Emmanuel: God with us

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

The name "Emmanuel" means God with us. It also is the name of a very cute three-year-old who is the son of good friends, and sometimes he totally lives up to his name. However, this article is not about the kid. Instead, join me as I "blog" about recent events in my life and how God has been with me as a personal Emmanuel. It is my prayer that you can also reflect and see Emmanuel, the God who is with you.

God with us in death

How does one pray with and for the family of someone in that stage of palliative care? Not easily. It's times like that when you really need the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God. It was a sensitive time for all present given the circumstances. Whilst I cannot recall the exact words now, the general impression and theme I was led to focus on was: God is with us – Emmanuel.

For context, other than my wife with me at the time, everyone else in the room would not have heard me pray before. So, on reflection, I realise that I was representing the faith and Jesus to those people in that difficult everyday moment.

The man I was praying with was already in his final days of life having battled cancer for some three years. As he deteriorated, more so in the last six months, my aunt had stepped up to be his primary caregiver. This meant that she was augmenting the care services with her own level of care and companionship – towards the end, with her staying overnight, she was effectively like a semi-resident.

While she had endured unbelievable stress this year, God was also doing a work in her life, helping her faith to grow and his spirit ministering and sustaining her through those challenging times. She too recognised Emmanuel: God was with her through the tough nights of sacrifice and care for her loved one.

God called his man home that following Sunday evening, and I was called to come down to the care home. The funeral director had just taken delivery of the body and I was called upon to help the immediate family with the clean-up of room and belongings. Sometimes God calls us to be hands and feet; to literally be available for loved ones.

A week later at the funeral, I provided transport for my aunts, and was the shoulder to cry on for them. Sometimes, God just asks us to be there for our family as a physical presence. We don't need to say anything in these distressing times, just be present and offer a hug. Emmanuel: God with us. Sometimes, God also gives us a hug and uses people around us.

God with us in trauma

A the end of August after work, I got a phone call from an unknown number. It turns out it was the local police who were calling to advise that my father – 91 and with mild dementia – had been in a car accident! On paper, that combination could sound bad, but my dad has always been physically independent and fit, and he would only walk to the local shops or the local McDonald's as the two places he was confident and familiar with. This routine has been part of this living at home arrangement coupled with my flexible work lifestyle enabling me to take care of his needs and manage the household.

While there were no direct witnesses, I pieced together the accident– my dad had walked in front of a stationary car. Somehow, the driver misunderstood or didn't see my dad and had moved forward to turn into the main road. The low-speed impact was a huge factor in ensuring all scans at the hospital came back negative for broken bones or other internal injuries. Praise God that despite his left foot being stuck under the car (tyre), it was only bruised. I thank God that my dad could walk away from this experience relatively unscathed.

When I received the phone call, I distinctly remember being super calm and chill. I think God was already working to keep me calm. Being able to enter the ambulance and speak to my dad who had not lost consciousness, was also a reassuring fact. Perhaps, as part of my carer duties, and having previously been through similar experiences where my dad had fallen in public places, I knew that God was in control and if it was time for my dad to be called home, I would be at peace with that.

God with us in the living

Our Christian faith is built on a rich heritage and foundation of Judaism. Jesus himself lived a Jewish lifestyle and abided by the Torah. A big part of living as a Jew and even the early church was focused on living in the present. To the disciples he interacted with throughout his three years of ministry, he was literally Emmanuel: God with them.

Jesus also taught us that even though he would leave and ascend to heaven, God would send another to help and be with the community of believers – Holy Spirit.

With the help of Holy Spirit, we can experience Emmanuel: God with us in today's modern society. We can get caught up in the busy-ness of life but developing good disciplines which bring us back to God are all helpful to being present. God is always with us, even when we can't see him, but he is always with us – Emmanuel.