon as he knew the viable option. So my husband and I sat in that hospital room, murmuring and fidgeting and reading the same paragraphs of magazine articles over and over as we waited.
That whole time felt like a held breath, like someone hit the pause button on our lives.
Finally the call came. The nurse told us the good, good news that by the tiniest of margins, the doctor was able to insert a pin on one side, so our girl could wear the neck brace during recovery. In that moment, some of our gray world turned to color and the music played again. I told Dr. Grabb if I ever became pregnant again with a son, he’d be named after him. And I meant it.
Thinking back to this time, the waiting wasn’t long in the grand scheme of things. Two or three hours, I believe. Heaven knows we’ve waited longer for other scary things, and I don’t doubt you have too.
Sometimes those waiting times have ended favorably, as ours did here. Sometimes they have not. But regardless, they have all ended.
And if they have yet to end? Well, they will one day.
Two and a half weeks into the season of Advent, we sense Christ’s coming with increasing clarity. We see it in the dark navy evening sky punctured with stars, and we feel the expectancy riding on a crisp breeze. We take a deep breath and say, “He is coming.”
But today, we wait on.
If you’ve heard the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Handel’s Messiah wafting through a church sanctuary or concert hall, you know the end carries a very dramatic pause. It’s hard not to hold your breath during the pause in anticipation for the rich, final Hallelujah! As Pastor Bates at my church beautifully explained, when winter won’t end — when the waiting time won’t end — and everything has gone dark and gray, know your wait time is not the end of everything.
When the music stops, take heart. The Conductor still holds His baton, waiting for the right time to finish the song with one sweeping hallelujah.
Christmas proves the pause will not last forever. Hope floats down from God to us, shimmering like endless stars.
May we not despair in the quiet pause. Instead, may we expectantly listen for the harmonic final chord.
It is coming.
He is coming.