I wanted the miracle. We got the revelation.
Here is today’s first reading. The promise of the new Jerusalem, part of the prophecy of Isaiah.
Here is today’s Gospel. The healing of the royal official’s son, the second sign in the Gospel of John.
And here is my whole heart, caught between the two.
The same Scripture passage from Isaiah was read at our daughters’ funeral.
(Among the handful of sentences in the English language that I wish I never had to write, that might top the list. That possessive pronoun and plural apostrophe still wreck me.)
And yet, they were the best words for the worst day. The promise that one day there will be no more weeping, no more crying, no more babies who live but a few days.
Sign me up. Let me hope. Pull me out of the pit. Lift me toward the light with the hope that one day no more parents will have their dreams crushed to dust.
But wait: there is more. There is always the rub.
Today’s Gospel, too. Two sides of hope held in tension: the promise and the fulfillment.
That man’s son was healed. And what a perfect, dazzling story – down to the detail of the exact hour when he asked Jesus to heal his boy, his wish was granted.
His child got the miracle. Why not mine?
To be honest: in the dark I secretly want to pretend the happy ending stories are mere fairy tales.
It is an awful, sneaking truth about suffering (and some are brave enough to whisper it to others who understand): all at once you want no one else to have to be here and everyone else to be here, too – so you don’t feel alone, so you don’t feel abandoned.
But not everyone knows trauma carved onto their skin or tragedy rewiring their cells. Children are saved, too! And of course I want this, desperately. I am a mother to the living and to the dead.
Yet I am caught for now between the Gospel and the first reading.
Between what was and what shall be.
. . .
When I walk hospital hallways in the years since our twins died, I cannot look at the photos of survivors. Each one makes my heart skip a beat: miracle, miracle, miracle. Instead I hold my breath and watch my shoes and count my steps: walk, walk, walk.
Some day I will get there, some people want to tell me.
Some day. Not today.
The world will celebrate miracles and survivors forever. And glory be, for they are sign and wonder, and without them perhaps none of us could believe.
But my call is to those whose stories will never shine from glossy plaques or front-page news. The ones for me are the broken ones.
The forgotten, the suffering, the grieving, the wandering lost. Caught between the miracle and the revelation.
. . .
The miracle is a sign. A wonder. An exception. An in-breaking. An undoing.
It is not a way of life.
But a revelation? That is given to all of us. A dream wide enough for all broken hearts. A wake-up call for slumbering souls. A vision of what could be and what will be.
Revelation is the horizon of God’s view: behold what is bigger, broader, holier, healed, restored, renewed.
Forever the miracle stories will make me wistful. What might have been, what could have been.
I still believe in stories that don’t make sense, the wonder of the inexplicable, the daily reminder that nothing is impossible for God.
(Even though the cold hard facts of my story could be atheists’ proof or cynics’ sneer: of course sick babies die; that’s how nature works.)
I still reach out to the One who could see one parent’s love and fear, who could heal one child, who could bring one whole community to believe in what they would never forget.
(Even if I never understand why one prayer is heard and answered as requested, while another is simply heard.)
But I will cling to what is unseen with a fierceness that I can no longer sink into a miracle. Revelation is ultimate, unsettling in the best ways, breaking open the shoddy foundations of our own constructions, overshadowing our limits by a blinding brilliant better.
I believe in a bigger forever than my own story. I believe that time and space are only now. I trust that the ultimate in-breaking will destroy death and smash grief – and behold: our eyes will be dry and bright and clear.
Revelation will stretch and widen us to see fully what a miracle can only glimpse. How sorrow will transform into joy.
So I will always live on the cusp of these words (and I will write them down, whatever is true and trustworthy): that God is about to create anew. Behold: all is about to change.
Teetering on the edge of everything our hearts desire, we are held back only by boundaries of here and now. God is held back by nothing.
This is the dark side of light: “The miracles are like flares calling attention to the glory of God. They’re signs of the great redemption to come.”
This is why today’s readings are everything to grieving parents – and all of those who ache for what we do not have. Healing, forgiveness, answers, clarity. A home, a spouse, a job, a child. Peace, health, security, love.
We are caught between, already and not-yet.
But we have learned the hard, hurting way that the boundaries are not solid walls. What the miracle whispers, the revelation will shout: what we know will melt away.