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I was mid-way through a weekend speaking engagement at Morning Star Church in Kansas last January when I got the call that my father’s battle with cancer had escalated. He was in the hospital with pneumonia and wasn’t expected to make it through the weekend. The Morning Star folks were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to go. I’ll never forget it! So I dropped everything and caught the next flight out to Portland.
It’s in desperate times like these that we long for God to show up in some powerful way.
I know that’s what I was praying somewhere in the skies between Kansas City and Portland. Then it dawned on me that the way he most often shows up is through his Image Bearers. No lightening bolt or voice from heaven. No glorious shining epiphany. No miraculous healing. Just the simple and ordinary loving acts of God’s children who arrive on the scene to do whatever they can think of to help in the agonizingly brutal battle against cancer. As his child I have the potential of being at least one way he shows up.
And yet, we are mistaken to think that in the silent darkness of our struggles we are ever all alone.
That’s the timely subject (at least for me in the aftermath of my father’s death) of the guest blog Rachel Held Evans posted on her blog today. “Just a Mediocre Miracle” by blogger Neely Stansell-Simpson is the story of three-generations of ezers—her mother battling cancer, her three-year old daughter Sophie, and Neely herself caught in the middle.
I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
Neely ends with this fitting and much needed reminder that it is actually in these black-out places, where we feel utterly alone and there are no hints of God’s presence, that he is most present and doing some of his best and deepest work in us:
It was thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, but it is a visit that for all our madness and cynicism and indifference and despair we have never quite forgotten. The oxen in their stalls. The smell of hay. The shepherds standing around. That child and that place are somehow the closest of all close encounters, the one we are closest to, the one that brings us closest to something that cannot be told in any other way. This story that faith tells in the fairytale language of faith is not just that God is, which God knows is a lot to swallow in itself much of the time, but that God comes. Comes here. “In great humility.” There is nothing much humbler than being born: naked, totally helpless, not much bigger than a loaf of bread . . . The world has never been quite the same since. It is still a very dark world, in some ways darker than ever before, but the darkness is different because he keeps getting born into it. The threat of holocaust. The threat of poisoning the earth and sea and air. The threat of our own deaths. The broken marriage. The child in pain. The lost chance. Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often (italics mine).– Frederick Buechner