Some days bring a lot of waiting — and wondering

By Curtis Shelburne

Some days bring a lot of waiting — and wondering

Last week my brother Jim and I were in Houston. What follows is an article he wrote for his church newsletter.

As I write this late at night from a computer in Houston, I’m struck by the strangeness of the situation I’m in. Not that it’s strange in its circumstance — but that it’s strange in mine. I’m in hospitals all the time; I’m in ICU’s and CCU’s almost weekly, sometimes daily, helping the injured members of my flock find comfort and support. Sometimes, helping them as they die. That’s what I do. It’s my job. I’m no stranger to bedsides in hospitals and after pastoring for 27 years, I think I’ve seen just about everything.

But this time is different, because this time I’m not the pastor, I’m the family member, I’m the one sitting in the waiting room until it’s time to go in again. The one in the bed, fighting for life, is my sister Ruthie who, almost 8 weeks ago, managed to get run over by a Houston Metro Train while riding as a passenger in a medical transport van. One minute she’s coming from a doctor’s appointment–the next, she’s being extricated from a crushed van by the jaws of life. Since that time, all that’s kept her alive is a ventilator and lots of other whiz-bang medical technology. Sometimes I wonder if technology is always a blessing.

My sister smiled today as my brother Curtis and I joked about our being able to finally get the last word (she can’t talk because of the ventilator); she spelled out a few words on a letter chart with great effort that made me tired just watching. And she endured our forced monologues for longer than anyone should have to. (Of course, our churches have to endure our monologues all the time!) I was glad she could smile, glad she could still squeeze my hand, glad she could find comfort in prayer and the closeness of brothers she half-raised. The next few days will bring a lot more waiting. And a lot more wondering.

Will she survive this? What kind of life will she have if she does? How long will it take before we know? Why does life have to be so hard for some people? What is the purpose in prolonged suffering if there’s no good outcome? Why can’t God just take her home if that’s what’s best? Those are standard waiting room questions, all too common and on the minds of every family member who spends time in ICU.

It’s OK to wonder; it’s only human. The good news is that God’s still God, and completely in control. If he chooses to heal her slowly over months and years, then God’s good and I’ll be thankful. And if he chooses to heal her quickly by letting her lose this battle of the injured flesh — then God’s good, and I’ll be thankful. Of all the points on my “list of things to wonder about,” there’s one thing I never wonder about — God’s goodness. God is good. All the time.

I love you! Jim

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at