Coming to terms with miracles
I read and think a lot about miracles and the power of the Spirit. I read and think a great deal about this because I don’t really understand all my own experiences. I know people who were deaf and now hear. I know people who were confined to wheel chairs who now walk around. I helped to spackle an entire house, two floors, spackled while on a mission trip with a tiny little ball of spackle in the bottom of a bucket. I have seen money from anonymous sources come in the mail to cover unexpected bills. I have seen enough to be pretty sure that “the era of miracles” is not in the past. I also have another miracle that is happening right in my home right now.
I don’t think anyone reads my blog who is not already a facebook friend. I don’t even think that 90% of my facebook friends read my blog. So, for the vast majority of my readers, this is not earth shattering or groundbreaking news, but my wife and I are going to have a baby. Even though we’ve known for a few weeks now, it is earth shattering and groundbreaking for us.
It is so amazing because it is impossible.
My wife has polycystic ovary syndrome. To explain what that is, we can take it apart. “Poly” is a prefix meaning “many.” Cystic, means having cysts, like boils or ruptures. So, polycystic means “many cysts.” Ovaries are the female reproductive areas, where eggs are stored. So, she has many cysts on her ovaries. “Syndrome” means a disease that is recurring or permanent. In the case of polycystic ovary syndrome (or PCOS, as it is often called), it is generally both in different ways. The cysts on the ovaries may be there or not at any given time, but because the ovaries are involved in hormone regulation, the syndrome is present in other ways throughout the body all the time.
The cysts can come and go. When she was 19, one of the cysts on one of her two ovaries got so big that the ovary had to be removed. That left her with one ovary and decreased her chances of fertility. It did not make conception impossible, just less likely. Years went by, she met me, we ended up getting married in June of 2008. After about a year we decided to stop doing anything to prevent pregnancy. I knew about my wife’s reproductive difficulties, but still figured one out of two ovaries made it a 50/50 chance when the time was right. So, it would just be a matter of time. It turned out to be a matter of a long time.
At first I didn't really pray for a child. That we would have A child was just sort of an assumption that I had. After a while I started to pray. I feel like God reveals Himself to me during prayer and speaks to me, though never in an audible voice. He almost always tells me the same thing, “don’t worry so much about it,” no matter what I am praying about. In small ways and large, God revealed, I felt, like a child was coming. Still, I couldn't be sure when, where or how. As time went by, I realized (wrongly) that whatever child we had wouldn't coming through the regular procedures (you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Check the video below if you don't.
Failing to Adopt
We did what we could afford to do to increase our chances, which wasn’t much. We don’t have the big bucks for the really wild procedures. After a couple of years, we sort of gave up. That just wasn’t how God was going to give us a baby. So, we would have to get children another way. We decided toward the end of 2011 that we would foster/adopt. It would be great. We signed up for foster care. We moved to a house that was more in keeping with the legal requirements. We had a home study where they made all kinds of recommendations for our home’s safety. We followed all those recommendations, plugging our outlets, fencing our fireplace, buying safety equipment, getting beds for the future children, etc. We went to hours and hours of meetings and training We subjected ourselves to intense psychological scrutiny from a firm designated to do that.
That was where the problems began. Suddenly, after all that work, time and expense, we were told that we couldn't be foster/adoptive parents right now. The person who evaluated us said that we've experienced “trauma” and that this trauma was something with which we’d not dealt sufficiently. She was wrong, at least on my part, regarding this. Part of what we needed, they said was therapy. You might not have to be perfect to be a foster parent, but you’d better not have had anything ever go on in your life.
On a side note:
I've been in therapy for almost two months now and all that my therapist can say regarding these traumas is that if they've affected me at all, it has been in making me a more adaptive, driven and capable person. Or that might be how I’d be anyway. No one can really guess. Still, I never would have thought to go to therapy if it hadn't been for the home study, and it has been great for other reasons. Mostly, just having someone with whom you can speak with absolute confidence regarding all the junk in life is really good. If you have insurance, get a therapist.
Back to the point:
So, we’d tried to conceive and that didn't work. We’d tried to adopt and that didn't work. Then we got worse news. We learned that my wife’s last remaining ovary had a large cyst on it. While it was possible that this cyst could someday heal, it meant that, for now, there was no chance of conception. While we could have some hope that although it hadn't been working so far, we might be able to conceive, this news meant that it was really, really not going to happen.
