Have you ever experienced those who claim to have enough faith to move mountains? In my career as a hospital chaplain, I have witnessed those who have boasted many things regarding their ability to get results when they pray only to find excuses for why their prayer “demands” failed to be answered. I would like to relay two stories based on my personal observations while serving in a hospital that I trust will shed some light on the difference between speaking and listening.
Story number one:
One day I was called to a hospital room where the patient had just given birth to her still born child. As I stood at the bedside witnessing the great sadness on both the mother and father’s face, I began to offer prayers of comfort for each of them. Soon there was a knock at the door and in walked a relative carrying fresh flowers and a box of chocolates. She had the biggest smile on her face. I found out later she was the child’s aunt and the mother’s sister. When she began to witness the sad countenance on the faces of the mom and dad she began to inquire as to what had happened. When the news was shared that the baby was dead, the smile vanished from her face and the news was soon shared with the child’s grandmother.
As I continued to witness this very sad event, I learned that the grandmother participated in a charismatic faith group. I recall the child’s aunt conversing with the grandmother over the phone. Once they had concluded their conversation the aunt asked the nurse if she could see the child’s body. The child’s body was in a different room that was connected to Labor and Delivery. The nurse and I ushered the aunt to where the child’s body lay. Once the aunt saw the child she reached for her cell phone and called the grandmother. The cell phone was placed on speaker and what I witnessed next has remained with me.
The grandmother instructed her daughter, the child’s aunt, to hold the infant’s body. Next she began to pray a prayer that gave an indication that she was not accepting the child’s death and it would be just a matter of time before the child would be breathing once more. I recall the wide eyed expression on the nurse’s face. I could tell this was a new experience for her. Once the prayer was concluded the last thing the grandmother told her daughter was to give her a call when the child starts breathing. The child never started breathing.
Story number two:
While making patient rounds one day, I came upon an elderly grandmother who was admitted into the hospital to undergo some tests. Our conversation at first was the kind that indicated a new acquaintance. As we continued to converse, I could tell this was a woman of faith. She had such a genuine smile. While talking she said she wanted to tell me a story. I told her I would love to hear her story so I settled in with anticipation to what she was about to share.
She indicated that there was a call that came from the hospital bearing news of her newborn grandson’s demise. She told me that one of her other grandchildren rushed into the room where she was, expressing this news to her and urging her to get into the family car so they could get to the hospital as quickly as possible. I got the impression that this news did not cause her the same kind of panic she was experiencing from the rest of the family. She reported to me that while they were traveling to the hospital she heard a voice in her spirit proclaim, “…the baby is back!” She spoke these words to her family members in the car. She indicated to me their lack of understanding of what she expressed so she said, “I just kept it to myself.”
When they arrived at the Emergency Room she told me she went immediately to the room where the baby’s lifeless body lay on the gurney. A nurse was in the room and began expressing her sorrow at the death of the child. The grandmother exclaimed to the nurse what she had heard in her spirit while traveling to the hospital, “the baby’s back!” As soon as she voiced these words to the nurse the lifeless baby began breathing.
All the while she was telling me this story she was holding my hand. After relating this amazing story to me she squeezed my hand and looked at me and winked and said, “He’s now twenty-seven years old and he takes good care of me.”
Two stories with two grandmothers dealing with two lifeless babies. One grandmother assumed that she had enough faith to move mountains. One grandmother did not assume anything. One grandmother stepped into the role of a faith healer manipulating family members to do her bidding while the other grandmother simply waited to see what God was going to do if anything. One grandmother took it upon herself to presumed she knew what God’s will was for her grandchild. One grandmother simply listened.
What’s the difference between the spiritual understanding of these two grandmothers? The difference could be a lot of things. What I hold up for you to consider has to do with our sensitivities to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is described by Jesus as a wind blowing from where one does not know and to where one does not know but the leaves on the trees alert us that the Spirit is moving. I suppose one way to be alerted that the Spirit is moving is to hang up a wind chime. Think about it! There is no life without the Spirit. Jesus said that the Spirit of Truth will guide us. To assume that we can rush ahead of God convinced that our familiar scripture passages promising the results we demand somehow obligates God to act is absurd. We often get the cart before the horse based on our certainties. Certainty eliminates mystery and faith thrives on mystery.
Perhaps it would be better to simply make our request known to God and then wait for the Spirit to alert us of her presence and perhaps her instructions. Approaching situations in this manner will assure us that whatever we do best we do together with the Spirit. Our best move then would be to listen for the Spirit to reveal the mystery