"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Do you believe in Miracles?

Recently, our Sunday school class was talking about some of Jesus' early miracles and then asked if anyone had ever witnessed a miracle.  I stayed pretty quiet...

The Catechism says a miracle is:
a sign or wonder, such as a healing or the control of nature, which can only be attributed to divine power.

Practicing medicine has led me to believe that there are no modern day miracles.  I've seen young people with horrible malignancies, patients with several different kinds of cancer throughout their lifetimes, and the nicest of folks die slowly from ALS or Alzheimer's.  I have never witnessed any of these people having experienced a miraculous healing.  Illness can be very mean.  It can be relentless, and feel unfair.  And I guess I think it makes more sense to believe that God, no matter how much he might want to, won't move us around like a chess piece and intervene with a miracle.  I believe Jesus performed miracles when he walked on this earth, and I suspect the saints, like Mother Teresa, have indeed as well.  But for most of us, I don't think it's wise to sit around waiting for a miraculous healing. 

Yes, I've seen people be cured of disease.  The "miracle" of modern medicine and the power of great technology and science allows for much of that.  I believe God's hand has guided those scientists and physicians who've created effective treatments, preventions or cures for such diseases.  I'm a big believer in the power of prayer to help our loved ones have the strength to endure those tough treatments or long days.  I believe God engulfs us in his love along our journeys. 

But if you want to talk about miracles, I think they're more subtle today than they were in Jesus' time.

I've seen what I've called the "calm before the storm," when a dying person on hospice has a few lucid hours right after their son arrives from Illinois.  Those tiny grace-filled hours felt like a miracle.  I've seen that kind of mercy several times, and held the hands of those beautiful dying people.  It's probably the greatest honor of practicing medicine. 

Sometimes, "blessings come in raindrops." (Laura Story)  But never have I seen God sweep down and save anyone who I knew from a medical standpoint was going to die.  Not saying it's never happened before, just not in my experience.

[Please note, this is simply my opinion and no attempt at theology.] 

Why am I writing about this today?  Well, lately I've been pondering about this quite a bit.  It's fascinating to me how people have reacted to my thus far healthy pregnancy.  I haven't been offended, and I don't mean any of this in a negatively judgmental way, it's just that these comments plus life itself have made me very contemplative.  One common mention is about how adoption is a cure for infertility.  As nice a sentiment as they intend, unfortunately, I know this simply isn't true.  I've held the hands of many who've adopted... and are still infertile.  Those stories of families who conceive while or after adopting, are memorable, which makes them feel more common than they actually are.

I've been pregnant seven times, and I'd hardly call that a miracle.  One of the strangest things about life, I've found, is how equally truthful disparate thoughts can seem.  For instance, when I think about all the ways that a pregnancy can go wrong, it seems amazing to me that it ever goes right.  And yet, in the wise words of my obstetrician, "there aren't seven billion people in the world for no reason."  Sperm and eggs come together every day, all over the world, to make tiny humans.  I imagine for a moment the plight of some of those babies in their wombs and soberly know that no one is calling them a miracle. 

In our case, I feel like our pregnancy, which has now made it six months with relatively good health, is an awesome privilege that I cherish dearly, but no miracle.  Certainly, God's hand is upon us, and I'm ever thankful for his wonderful providence in our lives.  I'm praying like crazy that this baby continues to be healthy and that I deliver a live baby boy in a few months.  And I do believe in the power of prayer.  But I also believe that this is part of God's great design, just like the five deaths that preceded it were.  I just can't believe that God intervened this time and not the five times before. 

In part, I believe that our healthy baby in my womb is still living due to some darn good medicine and science - both of which could still betray me at any moment. 

What feels a lot more like a miracle to me, is the hundreds of small events that had to line up just perfectly for a homeless woman in LA to find my family in the burbs of PA, and give us her baby. 

I'm equally thankful for all three of my boys and the unique paths that brought them into my life.  God is good, all the time.  If this one that I'm carrying now dies tomorrow, I'll still be thankful for God's hand upon me.  If this baby never makes it home, it won't take away from God's providence over us one bit, but would anyone call this pregnancy a miracle then? 

It's just semantics, whether they or we call our baby boy a blessing or a miracle.  I'm certainly not offended if you choose the later, I'm delighted either way.  Just sharing my thoughts as they tumble around in my hormonal brain. 

Being a mother, even more so than being a physician, is the greatest honor of my life. 

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