Once you’ve experienced the tragedy or something like cancer or the death of a loved one, few words scare you such as “recurrence,” “relapse” or “again.”
It’s bad enough when tragedy comes into a life, but when it reappears you may begin to feel like there is a divine target placed on your back.
Last week, I met two sets of parents who were feeling targeted. These parents were facing the possible loss of their children while still working through the grief of having lost a parent.
As their children struggled, they wondered how they could be caught again in such karmic crosshairs.
There are times I try to find the Big Balance between good and bad luck. I search the scripture for support. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places or for language I’m more familiar with. Maybe I’m looking for grocery store signs: “2 tragedies for $5; limit 4” or “Tragic loss of a loved one, limit 1 per household.”
It’s dizzying to ask myself why. Instead, I try to refocus and make it more about what and how. What can I learn from this? How can I be of service to others?
Let’s face it, most of our whys are really about avoiding the pain that others are going through. We say, “If I knew why, I could figure out what to do.”
In between the what and the how, I do a lot of praying for miracles.
While I am praying for these families, I often wonder what makes a miracle. I find myself wondering if we look for miracles in the wrong places. Are miracles little pieces of “God dust” that grant our wishes? Are prayers for miracles like sending letters to the North Pole, hoping to be on the good list this time?
Miracles, to me can feel like the destination. I get caught up in where I want to go: Miracle, USA, 30 miles ahead. I focus on that endpoint and forget where I am in the moment. As I pray — pray hard — for this family, this child, myself, I realize I am on a journey, and in relationship with God.
It’s like my friend Chaplain Tamara Chin says, “I’m not ashamed to admit you will often find me begging: ‘Pleeease, pleeease, God, send us a miracle.’ ”
So, as I stood beside these families, all of us together in communion with the holy and aware of the deep and abiding love we have for our loved ones, we stood side-by-side, shouldering the fear and asking for a miracle.
What I want is to get these families their miracle. It’s a worthy goal, Yet because it’s so important, I will sometimes forget to notice the grace of simply being there, a witness to their love. And as we witness that love, we are seeing a miracle, sharing hearts with other people; acknowledging our frailties, hopes, fears, dreams; to standing, sitting, kneeling in the presence of God with another.
I wish I could promise these families that no one they love will ever be touched by cancer again. But I know there is no guarantee. I can only share in the miracle of God’s presence with them in the struggle, “even to the end of the World.”
That’s a promise I am able to fill. Still, I’m keeping my eye out for how to limit these tragedies. If anyone wants to pray with me for that miracle, I welcome the company.