catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 23 :: 2010.12.17 — 2010.12.30


Jesus in the NICU

My mom has been a nurse for 36 years; I have been a nurse for just over one year. My mom works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and I work on a General Medicine floor. Although we serve the same profession, our careers contrast sharply.

When I go to work, I am assigned four to six patients with diverse health care problems and needs. For most of the day, I run up halls and down halls and in and out of rooms, rapidly transitioning from one task to another. There are meds to hand out, faces (etc.) to be washed, doctors to consult with, family members to cheer up and documentation to complete. In this demanding environment, my work seems like a list of health issues to treat and an even longer list of tasks to complete.

One day, after a particularly stressful day shift, I left the medicine unit and went down a flight of stairs to visit my Mom in the NICU. She had just started an evening shift, and her face was as bright and cheerful as her colorful scrubs. “Hi, Michelle,” she greeted me, and I smiled back at her, thinking that she really couldn’t look more lovely.

I took in the nursery with a quick glance: a desk in the center; two nurses standing behind the desk and talking in low tones; bassinettes and incubators circling around the desk at intervals. On the far end of the room were cupboards, blanket warmers and radiant heat lamps for babes fresh from the womb. Letting out a long sigh, I could hear the breath escaping my lips. It was quiet here, like a gentle cove carved in the walls of the hospital.

Approaching my mother, I watched as she stood by an incubator. She was looking intently at something inside, so I looked inside, too.

It was a baby. The tiny, fragile thing was encased in a clear plastic box, surrounded by tubes and wires and distracting monitor lights, but I saw a baby. And my breath was taken away.  I stood beside my mother as she counted the baby’s respirations and silently praised God.

Over and over I am amazed at how the three-personed God shows himself in our world in tangible, touchable ways. And this is one of the most tangible ways he came: in the form of a baby. A baby with thin, blue-veined skin, flailing arms and legs and a sharp cry that cleared the fluid from his lungs as he learned to breathe the air of a mortal world. This baby became a man. This man died and rose again. This man brought the Kingdom of God.

It’s nearly Christmas, and just like any other time of year, we often get swept away in the press and crush of what we have to do. We are constantly overwhelmed and distracted and we can barely see the people around us let alone pay attention to the God who has promised to be with us to the very end of the age. This is not a new observation by any means, and I do not wish to bemoan our busyness any further. However, I tell my story so that we, the followers of Christ, will remember to watch and pray.

Christ is here — not just symbolically, although a baby is as plain a symbol as the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table. Christ is here, sustaining each breath both in my body and in the body of that fragile baby. Christ is here, giving me love and compassion to heal the sick and walk with those who mourn.  Christ is here, in our churches and schools and homes, as broken and messed up as they are. Christ is here, and whatever your career or service, may you see him with your own eyes.

Christ is here; our God is with us. Immanuel!

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