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Hospital Liturgies

The only sound in the room was the steady beeping from the intimidatingly large machine looming over my nine-year-old daughter. From what would be my bed for the night, I quietly sat across from her, my arms wrapped tightly around my knees, probably looking more like a frightened child instead of a mother. My eyes, encased in shadowy circles at this point, watched her chest go up and down as she slept.

It was our first night in the hospital.

A ruptured appendix had brought us here: to IVs and antibiotics, to hospital food, to meeting new nurses and doctors every hour, and to the “hurry up and wait” that pretty much sums up hospital life. The room was cold and the lights were low. My eyes stared at her, a voiceless prayer in my heart.

Knowing I needed to write this experience down, I unfolded my arms and reached for my journal and my favorite pen. With my mind a collection of scattered thoughts, I listed everything I could remember, like the name of one particularly kind nurse, the visitors we had had and the texts I had received, and my overall feelings about where we were and why we were here. At first glance, the dimly lit, sterilized room was hardly an atmosphere for worship, and yet as my fingers grasped the pen and scribbled on the white piece of paper, words of worship and thanksgiving came easily. I was grateful for the care we had received, for advancements in medical science, for her finally being able to sleep, and for so many other things that had been part of our day. On and on I wrote. 

This became my sacred, nightly routine while at the hospital. It was my bedtime liturgy.

When we hear the word "liturgy," your mind may travel to beautiful churches, and it is true that church culture is one of liturgy. We stand to sing, we recite scripture, we sit and we listen to the sermon, we bow our heads to pray, we take communion. A liturgy is, in its simplest definition, a routine. It is a repetitive collection of words or actions. In light of this, it's clear that we practice liturgies in our homes, not only our churches. We brush our teeth, we make a meal, we vacuum the floors, we fold the laundry. Day in and day out, with every sunrise and sunset, we follow our routine, doing the common tasks associated with the day. Our life is lived in liturgy. Yours may be the rhythm of reaching for your smartphone upon waking, then getting up and turning on the coffee pot before stepping into the shower. You don’t need to set reminders for these things each morning, you just do them - probably in that order - and you move almost robotically through your day. 

When applied and practiced biblically, a liturgy uses habits to help to bring our minds under the authority of God’s Word. As I would soon see during our days in the hospital, I had a liturgy there. Every morning, I woke to a group of masked strangers in the room giving me the rundown on what to expect for the day. I would take a shower, spoon Jello into my daughter’s mouth, bring her her favorite stuffed animal, answer calls, and wait for the next visit from the nurse or doctor. Every night, I would help my daughter to the bathroom, comfort her when she cried, and watch new nurses write notes on the big white dry erase board after every shift change.

My daughter and I spent five days in the hospital, and for those five days, prayers were tied to every experience — every IV check, every tear I wiped from my daughter’s eyes, every conversation with the doctor, every question from my daughter. Prayer… after prayer… after prayer followed me down the halls of the hospital. The Holy Spirit took the simple yet repetitive moments of each day and created simple yet repetitive meditations in my heart. Thank You, Father, for giving me the grace, through Christ, to get up with her throughout the night. Lord, enable me with Your strength so I can comfort her right now. God, grant me the wisdom from heaven to know what questions I need to ask this doctor.

Simple supplications and exclamations of thankfulness became my liturgy for the five long days we were at the hospital. And it made a profound impact on my life.

You and I are formed through liturgy; through the habits of our days and nights, and experiences - whether those experiences are monotonous or life-changing. Each moment is a opportunity from God’s gracious hand to be formed and shaped further into the image of His Son. My time in the hospital with my daughter helped me to evaluate my routines and take stock of how my routines shape my thoughts, my words, and my actions. If every day and every circumstance is submitted to the sovereignty of God - and it is - then acknowledging and glorifying Him, moment by moment, should come as naturally to us as inhaling and exhaling (Psalm 115:3; Psalm 139:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 1:11).

May your days and mine be intentionally threaded with prayers and praises to the One who willingly sustains us and upholds us with His hands.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.


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