Chapter 3: Page 152
Walker lay down and tried in vain to sleep for the hour he had before he had to go to work. He was exhausted but his mind would not give him the rest he needed. In a blur, he got up, took a shower and headed to the Lumber Depot. His boss, Susan, met him at the door.
“I am so sorry about this,” she said. When I scheduled you I didn’t realize what had happened. I need you until noon but then you can go. I know you must have a million questions about work and insurance. When you’re ready, you can sit down with Don in Human Resources and sort things out.
“Thanks,” said Walker.
He entered the employee workroom, clocked in, put on his work apron, and made his way to the electronics section where he had been assigned. Thankfully it was a slow morning. He began to straighten up the shelves. As he came around the a corner of an aisle, he bumped into Angela.
“Walker, she said, placing her hand on his shoulder. I am so sorry. She shoved some cash in the front pocked of his work apron. “I know money is the least of your worries right now. But take my advice: don’t neglect yourself. Take Connie out to dinner where you can be alone for a little while. And don’t forget to sleep.
Walker didn’t know what to say. He stood and stared. Angela did not expect a response. She placed her hand on his shoulder again, then returned to her work. Walker pulled the cash from his apron. It was five hundred dollar bills.
The rest of the morning was like being in another world. He wandered around as if in a dream, answering questions about the pros and cons of ceiling fans and telling people where the electric cords were. It seemed colossally unimportant. Finally, noon came and Walker went to the hospital.
Lizzy has been assigned to a room. There was still no space in intensive care so she had been assigned to a regular room. Thankfully, it was private. It looked more like a florist shop than a hospital room. Flowers and cards were pouring in from far and wide.
Connie was there, along with three of Lizzy’s best friends. To Walker’s surprise, Lizzy was sitting up and smiling as her friends bathed her in small talk and school gossip. It was a welcome dose of normalcy. They stayed a little while longer, said their goodbyes and left.
“So how are things?” asked Walker.
Connie answered. “The good news is that the swelling has gone down and she is not in mortal danger. They’re still unsure how much damage was done. They’ll do more tests today.“
“That’s good,” said Walker, putting his arm around her and giving her a hug. He took one of the two visitor’s chairs and turned to to face Lizzie. She was still covered with wires and tubes. It made her look weak, like she was dependent on machines to live.
“How are you sweetie,” he asked gently.
“Okay I guess,” she said. “My head is pounding and everything feels a little fuzzy.”
Connie got up. “I need some breakfast, she said. “I’ll leave you two to talk for a bit.”
Walker held Lizzy’s hand. They sat in silence. Finally, Lizzie said
“I’m scared daddy.”
“I am too,” said Walker. “But I’m here for you. We’ll get through this. Everything is gonna to be okay.”
Lizzie looked at him thoughtfully. “Last night you said God had a reason for all this. Today you say everything is going to be okay. Why do you say that? How do you know?”
Walker fumbled for an answer. “I don’t,” he admitted.
The room returned to the regular beeping of monitors. Lizzie closed her eyes. Walker stared at the sheets, asking God for help. The night before the accident, Lizzy, Connie, and Walker had stayed up until 2:00 AM binge watching “Stranger Things” on Netflix.
Without opening her eyes, Lizzie said, ““You know how on Stranger Things, there is an evil world called the Upside Down that interlocks with the regular world?”
“I feel like I fell into the upside down. Yesterday everything was fine. Today everything is awful. My head aches. I’m hooked up to all these weird machines. People are whispering about whether I might die.
“I feel like I’m in the Upside Down too,” said Walker.
“So which is it?” asked Lizzy?
“What do you mean?” said Walker
“Which is it? Am I in the Right Side Up for the Upside Down?”
Walker was still puzzling over the question when Lizzie spoke again.
“It’s not all Upside Down,” said Lizzy. Jenna and Trish and Amy came to see me. They are just as real today as they were yesterday. I felt their friendship more deeply today than ever. And all these flowers do not belong in the upside down. And you and mom. I always knew you loved me. I don’t think I ever really knew how much until now.
“You’re right,” said Walker. It’s not all upside down. This room is full of love. They squeezed each other’s hand. Walker spoke again.
“Maybe that’s why I keep saying crazy things like ‘God has a reason’ and ‘everything will be okay.’ I can’t explain why or how. It’s just something I feel, like the love in this room.”
“It’s not just people, daddy,” Lizzie said in a whisper. “Something strange happened to me this morning after you left. I heard a voice.”
Walker sat up in his chair. “You did? What did it say?”
“It didn’t exactly say anything,” said Lizzy. It felt like God. It felt like love. Somehow it spoke. It said, ‘Trust me.’”
Walkers eyes grew wide and he looked at Lizzie. “I heard it too. I felt the love. It told me to trust too.”
“Do you think it was Jesus?” asked Lizzie.
“To be honest with you, said Walker, “I was yelling at God when I heard it.” I was screaming at God for letting this happen to you. In fact, what I actually said was “My God my God why have you forsaken me?”
“Like Jesus on the cross,” said Lizzy quietly.
Walker continued. “When I said those words I felt Christ’s presence in a way I never have.”
