Waiting for a balm in Gilead


I handed my pill bottle to the young girl behind the counter. She dutifully went off to perform whatever ceremony one does to ensure I am in the Walgreen’s system. I’m waiting. Seemed like only yesterday I was so care free. Then I turned 40 and my warranty ran out. Now I might be coming to a place like this every 3 months for the rest of my life. But better this place than the alternative offered by my high blood pressure. For a new “old guy”, all this is very fresh. And now I’m anxious to top it all off.

I was about 2 minutes into digging this craterous monument to self-pity when I was distracted by an oddly familiar sight. Behind her stood row upon row of shelves stacked to the ceiling with pills and other assorted medical accouterments. Hand-written signs were taped in front, alerting the cadre of health-care technicians to the alphabetical order constraining the chaos of their pharmacological candy factory. Another worker waited patiently on speaker phone with just the right amount of muzak to add to the eternal suffering of us all. She was presumably confirming some important detail that would result in how and when some of these pills were to be dispensed. Another lady manned the drive thru window where an elderly, liver-spotted hand waved his card from the cabin of his country truck as they discussed the details of necessary, perhaps even life-saving, pills. It was the pills. I kept coming back to the pills. 

The only reason pills exist is because we are broken. And their endless variety map nicely to all the diverse ways in which we break. For me, it was for the mounting pressure in my heart’s plumbing. For the diabetic, it is insulin. For the baby with the sniffles, it is children’s Tylenol. When we break, we shatter in a thousand different directions. And we will pay any amount, stand in any line, listen to any horrible hold music, just to be closer to whole again; to gain back a little of what gets stolen from us when our bodies fail us. These pills exist because we know something is wrong with us and we want to do something about it.

Into this moment of despair broke a singular hope. Behind me, beside me, all around me was the blissful assault of Christmas decorations, of Christmas music, of Christmas-time commerce in full regalia. Into another day at the pharmacy slipped a different kind of medicine: the memory that God himself was born into this broken world and played among its brutal shards. He came to heal, to restore, to give hope to the hopeless. And for someone like me, the new “old guy” anxious about what tomorrow brings, all these triumphant proclamations of Christ’s birth points to the reality of Easter – that not even death itself is capable of stopping what God intends.

Believe. Hope. There is a balm in Gilead. He is ours. We don’t have to wait any longer.

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