"If he could climb it, he climbed it. If he could write it, he wrote it. If he could dance it, well, we all know he did. He lived.”
– Kenneth Ortega.
And God Slowly
One sunny afternoon, I sat with my friend David on my bed after church – his church. We were lying down staring up at the ceiling, our legs dangling off the edge, our arms entwined like limp spaghetti. We talked about what the minister had said about prayer and the great it does in our lives. As we sat there in the beautiful wooden pews of this glorious Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills, the minister spoke of a woman who’d shown up at her parish in New York. She was banging on the door on a Saturday afternoon. And when they opened the door for her, she told this minister of the rare form of cancer she’d been diagnosed with, a cancer that strikes pregnant women. She was desperate, pounding on the door as she pounded away at her fears. She begged for an answer –- what becomes of my child if I die? Why me? Can you pray for me? Can you pray for me? And the minister said yes. To please come to church the next day for Sunday’s sermon and we’ll make an announcement and everyone will hear and they’ll all pray and the prayer will spread – faster than the cancer if we can. Faster than the cancer if we can. And the woman stopped crying and promised to come tomorrow. And she did. And she came the next Sunday and the Sunday after that. She even joined support groups at the church and bible study groups and the prayers continued – they began in the youth groups where they’d pray for her before beginning their sessions. Then the elder groups would pray for her as well – they’d speak of their friends who’d passed away and how they’d prayed and prayed and how it had helped. They hadn’t felt as hopeless. And then the church began prayer chains over the phone, once a week. And everyone took to the prayers like children take to pb&j. They prayed as if prayer were a treat. They practically prayed in their sleep. And the prayers woke them up in the night and they – the people of this church – found themselves swept up in her story. In healing this sick pregnant woman. And as the days and weeks and finally the months bore on, the woman would come into church and make announcements about how her health was improving and that the doctors couldn’t explain the shrinking tumor. They were dumbfounded. And she was smiling widely and everyone looked on at her as if she were their own child – their Christ child, and she merely stood up in her pew and smiled, holding up her most recent bill of health. Then one day as her pregnancy found her large with anticipation, she couldn’t help herself – she stood up during the announcements and told the entire congregation that her cancer was gone. It was no longer in her body, poisoning her and her baby. It had fled. And she was clutching this clean bill of health, her tears falling off her chin, spilling onto her white blouse. She was clean and hopeful. And the congregation responded by clapping – old Mrs. Wilson hadn’t been this happy since her first husband died and left her in peace – and then the congregation cried as well. Soon the whole church was a river flowing with tears of joy. They’d all been a part of this; they’d been witnesses to her recovery. They’d spoken and been heard and touched someone’s life and been touched by hers and soon a baby would be born, and they’d all be the godmothers and godfathers of this miracle child. The church was one big family that day. And eighteen years later, she was still a devoted member whose son was entering college.
And as I left church that day, I asked the minister about prayer. About its’ efficacy. I wondered because we prayed too. My family and our friends. We gathered together at our house to pray for Mom and we lit candles and held hands and were grateful. And I did go to college years later – except she wasn’t around to see me on that bright campus amidst those smart, pony-tailed girls. So I wondered on this particular Sunday about the efficacy of prayer. And the minister answered my question with something very ministerly –everyone’s prayers are answered in different ways. We can not always understand at the moment what our prayers are doing, how they are healing, yet we must believe that they are working for us, as we need them to.
And I told David on my bed about this – about what she’d said and he could tell that I was not satiated by her words. I still wondered and the sun fell across our faces as we lay there. And then he said something that is probably the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me about my mom. As we lay there on my bed on a lazy Sunday after brunch and before our distracted weeks would sweep us away from each other and months would go by before we even exchanged a voicemail he began,
“I didn’t know your mother, but I bet -- No. I know that when your Mom died,” and he looked at me with an unforgettable certainty, “God cried too.” And I could feel a tear slip out of my eye. I didn’t have time to think about what he said, only to feel it. But I realized that up until that moment, I’d never seen God as human, as feeling. I’d only seen him as black and white and mean and nice and good and bad and caring and not caring. And I suppose I had put him in the bad category regarding my Mom and I’d lost faith in him, stopped believing and up until that day, I hadn’t known what was irritating me. Something barely perceptible – like a small fuzz on your eyelash that keeps you from seeing clearly. Still it irritates you and you swipe at it, missing it again and again. When David said that, I found the fuzz. And I cried because I saw something clearly. I believed him. And God slowly became a friend again. We met again that day on my bed. I welcomed him in through my window along with the sun, across the blankets and on top of my pillows, touching my hair and massaging my sore legs. He came back to me, she came back to me and we were no longer alone.
Go out into the world, my little blades, and be extraordinary.