September 19, 2015

It was 3 a.m. when I answered the phone call from the Labor and Delivery Unit of the children’s hospital where I was working in 2003.

“Chaplain, we have a baby not doing well,” the nurse reported. “Parents are asking that you ‘please come.’”

Thirty minutes later, I stood at the mother’s listening to her tell me of her journey through a problem pregnancy. She’d nursed thin hopes that doctors would find things to be more fixable than previously predicted. But now it was obvious that the baby had underdeveloped lungs and a leaky heart, and mom was wrestling with the doctor’s recommendation for birthday surgery.

“Had God just teased us?” she wondered. “What do we have to do? How do we pray? Would it help to baptize the baby? Can you baptize her? We’ve got to do something! She’s got to have a chance.”

In my religious tradition, we don’t baptize babies. But those who would argue theology at a time like that have never looked into the eyes of desperate parents and heard them plead, “Do something, Chaplain!”

So, I asked the nurse to help me wheel the mother into our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where we could have a prayer.

Pronounced “nick-you,” the unit is a world of wires, IV bottles and backlit beds. It’s very close quarters, where doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists squeeze through tangled tubes to deliver highly specialized health care to the tiniest people you’ll ever see. But as cramped as it was, the staff made room for us when we arrived for this “emergency blessing.”

I opened a bottle of sterile water and placed a drop on the baby’s forehead. My prayer was simple: “Hold this child in your hand and help her hear your voice. Bless his life, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

With that, Momma’s whimpers melted into weeping as she took her daughter’s tiny hand and — finding a spot that wasn’t wrapped, poked or monitored — she placed a kiss in that tiny palm and whispered something into those tiny fingers. Then, as if she had placed a thing of priceless value in her daughter’s grip for safekeeping, she closed it tight.

This mother’s love reminds me of the miraculous way God whispers his love into the hand of each of us when we are born — placing there a promise that, no matter what, he will never let us go. And having pledged that love to us from our first breath to our last, he wraps our fingers around that promise for safekeeping.

The Apostle Paul wrote “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I sometimes forget how personal and deep God’s love is for each of us. As a minister I often talk about the depth of God’s love, but it took witnessing this mother’s heartfelt whisper into a tiny hand to remind me that God’s love is forever present.

I’ll never know the exact words that she entrusted to her daughter’s grip. But in the coming weeks of miraculous procedures and risky surgeries, the real miracle was that this child never released the grip of her mother’s promise — and three months after her birth, she went home a healthy little girl.

Excerpt from No Small Miracles by Norris Burkes
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