Sometimes God shows up in unlikely places. Take church for example.
This past Sunday during the prayers of the people, a beautiful couple stood up to ask the congregation to agree with them in faith that their little boy would be healed from cerebral palsy. I remembered this couple well: on Easter Sunday, they had stood at the front of the congregation and shared their heartbreaking story of love and loss; at the birth of twin boys, and after an uneventful healthy pregnancy, these first-time parents had been thrust into a parent’s worst nightmare—seeing their newborn sons struggle to stay alive; one of their boys died in the weeks and months after birth while the other survived, only to face the steep upward climb of cerebral palsy and other serious chronic health issues.
But Sunday this couple stood once again to claim God’s healing for their son with more than the faith of a mustard seed. And I sensed in that moment that God was speaking to me, too— that God was calling me, a mother to a little girl with similar, albeit milder struggles once also dubbed “cerebral palsy”— to pray for John, the boy with the big winning smile and the tufts of blonde hair, and his mommy and daddy who love him so.
I’m convinced we’re all disabled and equally cherished in God’s eyes, some of us more visibly than others. But there and then on a day when I had been asking whether my daughter would ever overcome her hurdles, God placed in front of me another family, as if to say, “You’re really in this together.”
Every day this week I have prayed for John, and I know that John’s parents are praying for my daughter Sam. We are praying for healing and strength and the capacity to overcome. We are praying for the glory of God to shine through in our places of grief.
In reflecting on the death of her father, Madeleine L’Engle once wrote about the lessons she learned from grieving that loss: “I had to struggle alone, and all I knew was that Father’s death caused me to ask questions for which I could find no answer, and I was living in a world which believed all questions were answerable. I, too, believe that all questions are answerable, but not in scientific terms, or in the language of provable fact.”
There are no sufficient scientific explanations for why John and Sam face the hurdles they do; and we can only begin to grasp at the meaning of a theological answer. Regarding the blind man, Jesus says, “He was born blind so that the works of God might be made visible in him.”
But on a Sunday morning in church, two families connected with one another in their pain, believing that God brought them together to pray for one another and to wait in solidarity for a revelation of God’s glory in the most difficult, heartbreaking places of their lives.
In scientific terms, yes, the earth is round. In scientific terms, John and Sam were born with these conditions because of a trauma during pregnancy or birth that caused a lesion on the brain or cut off the oxygen supply just long enough…or because of a certain medicine taken during pregnancy.
But these answers are ultimately shabby ones at best.
Because at the end of the day, and on my best days, I would rather believe this world is cross-shaped, and that at its center is Jesus.