Here is the next post in a series I am writing about a family I met in Uganda last year. New posts will be posted each Tuesday morning. Thank you for sharing in this story with me.
I know my God is a God of miracles – staffs to snakes, water to wine, imparted visions of heaven. From Genesis to Revelation, God steps into humanity and alters circumstances. I recognize that God is always intimately involved in the lives of his children, but there are brief moments when God plants his holy feet in the dirt of humanity and what follows can only be called a miracle – the moments when the veil between the divine and the mortal is briefly parted.
These sacred moments are the hallmark of Christians. We are eager to see evidence that our faith is not in vain, that there is reason for our belief in an unseen God. This eagerness sometimes causes us to read into situations, trying desperately to make them fit our idea of a miracle. Maybe it’s the conservative denomination I grew up in, but I have always been hesitant to throw around the word miracle. I don’t deny their existence. I’m just judicious with how I use the term.
But even in my hesitancy, I couldn’t deny that the circumstances surrounding Joseph were miraculous.
When the staff saw Joseph in the clinic in Mityana, we were immediately aware that his needs exceeded the scope of our crude resources. His swollen face and bulging eye suggested a tumor, and conversations with his father, Ellya, substantiated our fear. With no way to help, we sent them back to their village. There was no peace with that decision. But what else could we do?
Then we met Dr. Jay. In our previous stay at The Enro Hotel we had never run into any other Mzungus, and suddenly there were six of them. Dr. Jay and his family were spending 6 months in Uganda running medical clinics. His contacts were vast and in a short conversation he agreed to see Joseph. On Tuesday we had sent Joseph home to die. By Wednesday afternoon he was in Kampala having a CT scan at Mulago Hospital.
It looked miraculous enough! How else do you explain the orchestration of people in the right place at the right time? Joseph had a biopsy, was treated and the prognosis looked promising.
And I think that’s how we Christians like things. We would never come right out and say it, but if we are honest some of us battle what I call equation theology; A (present problem) + B (doing the right thing, praying, etc) = C (the desired outcome). We found a sick child, prayed fervently for his healing, located the resources he needed and expected God to heal him. It would be a miracle. We could count on God to ante up, right?
But a few months later Joseph died. Therein lies the problem with using the word miracle. In our culture it implies a positive outcome. Ellya had to bury another child. Pross and Godfrey lost another sibling. How is that positive? The result wasn’t what we prayed for. Does that negate the explicitly miraculous events that brought us all together? If we measure God by the outcome we desire we reduce him something as simple as 1 + 1= 2
It’s tempting to try and define what God’s will is in any given situation and in doing so we risk missing the bigger picture. If I tried to tie divine will into a neat package with a bow on top and call it a miracle, I’d be disappointed. How could I not be? Joseph died. When I take the time to look at the larger picture, I still see the miraculous. I see a beautiful little boy who is no longer suffering. I see two neglected children who are being nurtured. I see a father who was given the resources to do everything that could be done to save his son. And I realize one more time that even though I believe in God there will always be things I don’t understand, but God is bigger than my questions.