So, when my wife started to get sick a lot earlier in the year, the doctors would normally give a pregnancy test to a sexually active woman her age. In her case, however, they did not. It would be impossible, they thought, for her to be pregnant. I’ll save you the gory details, but eventually the various symptoms included some that required a trip to a relatively new doctor specializing in female issues. She finally gave a pregnancy test, and it was positive.
This woman would have been the doctor for the rest of my wife’s pregnancy, except that our insurance company wouldn't accept her because she is too new. I wonder, however, if this is exactly why she did the right thing. Her inexperience didn't allow her to realize that a pregnancy test would be wasted. Every more experienced medical professional would have known not to waste the time and money. But it wasn't a waste of time and money because my wife is pregnant.
So, the pregnancy is a miracle.
This pregnancy is a miracle. Another miracle with which I need to come to terms. As I said at the beginning, I've seen miracles before. I've seen them often, actually. But I've also seen something else. I've seen when there have not been miracles. I knew this blind guy who, every single time the Holy Spirit is active in a healing way, steps up for healing. Last time I saw him, he was still blind. I know people who fully believe in healing and come to church in wheel chairs. I know other couples struggling with infertility call out to God often, and still have no pregnancy.
There are a number of popular theories on miracles. One is that they don’t happen anymore, or maybe never happen at all. Many liberal theologians say that God has never caused anything. They see the Bible as human beings wrestling with concepts about God, a sourcebook for those of us doing the same, but not a source of factual truth. Many conservative theologians disagree with that, but take a dispensational view. They believe that miracles, prophesy, tongues and exorcism were necessary for the raising of the church, in what they call the “apostolic dispensation,” but that this time is over now.
I cannot agree with the liberal view because a sourcebook without facts is pretty dang useless. I can’t agree with the conservative view because 1) I have experienced too much and 2) because the Bible itself contradicts dispensational philosophy (Hebrews 13, Romans 4, Romans 11, oh, forget it, the whole Bible). If you can accept the Bible as fact, you can’t really accept miracles as passing away unless or until everything is perfect, at which point they will be unnecessary.
Another theory is that miracles only occur if the person receiving the miracle has enough faith. Just because this is really, really mean doesn't mean that it’s not true. You only get your miracle if you really believe enough. This certainly seems to be implied in some portions of scripture. The woman who was healed from the issue of blood, Jesus told her, was healed because of her faith (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48). Jesus asked the blind men if they believed he could heal them before he healed them (Matthew 9:28). Paul saw that a man “had faith to be healed” and healed him (Acts 14:9). Maybe if people aren't healed they should be blamed for their lack of healing because they possess a lack of faith. It is victimizing a person twice, but hey, that’s the way it works sometimes.
On the other hand, we’ve got Paul’s thorn in the flesh, which wasn’t healed despite his faith (II Cor. 12:7-10). We’ve also had instances of people without faith being healed. The “man blind from birth” didn’t seem to have any faith or even any clear idea of what was going on even after he was healed (John 9). The man “at the Gate called Beautiful” wanted money, not healing, and got healing (Acts 3:2-6). So, it’s not necessarily the faith of the person receiving the miracle which allows the miracle to be performed.
So, there’s another group who says that it is the faith of the one praying that heals people. Most of the Biblical miracles I can think of where no one prayed with faith and things happened anyway are not the nice kind of miracle. I mean, no one really prayed for Nadab and Abihu to be consumed with fire from heaven, but they were (Leviticus 10:1-2). Elijah didn't pray for food from ravens and it even happened during a big time lull in his faith (I Kings 17:4). Finally, we have these people who hung around with those who would heal others with faith, but were not healed themselves. Trophemus was travelling and ministering with Paul, but got too sick to keep going with them (II Timothy 4:20). Ephroditus got pretty sick for a while (Philippians 2:26-30). They were hanging with healers, but the healers didn't heal them. So it is not the one praying’s faith either.
I’m afraid the answer I've come to is a hard one to swallow. It doesn't put God in a box the way others do. It doesn't confine Him and control Him. It means that there is no sorcerer’s method that will get us miracles. I believe that God performs miracles by grace. There is nothing we can do. It is not a matter of having enough faith. It is not a matter of having the right words or the right clothes. It is just a matter of requesting grace from our loving Heavenly father and knowing that if it does not conflict with other important matters in His plan, He may decide to do it. If He does, it will not be because we are super Christians or more faithful or more righteous than someone else. It will just be because He decided to do it.