Friday, November 19, 2010
Parer prt 3: Prayers not Answered (Note to Hermit)
I was planing on making my series on prayer into a 3 part only, and ending with a discussion of "other uses" or prayer, not petition prayer. Yesterday there was a note on the comment section form long time reader and loyal opponent "Hermit" saying that his mother-in-law died. He added to this "where is her miracle?" I would like to address this briefly here, then do what would have been the third part on Monday.
Before saying anything else I wish to extend my sincere condolences to Hermit. I know he's told me in the past his mother-in-law was a neat person and they were friends. I know this is a loss he feels deeply, not only for his wife and kids but for his own friendship with her. So I am truly sorry for your loss man.
What does this mean, that my father was healed (even brought back from the doorstep of eternity) for a time and this lady was not, neat though she was. Being a neat person has nothing to do with it. Neat people die all the time. Being "neat" doesn't keep death from us. My father did die permanently. It was only three years latter that he did finally go. What's the piont then?
We make the same kind of mistake in thinking of miraculous healing as getting stuff, that we do when we think of prayer as a means of "getting stuff." Healing is not about emptying hospitals or fighting pain in the world. Pain is a part of life and so is loss. Some leave this moral existence very early, some late, but we all do leave it. The three extra years my Dad got were very important, though one might wonder from seeing him in that time if it was really a blessing. He spent most of that time hating the fact that he couldn't do the physical work he used to love doing (fixing cars, climbing all over the house, going in woods in his beloved Sulphur Springs--east Texas pine woods--where he grew up). He hated the idea of living in the 21st century and he prayed every day he would not have to. He died the very last day of the 20th century. There was also a friend in our Christian Cadre apologetic group, someone who comments on this blog form time to time. Her father also did not want to live in the 21st century. She prayed for my Dad and I prayer for her's as they were both sick at the same time. They both died on the same day. If we imagine that God granted both prayers how could it be that an answered prayer for one time led to a man being saved from death and the same man just three years latter, the answered prayer means he gets to die?
I wasn't that bad at taking care of him. He was not unhappy with life because of my care. Like most active adventurous men he hated being confined. He hated having to be helped to walk and having to move at a snail's pace, not being able to see well enough to read, and being too generally "out of it" to enjoy anything. Why did God even let him live? During those three years he got some crucial things done, and his survival inspired those of us who loved him.It was a clear answer to prayer and gave us all faith for the coming the struggles. I've written about how we lost our home, I lost my career, we were on the edge of homelessness, I had to start over on life and rebuild who I am one piece at a time; that genuine Christmas miracle was extremely crucial at a time when I truly believed that God had cursed me. Not to mention the fact that my father and mother enjoyed certain aspects of getting to say a three year long goodbye, and relationships were healed throughout the whole family because he was alive.
I was also inspired to do genealogy which he had always wanted to do, we leanred all about our heritage that we had never taken the time to do before. As a result I found out that my mother's mother's father did not die when she was two, but left his family. This turned out to be amazing because I made contact with that guy's grand son, my great grandfather's grand son who never new of his half sister, my grandmother. That contact with my distant cousin has been important to him in his old age. You never how your life might touch others. Each loss leaves a hole in a family sends ripple effects down the life that we can't know. God is sorting it all out and keeping track. A "no" answer can be as crucial as a yes. Death can be the reward. It's very hard to figure if you think about it one can see a lot more is involved than just pleasure over pain.
God looks on the heart. God knows what we need and the ultimate bottom line for God is not pleasure over pain or avoidance of pain but moving the heart closer to love. Where was Hermit's mother-in-law's miracle?? I don't know her, I'm sure she was a neat person if Hermit thinks she was. Yet, for all we know perhaps she may have been ready to go. We don't know these things. We can't say. An outsider might think my father's three extra years accomplished nothing I know they did. We used to sit on the back patio in the summer evening and my Alzheimer ridden mother would read thirty year old Reader's Digests to us, thinking they were brand new, then I would slowly take my Dad back in. Step by step at the snail's pace, up the stairs of the back porch we knew every single move to make and we made them all with excruciating deliberation and slowness. My mother would always say "These are our golden moments."
We also spend tons of time in the ER. We were always going to the ER it was practically our hangout. Once my mother pushed my father off the porch because he was moving too slow and she, in her degenerated condition was a nut case, he broke three ribs. In spite of such halarity I can't say the golden moments weren't worth it.
My parents would put their chairs side by side overlooking the grass of the back yard and our wonderful pub Arnie would give them a show. He would tear thing sup and do back flips and flop on his back and stick his legs up in the air and writhe around scratching himself. They watched it like they were watching a circus, laughing and going "O look him!" One might think this was just an agonzing time and nothing else but it was a lot more than that. No one but God has the right to say what was a productive life and what was a waste of time.
I believe that God is in our agony and in our joy. God does care about the personal level. I know it's not easy to see it that way when you are hurting of faced with loss. That's not exactly the best time to evaluate anything. Perhaps the miracle can be as much in when you go as how or as in being saved from going. The only way to really understand is through an inner life. Only somehow who is seeking God in the heart can really get it. Once you do that then you need never doubt. For those outside looking in it can all look very different. Before we try to determine "prayer doesn't work" we have to ask "work for what's?" What is to be accomplished anyway? It's turning the heart to God, that's ultimate bottom line and that can be accomplished any number of ways. Ultimately, and free will is obvious to me, we must decide. I am the only one who can incline my heart to God. I must decide to do so. I must make the choice. Once made it has profound consequences. If you get it you get it.
There is never a good time for them to go, not from the perspective of those of us who lose someone we love. If it was up to me my parents would live forever. They are living forever. I have full assurance they are together. It's not a pleasnt thing when we lose connections we love but that is not the end and doesn't mean it's all for nothing, nor does it mean God doesn't care. God is with us in the sorrow and God will work it all out. As Julian of Norwich said a lot "all will be well."