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You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone

I’m sorry to say: I have never seen a miracle in all my days as a hospital chaplain.

I get asked, but no. I haven’t seen one. Not in the hospital. Not in eight years there.

Most days are Friday. Friday on a cross. Friday, total chaos. Friday, only loss.

Fridays the hurt is heavy. The surgery doesn’t work. Time of death is called. The disease takes it all.

Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. — John 19:28–30

The stone silence of Saturday. The confusion and shock and fear. The only sounds the sobbing. The only sight a sheet. The smell of a million plastic tubes. I want to jump to Sunday. Sunday is sealed, over and over, sealed shut.

Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) John 20:6–9

I’m telling you the truth: I have never seen a resurrection. Only the cold of death, the irreversible.

I wish I could tell you, “And then I came back to faith when...,” and it was as easy as one conversation, one sermon, one Sunday.

My supervisor was right. Every chaplain I’ve met, me included, had their faith-box demolished. We saw too much. We grieved ideas like permanence and eternal memory and divine order. Mostly it was the idea of safety that fell away. In its place, we floated between rooms to these boxless hospital bedsides.

What I no longer believed in was any sort of worldview that had to be held up in order to sustain itself. No doctrine or mindset or self-improvement plan made sense to me in this place. Patients were already burdened with cancer and car accidents; I didn’t need to burden them further with lectures and lessons and forced epiphanies.

The only thing I had left to believe was not a belief I had to keep, but a belief that kept me. Even if it was one moment of safety, that was what I needed. If I had to hold it up, I let it go. If it held me in that moment, that would have to do.

  • And the only way I’ve seen that we can bear the unbearable is when we bear it alongside each other.

That sounds like a sappy deal, I know. But even if only for a moment, if you cover somebody with fully open hands rather than clichés or coats of sugar, you can make the grief bearable. I mean it. It really can.

Crucial to the story of Jesus’s resurrection is the story of the survivors too — Mary Magdalene, the woman who found the empty tomb, and the disciples who, together, hid and mourned His death. I consider how the resurrected Jesus returned to His disciples, their futures muddled, each huddled behind locked doors, hiding from hunting, and I am moved by the shape of their joined shoulders. I imagine that even if Sunday had not come, even if the tomb had remained sealed, what these disciples found in the silence of a sealed room was a communion of breath, anxious yet abiding in one another. What they found in the gap between wood and stone were their hands reaching in tender and tangible vicinity.

When I consider what it is to have faith, to clutch the edge of hope in the middle of our suffering, this is how I believe we experience God entering, how I hope to enter too: with hands, feet, eyes, and the heart of the divine in a room at the corner of the universe. Saint John said it like this:

No one has ever seen God, but if we love another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.1 John 4:12

If we are made for each other, then our separation is a wound, and when we meet, it is grace that enters there and mends us together.

Yes, it is true that I have not yet seen a miracle. But I have seen other people, and other people have seen me in grief. There is something valuable, holy, sacred about being seen — and until the moment we enter the final, eternal resurrection Sunday, may we remember that not one of us — seen by the other — is alone.

Adapted with permission from As Long As You Need by J. S. Park, copyright J. S. Park.

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Your Turn

You’re not alone. No matter what you’re going through, in the Body of Christ, you have family to share the burden and empathize. Even if we never see the miracle we ask for, we do have the holy honor of being one with the Body of Christ. Let’s continue to pray for miracles! ~ Devotionals Daily