Thursday, July 12, 2007

on providence

I've never been much for providence. Especially after reading Calvin this semester- it just seems to end up with too many terrible consequences, to imagine that God is controlling everything.

And then today. Today I went up to my floor, intent on starting my rounds, when the charge nurse directed me to a room. "She wanted a Bible," she said, "But she's going to surgery right away." I started to go downstairs for a Bible, but figured I had better go to the room first.

I introduced myself to the youngish woman on the bed. "Oh, are you here to pray with me?" she said. There was already a Bible in the room. As we began to pray, my beeper went off, but I put it aside for the time being. Then, together, we prayed fiery prayers, about God's presence and King-ness, God being on the throne in the operating room and showing the surgeon His power. She led, mostly.

When I finished, I wanted to offer her my best wishes for her surgery. "Well," I said, "I hope-"

She interrupted me: "What'd you say? Hope? What's hope? Hope is doubt. We don't doubt, we know. We know that God is in control, and God led you here, and God will lead me through surgery. His will be done. He predestined you to come through that door, and it's all his will."

"Okay," I said, smiling. "Take care."

Now, as you might know, this is not really my theology. But I am trained to accept patients where they are, problematic theology and all, and to not shoot holes in their precious resources.

But it was time to answer that page. I had heard at lunchtime about the stillborn infant, the deceased child whose parents wanted a blessing. Now, according to my page, they wanted a Baptist.

I was the only Baptist chaplain in the hospital at the time. So I got paged. And I went.

I've never done an infant blessing, dedication, or baptism before. I once blessed a storage locker. But they wanted a baptist. And so I showed up in their hospital room, the dad, and the cousin, and the mother, holding her beautiful tiny tiny red red child. "A____ R_____." she said.
"A____ R______. That's a beautiful name." I said.
And we gathered together and together we prayed a blessing on A____ R_____. I stumbled over my words, and after I left I thought of all kinds of things I could have added. I started to say to her, "I bless you," but I went back and said "we bless you." But together we blessed her, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God Mother of us All.

And the family was thankful. And the mom wanted a picture. And so there's a picture or two, there on the hospital's disposible cameras, of me, and of mom, and of A_____ R_____. And they didn't want anything else from me. But they had wanted a blessing, and they wanted it from a Baptist.

Now, you also know that I'm not really one with a great love of my denomination. Don't get me wrong, I love Baptists and I love Baptist theology, but I also love all kinds of thing about all kinds of denominations. I probably wouldn't be Baptist if I didn't live next to Carrie Broadwell, freshman year. If I hadn't been randomly assigned next to her room in the dorm, I wouldn't have asked her what a cool church in town was. And she wouldn't have gone with me to Peace Community Church, the Baptist church she was raised in and had left for a few years.

So, through complete happenstance, I ended up a Baptist. I love being a Baptist- I love the history, and the contemporary diversity. But when Alicia Renee's parents needed a Baptist, I was around. And they got a Baptist.

Now, I definitely don't believe in providence. Not in the predestination, God controls it all.

But I believe that God has some tricks up her sleeve. And one of the tricks I'm caught up in came to fruition today. And it was sad and beautiful and important and sacred.

Peace be with you.


ps- I sent this out as an email to a few folks before posting it. I got this great few lines back from another David, a pastor-type who's a fellow member of my church in chicago:
"I don't believe in providence either; what I believe in is improvisation. And our God, she is a mighty improviser. An Ella Fitzgerald, a Doc Watson, a John Coletrane, and you sound like a most eloquent axe in her hands."

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