By Kelly Nickerson
My husband and I sat quietly in the corner, listening to the humming of the machines. It all seemed so surreal. How did we get here? Our son had been admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and was unresponsive. He was on a ventilator, and they were purposely paralyzing him while working on his tiny five-month-old body.
We weren’t supposed to talk, because he would try to fight the ventilator, and they wanted him to rest. His body was overtaken by tubes and wiring, and they weren’t giving us much hope.
My husband and I were blessed with a great support system. The Lord provided many people to help us through those tumultuous days.
At this point we couldn’t make it to church. We were living on prayers, and we wanted to be in the presence of God, as we knew he was the only one who could fix our baby boy.
One of the pastors from our church came to the hospital with a little wooden box and a rolled-up paper that looked like a scroll. The box contained communion bread and grape juice. She encouraged us to take a moment and share it.
I wanted to pop the bread and drink the juice and consider it done. I was in survival mode. I didn’t have time to ponder; I knew what it meant. But she looked us both in the eyes and said, “I want you to take time to reflect on what it really means to follow Jesus. I want you to think about the true meaning of communion. I want you to read this paper and ask yourselves seriously, can you drink the cup?”
I just sat there, stunned. My child was on life support. Of course I knew what it meant to take communion!
At that moment, I realized I was angry with God. We had trusted him for so much. Weren’t we faithful enough? Hadn’t we proved our undying devotion when our first daughter died? Hadn’t we proven our love with words of praise at each grim diagnosis? We held on! We prayed! We believed!
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say goodbye again. I couldn’t let go.
I think she saw the hurt, fear, and anger in my eyes. Yet she was obedient to the call God had given her. She prayed with us and walked away.
My husband asked me to share the communion bread and juice with him several times. I adamantly and tearfully refused. I didn’t want to leave my precious son’s side. More important, I didn’t want to lay him on the altar (figuratively speaking) and surrender his life to God. The last time I had done that, our daughter died.
No matter how angry I was, I knew God was in control. He knew my heart and could handle my anger. He deeply loves me, so in the end I submitted my heart to him.
The paper our pastor brought reflected on Jesus’ last supper. About half way down, it said in bold letters, “Preparation: Can You Drink the Cup?”
I still have the paper. Here is some of what it said:
“In Matthew 20 when the sons of Zebedee, James and John, requested to sit at Jesus’ left and right in the kingdom, he responded by asking them, ‘You don’t know what you are asking…Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’ (vs. 22). There was a willingness to drink the cup, but not a readiness.
“Jesus’ cup is the cup of sorrow. Not of just his own, but that of the whole human race. Before his death, Jesus told his disciples, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’ (Matthew 26:38). He then prayed to the Father, ‘If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’ (vs. 39). Jesus, filled with grief, asked if there is any other way to bring redemption.
“Yes there is joy hidden in the sorrows, and oftentimes it is great joy. Jesus went to the cross with joy, knowing what it would accomplish (Heb. 12:2).
“We need to find joy in the suffering of Christ’s death by his forgiveness of sin, victory over death and in the Resurrection of his body. Jesus turns the cup of God’s wrath into a Eucharist, that is a cup of joy, blessing, yearning, and thanksgiving (1 Cor. 10:16).
“Jesus invites us to drink the cup of salvation with him, to share in his sufferings and to share in his joy.”
I was both stunned and humbled. God sacrificed his very best for an ungrateful sinner like me. Jesus didn’t want to face death alone, and he was the son of God! You see, the hardest thing about death is not the pain, but the fact that we all have to face it alone. I felt I had abandoned my children to the grave. My poor baby would experience the grasp of death in his precious body, and it made me ache to my very core.
I had never looked at my suffering or the suffering of my children as a point of joy. Yet I knew what we had to do. It was time to lay our baby boy, as well as my own heart and dreams, on the altar of the Lord.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s one thing when death snatches your child from your arms, but another to knowingly step back and say to God, “Thy will be done.”
I invite you to truly ponder this, whatever the circumstances of your life.
Kelly Nickerson is a homeschooling mama with two beautiful kids under her wing and four dancing in heaven. She also lives with her amazing husband, who supports her like no other. Kelly is a firecracker prayer warrior who shares honestly about her brokenness, while praising and clinging to the God who sustains her. When she isn’t hunting down germs with disinfectant, you can find her writing of her adventures at kellynickerson.com.