The Bishop’s E-Pistle: It’s A Miracle?

“He made a miraculous recovery, and now presents for cranioplasty.”

This was one sentence in the neurosurgeon’s report from Nathan’s recent surgery to replace the right side of his skull.

A miraculous recovery. What does a neurosurgeon mean when they use that word? Does “miraculous” just mean “unlikely and unexpected”? Did she see some sort of divine intervention in his recovery?

As a priest, I have been pastorally uncomfortable with people attributing recovery from illness to the realm of the miraculous. The idea that God would choose one person to recover, and by implication choose not to heal another, is not consonant with my understanding of divine presence and action in the world. God loves all of God’s children, and does not play favorites. Illness is not sporting event, where if you have enough teammates who are actively praying for you, or if you are particularly skilled in prayer, then you can beat the illness.

And yet, here I am, the mother of a son who is making a miraculous recovery. And who was prayed for by so many people, all over the world.

The English word “miracle” comes from the Latin word for “wonder.” A miracle is a cause for wonder. My son’s health is most certainly a cause for wonder. I am awed by the skill of the EMTs and physicians and nurses and medical professionals who have brought him back from the brink of death. I am wondrous at the wealth of knowledge acquired over generations that has empowered them to cure his wounds, and set him on this path towards health.

And I wonder at God’s blessing and presence in the midst of all the tears, prayers, hopes, and fatigue. But then, I do see God’s blessing and presence in so many moments in my life.

A few years ago, I “won” the rights to select a text for the composition of a piece of sacred music at The Church of the Epiphany’s annual fundraising auction by my organist and friend Larry Long. After reflection, I dedicated the piece in thanksgiving for Nathan, and chose a portion of “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman as the text. The anthem is shortly to be published by Paraclete Press, and you can look it up soon.

Reading these words again now, I have a new appreciation for them, especially for the end, that some of the divine words that I have seen dropped by the wayside shall remain for the next person who finds themselves on the path I have followed these last months. May that divine word be as much a blessing and wonder to the next person as it has been to me.

“I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.”

—Walt Whitman, Song of Myself