I have witnessed holy moments this week, acts of faith largely unseen but shining brightly in an invisible kingdom. They have left me humbled and undone. The first I witnessed personally, the second through the eyes of others.
Standing in a rehabilitation hospital I am surrounded by septuagenarians and find myself playing the role of the younger generation, nice for a change.
The first stood, fire in his voice, to pray for his friend sitting in a wheelchair. The pray-er has this year come through life-threatening emergency surgery to remove a massive tumour that was destroying his spine. Remaining full of faith throughout, he feels more qualified to pray for healing, not less.
He wags his finger lovingly at his friend who finds herself in a wheelchair after tumbling down a cliff, breaking her neck and bruising her spinal column.
‘Don’t ever think that God wouldn’t want to heal you just because you are old. He loves you unconditionally and wants you to have life to the full,’ he says. He acknowledges that healing comes in part through the wisdom and skill of doctors and medicine but trys to put into words a sense of knowing the goodness of God pervading and searching and responding to his faith.
He quotes the verse that he has memorised during his remarkable journey to full health: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion…’ (Ps 103:2-4)
His voice rises as years of faithful service, embedded truth and victory through many tears culminate in a simple declaration of healing and goodness over her life. With several other people in wheelchairs within sight and earshot, I wonder what kind of joyful havoc he would create if we let him loose in this frame of mind.
As we stand around, hands laid on her with faith, she recalls the words of Jesus that have challenged her to keep from despair and remain hopeful, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’
I consider my own lack of hope, lack of faith at times, and without a word in my direction know I have been given witness on how to live.
The second comes to me by text and email, snatched details in busy moments, tearing at my heart from a distant land.
A boy is killed in a motorcycle accident. The rules are different there, people ride small motorbikes like bicycles and children don’t wear helmets. Sent on an empty errand late at night, the boy and his sister are hit head-on by a drunk rider and the boy loses his life and his sister fights for hers.
But there are others who love this pair, not blood family but deeper still, spiritual, knit together by the love of Christ compelling.
They rally and while racked with sheer grief, mount a bedside vigil with the girl while consoling the family and arranging a funeral.
When you have taken children from the street, brought them into your very home, focused your entire being on seeing them recover, delight in their progress, their faith, their smile; there could be nothing harder than preparing their body for burial.
But in a poorer land with no undertakers, not much money, that is the task taken on by our friends and as they dress this young boy for his last farewell, they see an angelic creature silent in death but loud in life elsewhere.
The funeral is sad beyond knowing and an adopted mother cannot leave the grave while the adopted grandparents call on all known strength to get them through. Alongside them, are the broken lives of the blood relatives and the call to show mercy and grace.
It is a hard thing to see a dead child, I will never forget my own experiences. But this task, carried out with such loving grace, is almost beyond comprehension. It costs dearly to love and as I witness distantly the price extracted from my friends, once again I am beyond words.
In both these cases, to be the hands of God is to know the suffering of redemption but also its prize. A prize not always immedately held but deeply known by faith.
When I argue with atheists of the logic of God I often wish I could sweep the table clear and say, ‘forget your reason, feel this!’ PH