Monday, December 5, 2016

Asking Myself: When has God intervened in your life?

This is the 32nd post in my series "Asking Myself," in which I weekly ponder one question posed in Teresa Blythe's excellent book, 50 Ways to Pray. You can find the start of the series here and my previous post here. The first nine posts focused on theological musings, while posts 10 to 25 prayerfully consider the specific questions Jesus posed in the New Testament. Posts 26 to present focus on Questions on Spirituality.

Q: Can you think of a time when God intervened in your life?

First off, what do I think about the term "intervene"? Is this some kind of saving grace at a time when I didn't deserve it or couldn't muster it myself? Is it something I didn't even know or think to ask for? Or is it a clear answer to a desperate prayer? Intervention of old (and new testament) seems to entail the supernatural: shipwreck survivals, gospel-preaching teleportation, earthquake prison releases and the like. 

I do not have any clear-cut, undeniably hand-of-God moments in my history. But, as usual, I buck against this obvious interpretation of the idea of intervention. And I wonder, might God be intervening momently... keeping the earth in motion and the sun burning and us tiny humans from blowing each other to smithereens? And doesn't he work specifically in my own life-- intervening in matters of the heart? But to answer what I think the question is actually asking, yes, I do have a handful of incidents that I attribute to God's intervening hand. And I will tell them to you:

There have been times when I or someone I loved should have come to harm, but did not. I remember when my childhood pet, then a feisty kitten, decided to walk into our fireplace, around the fire and back out again without so much as a singed whisker. It was one of those surreal moments where my dad and I couldn't believe what we just witnessed. How was that even possible? we thought and perhaps said aloud before sliding the glass fireplace doors shut and giving the s'mores a rain check. I don't know whether pets go to heaven and don't put it high on my list of theological concerns, but I do think God cares for all His creation. And he cared about my young, maybe 8-year-old psyche and the damage that would have resulted from the image of a fireball feline seared into its tender recesses. So, thank you, God, for miraculously fireproofing Pooky that night.

I have another memory that feels like intervention. I was driving home to Chicago for winter break from Case Western on I-90, in a blizzard. I wasn't a reckless driver, but I didn't have many years of snow driving under my belt. I was in the left lane, rounding a curve with a metal guardrail directly to my left. I lost control of the car for a moment; the steering wheel went all loose and squishy and it felt as though I was floating, yet the car continued to follow the curve of the road for several seconds. With my limited understanding of centripetal force and the apparent lack of any such earthly force acting upon my plastic Saturn, it really seemed like I should have slammed into the guard rail.  After feeling my steering wheel stiffen and the texture of the road under my tires again, I whispered a thankful exhale and I decided there were probably at least a few angels directing traffic that night. I also decided to pull off at a motel in Elkhart for the night. 

A more recent memory involves my youngest son, Ollie. You know how tender and fragile newborns seem? As a new mom, I was so weirded out by Stephen's and Rockam's pulsing domes and see-through skin. By the time I had Oliver, I was a little less afraid that I would break my child, but still prone to vicarious hypochondria. One night as I nursed him, it dawned on me that Oliver did not seem to have a soft spot... you know, the pliable area which allows for a baby's rapidly growing gray matter? He was about 3-weeks old at the time. His head was (and is) very round. And it was exceptionally smooth and firm all over. At first, I thought that he must just be really well hydrated, as I'd read the sunken soft spots can be a product of dehydration. But over the next few days I kept inspecting, kept feeling for some sign of a soft spot. Eventually, I brought my concerns up with Joe, who, after a gentle inspection of our fuzzy newborn, could not detect any spot softer than the rest either. Oliver's doctor's appointment was coming up, and though I tried not to binge on WebMD, I couldn't help but read about the very real and serious condition of a fused cranium. It wasn't fatal, but it was serious. Joe and I braced ourselves for the possibility that Oliver (who had several abnormal ultrasound brain measurements while in utero) might need to undergo horribly invasive surgeries so his head could accommodate his growing brain. I would ask the pediatrician.

On the drive to the doctor, with my wide-eyed baby in the back seat, I talked to God in a plain voice. I said, if you do these kinds of miracles... do one for me. Create a soft spot on his little head. 

During the office visit, all of Oliver's vitals were checking out normal. When the doctor asked if I had any questions, I immediately brought up the missing soft spot. A brief look of alarm passed over his face as he turned to inspect. "No, here it is. Right where it should be," he said an instant later. I put my fingers to the divot that had not been there the days before. The doctor asked about my sleeping patterns and if I had any other concerns, but I just mumbled that I was glad to be wrong.

 As I put Ollie in his car seat, for the first time, I saw his little noggin pulsing in that fragile defenseless way that had made me squeamish with the other two. I didn't and don't know if it was there all along, or whether God had quietly, almost without credit, moved heaven and cranium to answer my straightforward prayer. I thanked Him anyway, and tucked the moment away into my heart. I think I'm OK with not knowing. 

Next time: What life event has changed your life's direction?

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