“On the cross,” said Lizzie. “Do you think Jesus is in the Upside Down?”
They sat for a moment. Walker said, ”You know how on Stranger Things there is a door between two worlds? Maybe the cross is a door.”
“So God can be with us in the Upside Down.” said Lizzy.
“Yes,” said Walker. “I don’t know why there has to be an Upside Down at all. I don’t know why God didn’t make everything right side up. But just knowing that Jesus is in the Upside Down somehow helps. It gives me hope. Maybe it’s why I say things like ‘Everything’s gonna be okay.’”
“Hope,” said Lizzie thoughtfully. The door isn’t just a way for God to get to us. It’s also a way for us to get to God. Maybe death is not the end. Maybe it’s a door.”
Walker continued the thought. “And Jesus didn’t stay in the upside down. That’s not how the story ends. God rescued him from the Upside Down.
“And not just when we die,” said Lizzie. “I feel rescued from the Upside Down right now. I feel God. In all these flowers and friends. I feel like I’m in the Right Side Up in the Upside Down.”
“This is all very strange,” said Walker.
“And it still stinks,” said Lizzie.
“To high heaven,” said Walker.
Connie returned. They listened to the rain on the windows and the beeping of monitors. Walker was intensely aware of both worlds. He felt the shadows of the Upside Down. How badly was Lizzie injured? Would she ever live a normal life? What would happen with his insurance? But he felt something else too, something undeniable: hope. It was more than just a sense that things would work out. It was a feeling that things were working out even when they were not working out. Jesus was working in the Upside Down.
Connie turned to Walker. “You still haven’t slept. Why don’t you go home and take a nap.”
“I suppose I should,” said Walker. “And, by the way, don’t worry about dinner. Angela gave me enough money to cover our meals for a long time.”
“Angela?” asked Connie.
“Yep. Angela,”said Walker. He hugged Connie, kissed Lizzie on the forehead, and made his way to the car.
On the way home, Walker prayed for Lizzie and thought back on the day. Worries for Lizzie filled his mind. Questions about money and insurance and God formed a murky background. It all seemed so absurd. Despair made sense. What didn’t makes sense was hope. Why did he have hope?
A Voice interrupted his thinking. “Because I’m not finished,” it said.
“I wish you would hurry up,” Walker shot back.
“My children have always felt that way,” said the Voice. Read the Psalms and you will see that your voice is part of a great chorus crying out to me, ‘How long, O Lord?’ Read John’s vision and you will see that even in the heavens, the saints cry out ‘How long, O Lord?’ Through much suffering you must enter the kingdom of God.”
“Why?” I asked Walker. “Why not just make it easy?”
You do not understand because you cannot see the whole picture,” said the Voice. “Imagine that I gave you a book and told you that was the best book ever written. You took the book and turned to page 152. On that page you read of sorrow and despair, murder and bloodshed, chaos and pain. Imagine that you handed the book back to me and said ‘This is a terrible book!’”
But how could I judge the book until I read the whole thing?” said Walker.
Exactly, said the Voice. Right now, Walker, you’re on page 152. You cannot understand. It is right for you to cry out. Do not pretend that this page is good or that it does not hurt. But there are two things you may trust: One is that I am with you on every page. The other is that your story is part of a very wonderful book.”
“I don’t see how,” said Walker. “Sometimes it’s all I can do to take the next step.”
“The next step is all I ask,” said the Voice. “Trust me and take the next step. Let hope pull you forward. The day is coming when every created thing will stand and cheer. As I said, it’s is a very wonderful book.”
“Take the next step, said Walker, allowing the truth to sink in. “Even though I can’t understand.”
“Especially because you can’t understand,” said the Voice. “When the story doesn’t make sense you must trust the Author.”
“You’re asking for my blind trust?”
“Not blind. You have an inner awareness that I am working that you cannot explain but cannot deny. You feel me by your side. You have experienced my Son with you on the cross. You spoke with Lizzie about the presence of love. You called this the Right Side Up. I call it my Kingdom. You can live in my Kingdom even in the Upside Down.”
“Just like Jesus did,” said Walker.
“Just as I do,” said the Voice. “Like me, you will suffer. You must endure and take the next step, in hope.”
“So life will stink until I die? Then everything will be okay?”
“No,” said the Voice. “Every story has its ups and downs. There are light pages and dark pages. When you live in hope, passing shadows will no longer define your life. You will be at peace in all things. You will find joy on every page, even the darkest ones—especially the darkest ones. So no, your life will not stink until you die. Every pleasure will be made infinitely more pleasurable because you will know it as a taste of coming glory. Every sorrow will be made sweet sorrow because you will know me deeply in it. The cross was not the last page for my Son. The cross is not the last page for you. As Lizzie said, even death, the darkest page of all, is not the end; just a door.”
Suddenly, Walker was no longer tired. He turned the car around and headed back to the hospital. Connie and Lizzie looked at him curiously as he entered.
“Forget something?” asked Connie.
“No,” he said. “I found something. I had to tell you.” He paused, looking at them intently.
“Everything is going go be okay,” he said.
Everything is okay, daddy, said Lizzie.