Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Please, God....

She sat waiting for news. Would her son live or die? If he lived, would he get his mental capacity back? Would he even be the same young man he had been before with his humor, vitality, and intellect?

The following week, I’m sitting with other parents. Their new son is terribly premature. I’m shocked at how tiny he is—he could fit in the palm of my hand.

The latest news is not good. He is struggling for his life.

The couple had so wanted this child. This was an in vitro attempt and it was their last chance.

I am reminded of the movie, The House of Sand and Fog. In part, it is about a man who had immigrated to the U.S. and was struggling with his pride as he struggled financially to be the success he had once been.

Near the end of the movie, his son is accidentally shot. As the boy is dying the father is in the waiting room, praying to Allah. He is on his knees pleading, negotiating, even cajoling with bribes. In the end he is shrieking repeatedly:



The parents I sat with were quieter, but that’s what they were praying, too.

They had people all around them offering spiritual advice:

“You have to be strong.”

“You have to believe.”

“Stand up to that ole devil!”

“God won’t give you more than you can bear.”

I wanted to yell at them to shut the hell up.

I remember when Jesus entered a man’s house whose daughter had just passed, he made all the people leave the room. Did he want them to shut the hell up, too? I bet he did.

I knelt by the woman whose son was injured and took her hand. I wanted to kiss it, but I knew that was too intimate.

She said what a lot of people say around here say during their hard times: “I hope you never have to go through anything like this.”

I hugged her and said, “I wish you weren’t going through it now.”

With the young couple, I brought my chair up close, faced them directly and placed my hands on each of their forearms. The young father turned his head to hide his weeping. Good. He needed to cry.

When I pray for people at these times, I do not read from liturgy as some of my colleagues do. Nor do I screech frantic orders for God to heal someone… in the name of Jesus.

I either say nothing or speak softly. I speak of our fears and feelings of helplessness. And I ask big—for healing. I refuse to hedge my bets with “If it be thy will.” I assume God is going to do what he chooses. So I spend my time saying what I want.

I have sons, too. Ministering to people who lose theirs can make me terribly afraid late in the night. In my heart I say what these parents are saying even as I write these words:

Please God, all I want is my son.


  1. Powerful stuff, Clergy Guy. It's times like those that test all of us. Sometimes I think the words of encouragement we say are as much to encourage us as it is to encourage others.

  2. "They had people all around them offering spiritual advice" - reminds me of Job. God told them to shut the hell up, too.

    One of the things they don't tell you about being a father: even reading about this stuff will break your heart. Thank God for people like you, who are there when these people need it.

  3. Mike, I think their friends certainly meant to be encouraging, and I think you're on to something--they were encouraging themselves too.

    Sanityman, I think about Job's friends, too. He once told them: "Look on me and be afraid." which meant they should consider that they could be hurt, too.

    Thank you for allowing your heart to be broken by these people's stories.

  4. Clergy Guy--Yesterday I witnessed a sadistic act of emotional violence that was completed faster than I could stop it. Today I have raged and cursed like a sailor with boiling oil running down his chest. But tonight, you made the JagWar cry. Sometimes I'm just not that tough.

    On the other hand, have you noticed that many people (usually men) who don't cry are like athletes running a marathon with a large sack of rocks around their necks, complaining about not making better time?

    So thank you for helping me shed some tears, and a few rocks. I don't believe I have ever met a clergyperson who is your equal. If God is still in the blessing business (which I doubt every time I hear of a child's death), then may he bless you. And if he won't, then I do.


  5. JagWar, thank you so much. I hope for your pain to be healed, too.