I had been a chaplain long enough to know that I couldn’t predict when someone would find healing and when someone would not. Worse still, I couldn’t predict God’s involvement in such matters. Sometimes it appeared that God directly intervened, other times he seemed to not bring healing.
People would want me to pray with them as their loved one lay in a coma or with tubes going all directions. They always wanted the prayers to focus on healing. Over time I got a bit gun shy and found myself focusing more on the theme of “brace yourself, its not looking good.” The Christian version of this is more like, “Lord, if it be your will to heal, then heal but if not, please heal this person by taking them home to be with you” or some other such verbiage.
I don’t remember her name, but the lady was from backwoods Tennessee. She married very young and had a bundle of kids – 14 of them if I recall correctly. She left the 13 to care for the one who had been hit by a train and was now in pediatric intensive care – head swollen the size of a water melon. Body bruised and broken. Tubes going every which way. The woman stopped me to pray for the boy because as she said, if she had enough faith, the boy would get better.
Oh how I hate backwoods theology! It’s not that simple lady. Sometimes God heals, other times he doesn’t. Who is to know when and how and why? In short, I prayed, “Brace yourself. It isn’t looking good.”
The boy was in a coma for ten days, teetering on the edge of life. Each day the Mom would call for me. Each day I would listen to her with her unwavering faith. Each time I would pray a slightly different version of the same old safe prayer of a world weary chaplain. “Brace yourself. You’re going to lose your son. He won’t recover. In Jesus name, Amen.”
On day eleven I was doing my rounds and I stopped by the Pediatric intensive care unit. There was the boy. He was sitting up in bed. Eyes wide open, looking right at me. He couldn’t talk because of the tubes, so he waved. Not a small wave, but the wave of a kid – all excited and big. I smiled. And waved. And cried. I was astonished. For me it was some kind of miracle.
Mom looked relieved, but she wasn’t surprised. For her it was just a matter of time.
It turns out, I love backwoods theology! It is full of hope while mine is full of doubt. My theology says, “Maybe God will heal, but probably not.”
Hers says, “Maybe God will heal. He is all I have.”
I still don’t know why God heals and when and perhaps most difficult, when he doesn’t. But I learned from this simple lady that you can have hope in the midst of the not knowing and the waiting.