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.

8 thoughts on “I wanted the miracle. We got the revelation.

  1. You could not have worded this anymore perfectly…. I so wanted The Miracleas well, but am at peace with The Revelation Thank You for your beautiful words during this season (Harper would be two on the 18th, Easter was the first mass I made it too after she died and it was the hardest celebration I’ve ever attended)

    1. Oh friend, it is so hard. I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. You are not alone in your grief. And Easter is so hard and so hopeful all at once, isn’t it? Praying with you tonight.

  2. I have often shared these feelings regarding the loss of my twins and my unresolved infertility. It hurts to want the miracle and not receive it. Yet in some ways, I have received many miracles. I was in my early thirties and unmarried, and didn’t think I would ever get married. Yet I ended up meeting and marrying my soulmate after all those years of being single. Then, as the primary breadwinner, I longed for nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom. Now, by the grace of God, the only time I work is when my son is in school. I always dreamed of adopting. Truthfully, I dreamed of both adoption and biological motherhood. I was blessed to be able to experience pregnancy briefly, and I was blessed with the baby of my dreams through adoption. So I grieve the miracles that didn’t happen while being thankful for those that did. The conflict gets overwhelming at times.

    1. Absolutely agree, Claire. Sometimes we receive a miracle we never expected, and that is such a wonder, too. So much to hold in a single heart.

  3. I’ve drifted through various streams of Christian traditions over the years, and find myself drifting away from that which is staunchly rooted in Augustinian thought and toward Celtic Christianity. There is a much deeper acknowledgment of the inter-connectedness of humanity and creation as it relates to the divine in a very Ignation way of finding God in all things. It’s not a perfect theological stream to be sure, but I find it a less frustrating option than the Roman church and Reformed Protestant denominations rooted in the very Greek idea that the created order is somehow less than and contaminated (ignoring the fact that creation was created first and foremost as “good”).

    I am thinking of your example (love that Isaiah passage too, I long for that Kingdom reality). The “between” that has me always pondering is the idea that all life is lived “between the trees”: that the Tree of Knowledge of God and Evil in Genesis and the Tree of Life as found in Revelation (though, obviously, also referenced in Genesis). That until we come to that place described in the Isaiah passage, death is the mercy to spare us from eternity in deep brokenness (for though all creation could be argued to be good at its deepest level, the broken and painful and divisive and sinfully isolating places still exist).

    I’ve lost so much and so many in what is now nearer to forty than thirty years. My health is fragile, my family is shattered by conflict and by death. I do not understand the whys of apparently random and often seemingly cruel suffering. There is so much I do not understand (and probably never will in this life).

    The thing that keeps me sane, centered, and grounded is that I do not need to know why or why not things happen or prayers are answered (or not)…I just need to know that God is always with me in the dark or light seasons and moments in life. I love the first question/answer in the Heidelberg Catechism:

    —–

    Q: What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

    A: That I belong — body and soul, in life and in death — not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all of my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

    —–

    I’m not sure if the Roman Catholic gospel reading for the coming Sunday is the same as the reading in the Episcopal church. Our Lectio Divina group always reflects on the gospel passage for the upcoming Sunday; this upcoming Sunday’s reading is from John 12:20-33. It’s a weighty and confusing passage to any who do not know how Jesus’ story turns out, because he is speaking of Kingdom things in a cryptic and prophetic way.

    I’ve wrestled with trauma and deep grief (and unfortunately also very much abiding grief) for literally as long as I can remember. It’s been a journey, for the only way out us through, never around. And while my faith baffles some, and others view my commitment to resting on the Sovereignty of God is a cop-out and a cheap answer? I’ve spent many long years in contemplation over so many things, and my soul finds rest in the idea that I don’t always need to know the whys for how things cone to pass, I only need to put down deep roots in the reality that God is good and is loving and is ever with me in all things.

    I’ve spent too many hours in the distracted despair and darkness of questioning why. I did not come by this thought be mere cheap cop-out. I don’t know why the miracles land where they do, but I do know where God is when they do not. I’m not sure I would be able to fully understand the whys and why nots anyway, but I do very much understand that deep and abiding love that enfolds my deep and abiding grief.

    Thank you for sharing, Laura. <3

  4. Yes. Caught in-between. Thank you for clarifying by name Revelation as parallel to miracle.

    I am raising 6 children and I surrendered 4. At least two of my ‘living’ children would not exist if I had not ‘lost’ their siblings. One of the 6 is an example of God’s intervening yes to prayers. He also has struggles that seem beyond me and more than daily drive me to my knees in prayer. Due to my medical conditions during pregnancy each of the six still entrusted to me is a miracle in many different ways. Miracles and Revelation. Yes…No…Watch…..and….Not Yet.

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