|Dash's 1st weekend of hospitalization|
Our oldest son Drew called us in hysterics the Saturday evening before Easter. We couldn’t make out what he was saying. Finally the clear message was, our grandson’s kidneys had shut down. Our year & a half old grandson Dash was in PICU. Minutes later, my wife and I jumped in the car and drove 700 miles through the night to be with our son Drew & daughter-in-law Laura and our grandson Dash.
Dash’s kidney crisis turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As the doctors began to care for Dash they discovered an unrelated problem. Separate from his kidneys, he has a life threatening heart condition, his aorta is constricted by 75%.
Yes, the last month has been exhausting. After dialysis and a lot of medical care, Dash now faces heart surgery too. If all goes well, He will have surgery today. But thankfully, God has surrounded us with people who have loved us through this time. When any loved one goes through an ordeal like this the whole family is affected. We all lose sleep, worry, and we need encouragement too. No, it’s not “about us,” it is about the one in crisis, still, it touches all of us who care deeply for the one who is suffering.
As we spent countless hours in the hospital holding our grandson, waiting for lab reports and scans to be interpreted, we asked ourselves, “How do people without a relationship with God and a church family survive times like this?” And furthermore, believers who have a faith in God but try to meet their “spiritual needs” through TV/radio ministries, how do they make it through times like this without flesh & blood people to hug them and care for them?
We are thankful for our church family, they have greatly encouraged us. And, we are thankful for the countless people across the nation who have been praying for Dash. For me personally, it has been a time of reflection on my prayer-life and a realization that it’s a blessing to be on the receiving end of being ministered to. Various people have shown us many acts of kindness. For example, recently after our Sunday morning worship service concluded, our church family encircled our immediate family, laid hands on us and took turns praying for us. That was powerful!
If our relationships with other believers were limited to Sunday mornings only, I doubt our family would be feeling supported so well. Instead of despair, God’s love displayed through His Body of believers has sustained us. We are suffering, but we are being blessed in the storm too, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27 ESV)
Realistically, it’s impossible to segregate faith in God from people and have a healthy faith that sustains. Hebrews 10:25 uses a Greek word which we lose some of its impact in our English translation. Some translations have forsake not the “assembling” or in The English Standard, we read of “meeting” together, “ And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The word to meet or assemble in Hebrews 10:25 is not the same word for the church assembly “Ekklesia,” the word here is from the Greek word “synago” which implies much more than sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.
Synago is the word Jesus uses in Matthew 18:20 for being “gathered” together, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Synago is also the word Jesus uses for “welcomed” in His parable of separating the sheep from the goats, when He was a stranger and was “welcomed” by those who cared for Him, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me...” (Matthew 25:35 ESV)
So the next time you hear the imperative to “gather” together from Hebrews chapter 10, realize this isn’t a prohibition against skipping a midweek service or Sunday night worship, no, it’s much more significant than that. The instruction to spur each other on to love & good works, in the context of gathering together, is about a connected-life that happens mainly outside the “four walls” of the church building. It’s about living life as disciples of Christ within community and offering comfort, compassion, and encouragement daily. In other words, Sunday mornings prepare us for Monday mornings -- “church services” aren’t the goal of faith, they are the launching pad.
Face it, we live in a fallen world that’s filled with pain and suffering and more evil than we’d care to admit; we need each other. Christians with an authentic faith “gather” together for so much more than one hour a week in a house of worship. We come together to share life, to encourage each other, and to love one another daily, just as we read about in Acts 2:42-47 and 5:42.
Don’t go it alone, you weren’t created to carry your burdens by yourself. I guess going it alone would be like trying saccharin when your blood-sugar drops or eating eggs without salt. And, please pray for Dash, we know God has big plans for this little boy.
(Dash in the hospital, after his dialysis)