What was that?
Whatever else crosses my mind in morning’s first moments between sleeping and rising, there is always one thought, persistent and urgent.
What was that?
The intensity of grief’s earliest weeks and months has settled into a dull acceptance: this is our life now. We pack lunches, fold laundry, drive kids, talk about work over dinner. One day after the next.
But in the middle of every day, the thought rises and stays, stubborn.
What happened in that NICU room? What are we supposed to do with it now?
You can read the whole story here. More people have read this than almost anything else I’ve written. I still get stories regularly from readers, people who have experienced something of the same – the strangeness of joy in darkness, comfort in despair. They don’t need help to make sense of what happened to them; they know exactly what – or Who – it was.
But what most of them say is this: I never told anyone else. People don’t understand.
. . .
We didn’t get the miracle we wanted. Our babies died.
We wanted answers, and we got presence. We wanted healing, and we got love. We wanted a miracle, and we got joy.
(Maybe these are all the same thing.)
For months since our daughters died, the understanding has been growing in me, deepening its roots as I rise and wait and wonder what was that?
The realization is this. Though I have given my life’s work to theology’s questions, answers are not what matter. Reason and logic are human constructions, a scaffolding built higher and higher to try and touch God.
But answers crumble.
This is why there is no satisfying solution to the problem of evil or suffering. You can create what seems like a solid, strong explanation (and believe me, people offer them to me on the regular), but human reasons fall apart.
The choice is clear to me. I can spend the rest of my life chasing a slippery why? Or I can set aside my scrambling after answers and learn how to live into the presence of God.
. . .
We wanted a different NICU miracle. We wanted our daughters healed and saved, healthy and here.
Instead we got – I don’t know what to call it. Joy and God and heaven wrapped into one. Love’s fullness in which we had no questions.
And this is the point that my husband and I still talk about all the time: No questions. No answers. None.
All my life I’ve been collecting a long list (growing over the years, bitter in places) of Questions I Am Going To Bring Before God And Demand To Know Why And How, When I Get The Chance.
I got the chance. Every question fell away. I learned logic has no place in the fullness of Love.
I realize this could sound trite or ring hollow. I do not dismiss our yearning for understanding, our struggling in the face of suffering. This is what makes us most human.
All I know is that when I got closest to God, my lifetime’s worth of gnawing questions disappeared. I noticed they were gone, but I could not even tell you what they had been.
The fistfuls I wanted to fling at the feet of God had simply evaporated.
. . .
So now what? This is my question when I get up each morning and when I sit down to write.
What do you do after a miracle?
A life based not on questions-and-answers is a tricky proposition. There are no owner’s manuals. All I can do is live into the presence of the One who was revealed to me – and to the person I love most in this world – as love and joy and comfort. All I know is that much of my scaffolding has crumbled, and I am left with the solid knowing that God is, that God is love, and that God is love eternal.
I always wondered what happened to people after the miracle. Did Lazarus lead a long, lovely life? Did the daughter raised or the leper cured or the servant healed go on to a charmed existence? Or were they made outcasts, the odd ones whose lives did not add up to the logic and standards of their society? Did the miracle continue to transform them, changing them over time?
Maybe all miracles are unexpected. Maybe this is part of the definition. We decide the world works in a certain way, the way we have always known it to work. And suddenly – startlingly – we find God intervening in a way we never saw before.
Our lives are undone and remade because of this. We cannot be the people we were before.
What does a miracle mean, months later?
We wanted answers, and we were given God.
We didn’t get what we expected. (This may be the entire story of faith.)
We cannot yet see where this miracle will lead.