I wrote this post last week, in the middle of my vacation, due to an unexpected turn of events that occurred. I didn’t post it at the time for various reasons, but I saved it to post when I returned in hopes that it would encourage someone who needed it.
I am in Rome.
I had no plans to write anything because…well, I am in Rome. On vacation. With my husband. But I need to write this because I feel that there are moments in my life that speak to God that it would be a betrayal not to write about.
Approximately five minutes after my husband and I got back to our room tonight – an hour before we were heading out to a nice dinner and to wander the city streets holding hands – he got horrible abdominal pain. After that, the chills came. And then he got sick. Really sick. Viciously, this-is-undoubtedly-food-poisoning-or-Norovirus sick. It couldn’t have been anything else.
I was, at first, sad for him – and then I became worried because he kept getting worse and worse, and dehydration was looking like a real and serious problem. More than that, I was just heartbroken. My husband, who works ridiculously hard every day, had waited and planned and dreamed about this vacation for an entire year. Our trip is the one thing he looks forward to all year long. And for this to happen seemed horribly unfair.
Taking matters into my own hands, I breathed a prayer and went to the front desk, but they had nothing. All the concierge could do was refer me to the 24-hour pharmacy down the street – except, she told me, they were sometimes closed at night despite being a 24-hour pharmacy. If that happened, she assured me, there was another pharmacy “very, um, close, like just streets near.”
I left the hotel and found the pharmacy. It was, of course, closed. I tried to wander the surrounding streets to look for the other pharmacy, but couldn’t find it anywhere. With no idea where to look and knowing my husband was miserable back in the hotel, I started to get teary. I breathed another little prayer. Desperate, I approached a little old lady who looked nice and asked, “Farmacia?”
I don’t know if she could sense my desperation or if she was simply kind, but God had determined to work through her to help me. She took me by the arm. “Farmacia,” she said firmly, and marched me down the street. A few twists and turns, and there it was. I went in, got the medicine I needed from a kind pharmacist who gave me instructions on using it in broken English, and then came out – only to find the little lady still standing there. She grabbed my arm again, marched me back to where I came from, and just waved me off when I said “grazie” to her over and over.
I came back. Mixed up the little powder medicine with water and gave it to my husband as directed. And then got down to the real medicine, which was to get in touch with my mother who I knew would pray, and who would tell other Christians who would pray. “Please,” I said to her, “I just want to really ask God to take care of it tonight. I just want my husband to have this vacation. And I know it’s a small silly thing, but I know God loves Him, and I want to ask in faith.”
“Got it,” said my mom.
We waited. And then, not a half hour before midnight, my husband glanced up from his post in the bathroom. “I feel dead,” he said, “but I think it’s leaving. I’m going to try to sleep now.” And he collapsed into bed and didn’t move after that.
I went back to clean up the evening’s chaos and found the medicine package from the pharmacy. The ingredients were in Italian but I googled them, curious to find out the name of this miracle medicine that God has used to heal my husband. When I saw the result of my search, I laughed and laughed and laughed:
Vitamin B and electrolytes.
Here in Rome, I have seen literally no end of representations of God. Crosses sticking up in every conceivable corner. The infant Jesus made out of gold and diamonds. Michelangelo’s God sprawled out on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. It’s been beautiful, but also unnerving: the stillness of it, the reduction of God to a lavish material representation. It inspires awe in me, and reverence, but no real sense of intimacy. When I see all of those things, I think of God’s majesty and the growth of His kingdom in the face of insurmountable odds, but I don’t think, I feel loved right now. Diamonds and jewels and gold don’t really call to mind the homeless carpenter’s son I worship.
But I do feel loved tonight. The call for believers to cast their cares upon God because He cares for us isn’t an empty command. It isn’t something we do from obligation or duty. We cry out to God with our little, insignificant human-world and human-life grass-and-vapor problems because to Him our grass-and-vapor lives matter immeasurably. It’s true that He won’t always fix the problem or that our circumstances will immediately change for the better, but what we must remember is this: whatever happens is not for lack of love.
Tonight in the middle of the Eternal City where His likeness and name and symbol is plastered across every conceivable surface and revered with insurmountable wealth and craftsmanship, God chose to visit a tiny hotel bathroom and attend to the desperate request of a 34-year-old-woman who desperately wanted her godly husband to be whole, to be healed, and to be able to enjoy something special. He was with her when she went to the concierge who barely spoke English, he was with her when she met a kind little Italian woman on the street corner, and he was with her when she received the precise answer to the prayer she requested.
Because he cares for her.
Just like he cares for you.