O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1
Have you ever fainted due to extreme emotion? You know, like you watch on TV? You can always count on my kid’s favorite, the Disney channel, for this plot twist: a new father always crashes at the sight of birth, a dramatic scene where a loved one has just been given horrible news and falls to the ground, a young girl comes face to face with her teen idol and down she goes.
I’ve always thought that this sort of Disney-channel-fainting that is mentioned by the Psalmist was made for the dramatic, but never something that happens in real life.
Until it happened to me.
Being a minister and a mother means no matter how well we prepare for each Sunday, they are always chaotic. One particular Sunday morning for me I was knee deep in Advent activities. I needed to make an appearance at the birthday party for Jesus in the preschool area, my youngest daughter Evelyn was participating in the party, and my oldest daughter Ainsley was helping to lead the choir portion of the pageant.
During the 11 o’clock worship service, three baptisms were scheduled, which I was helping to officiate. And there was a church wide caroling event planned for that evening that I was responsible for leading.
My husband Josh followed our typical morning routine by helping the girls get ready and bringing them to church for the birthday party before going to teach his Sunday school class. I was already at church for the first worship service and to prepare for my day.
During the Sunday school hour I was upstairs with children and teachers in the children’s area, which is where I usually meet my oldest daughter, Ainsley. As soon as Ainsley saw me, she brought me downstairs to her sister’s preschool classroom to ask what foods were okay for her sister to eat. The teachers had brought in new foods that were not typical for the class and Ainsley wanted to be sure her sister would be okay.
Evelyn has life threatening food allergies and no one cares for her the way her sister does. I was able to help Ainsley find two things that Evelyn was allowed to eat and helped Ainsley make Evelyn a plate before rushing to the sanctuary to meet my baptismal candidate. Finally, in the baptismal dressing room with the other candidates preparing for worship, I was able to breathe, relax and know that everyone was take care of for the moment.
My relaxation quickly faded however when Ainsley appeared, out of breath, desperate to find one of her parents. “Mom, where is Dad? Evelyn is having a reaction and we can’t find her backpack!” Her tone sounded pretty panicked. It took me a minute to process what she was saying to me. I didn’t bring her to church so I had no idea where her EpiPen was, which is always kept in her backpack.
Immediately I went running. Wearing my white baptismal robe I rushed downstairs, tore through the sanctuary and into my office, which is on the other side of the building. I must have been a sight for others: a white blur wildly running throughout the church in a desperate attempt to get a life-saving drug for my daughter needed to her as quickly as possible.
In my office I started tossing stuff out of the first-aid kit trying to search for Benedryl. Bandaids, antiseptic cream, tooth brushes, and all assortments of first-aid items were landing on my desk, yet Benadryl was no where to be found!
Then I remembered – there is a back up EpiPen in the preschool director’s office! I raced again out of my office toward the preschool hallway with my white robe still flapping in the wind. “Oh my goodness, what did we do with her backpack? I thought we brought it?!?!” As I ran I hollered at random church members to find Josh now.
Then, I turned the corner toward the preschool hallway and there I ran right into a crowd of people gathered around Evelyn’s classroom door. “Oh no, not a crowd. A crowd is not good! There must be a reason for a crowd. Where’s Josh? Where’s Evelyn?”
Then, the crowd moves and there is Josh standing there in the middle of the group with Evelyn. Our eyes meet and he quickly says calmly to me, “Becky, it’s ok. She is fine.” The stress and fear that I had carried with me from the baptism, to my office, and now to the preschool hallway released so quickly that my entire body could do nothing other than dramatically drop to the floor.
Just like on the Disney Channel.
Except this time I’m the featured attraction. Everyone in the hallway got to see the crazy woman dressed in a white robe involuntarily fall to the floor sobbing at the beautiful sight of her perfectly healthy child who was not going into anaphylaxis.
It was the most beautiful sight and I couldn’t wrap my arms around her quick enough.
The psalmist invites us into the same longing to be with God. The longing that the Psalmist had with God was rooted in love and relationship–a relationship that has been cultivated over years. What is it that makes you want to continue to get closer to God? What is it that causes you to call out to all of those you pass?
After officiating the baptism during worship, I quietly left the service to check on Evelyn and of course, she was fine. And there I found Evelyn’s sister and father both sitting in different areas near her classroom, but far enough away that Evelyn couldn’t see them. But they were close by if she needed anything.
God chooses a life near to us as well. May you search for ways to seek God out, building a relationship so strong that the possibility of a life away from God will cause your flesh to faint in the most dramatic of ways.
Rebecca Caswell-Speight, Minister of Families with Children at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA, has served as a minster in many settings. Recently transplanted from Louisville, KY, she and her husband, Josh, are parents to two vibrant, growing girls.