Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Miracle? You Tell Me

The New Testament gives accounts of a number of events which we typcially call miracles. Jesus is credited with healing numerous people, commanding the climate, walking on water and even raising the dead. There are even passages which state that Jesus did many more miracles than we have record of. Whatever you believe about that stuff, it is remarkable that all these stories are credited to the one man, Jesus.
While many fantastical televised 'ministers' claim to preform miracles (for a nominal fee) and plenty of churches hold healing services during which people fall down, shake and quake, and speak in jibber-jabber which is supporsed to be tounges, I just can't buy into the notion that these magic-seeming miracles still happen at the drop of a prayer today. Call me a cynic, or say that I just don't have enough faith (as if faith is something that can be measured and quantified), but I'm just not into that stuff.
I will admit that the advances in medical health care often seem like modern day miracles. I know they would to someone from the ancient world. The fact that we can open a person's chest, remove his heart and replace it with a different heart is unbelievably astounding. I'd call that a miracle.
Some have a different approach to the topic. For instance, my family has two claims to fame in the miracle department. My parents were in a terrible car accident when I was in high school. My dad was ejected from the rear windsheild of their Explorer and landed some 60 feet away. Initial reports say he suffered a broken neck and severe lacerations to some vital organs. Once moved to a larger hospital, scans revealed what appeared to be an old yet healed football injury to the neck (dad never played football) and scars on the same vital organs. In the end, he was and is fine, though 99% of the time people die from such accidents.
Two years ago my cousin had a low-level sky diving accident and wound up in some trees and then the ground badly injured. I love my cousin and was scared. Early prognoses were grim; however, she surprised the medical staff and took turns for the better. Her recovery has taken this long, and she'll always have some lasting effects, but she's mostly back to normal.
Evangelical Christians use stories like these everyday in an attempt to prove God's existence and activity in our world to non-Christians. As if God could be proven.
I am skeptical of such stories serving as proof of God (and especially such techniques of evangelism) even when they happen within my own family. This is partially because I see many families everyday at the hospital praying, hoping, needing a miracle who don't get one. Why would my family get two and others none?
However, there was this one time...
A woman collapsed at home in typical heart failure fashion. "A cardiac arrest is coming in," I am told over the phone. EMS did what they could, but quickly told the family that Sue was gone. Once at the hospital, Sue was taken to "the room." The Room is where they take patients that don't make it. Medical staff worked on her with vigor but little hope. At the very same moment the physician stopped everything in order to note the time of death her pulse returned. In 7 months as a chaplain I've never seen someone come out of "the room" alive...until now. She was moved to an ICU but still with a dreadful prognosis. "She won't make it through the night," said the doc to the fam.
But she did make through the night. In fact, when I checked on her the next morning her vitals had improved. The next day, I saw her and though she was intubated and couldn't speak, her eyes were open and she smiled at me as I talked to her. One more day passed, and I popped my head through her door and was greeted with, "Hey Nathan!" OMG, she was awake, alert and talking as if just fine. In my experience, even patients who come in with less severe heart problems don't recover this quickly.
So we chatted, I shook her hand and heard her story. "Do you have any memories from when you went down?" I asked. "Nope," she replied, "no bright lights. But last night I did have a dream about my daughter who died a few years ago." "What was that like?" I said.
This is what Sue's daughter said: "Hey momma, you know how you love bright colors? You aint seen nothing yet! Hey momma, wait till you see my new house! Hey momma, wait till you see Jesus, ooh just you wait!"
Sue was full of energy and full of life. In a way, she seemed like a miracle. Now again, I don't know if miracles happen today like we read about in the pages of the New Testament, but when I shook her hand I was tickled (to death!). By all accounts she shouldn't be alive, and if alive then not this healthy. Was this a miracle? You tell me.


Vicki Hesse said...

that was SUPERchaplain at work! just another day at the office...

Audrey said...

What do you mean by miracle? Defining it is an important thing when talking about this stuff. Dictionary.com has four meanings, the first two of which mention god, or supernatural causes of an event. The second two definitions are more general "marvels" that don't mention the divine.

If there is a 1 in 100 chance that taking someone to "the room" will save their life, i would not expect them to live through it and i would prepare the family for the worst. And i imagine that if no one was ever resuscitated in the room, they would stop taking people to the room at all. But that one person's life who is able to be saved is worth it. The 1 in 100 chance (or whatever the statistic is) is worth trying for everyone, knowing that you're only going to get one. Is it a miracle when you find that one person you can save? I would say yes, absolutely. But i mean it in the sense that it is a marvel and a wonder that it happened and we witnessed it, not that i think there was divine intervention.