Have you even been part of a moment in life when you realized that the events of your life in that little moment in time were 100 per cent out of your control? Maybe you have. I know I have. As some of you may already know, I have Crohn’s disease. On occasion, this at-times nasty little affliction requires surgical invention. I’ve certainly had my share of surgeries. Regrettably, I’m scheduled for another one on Nov. 25.
In anticipation of that day, I am not yet nervous; the moment is too far from me, too removed to be of any real emotional consequence. But my memory is not so dull that I don’t remember the experience of surgeries past. Let me paint you a picture. When the big day arrives, you always end up in a hospital stretcher. No matter how much you protest, you will be required to lie down on the stretcher while they wheel you to the operating room. It is this sort of disempowerment that can begin to peck at your mental soundness. You walked into the hospital on your strength, now you have been reduced to a helpless patient. It is along the seemingly long journey as the stretcher makes it way to the operating room that who you are as a person is made clear to you. When you no longer have the ability to exert any influence over your external environment, how do you respond? In these pre-surgery moments, you can almost hear yourself saying, “Wow, I am not in control right now.” Moreover, in about five minutes, a foggy slumber will overtake you just before your surgery begins.
What happens after that, well, it is surely not in your control; you will be asleep while medical professionals rearrange your plumbing. In this moment, an internal voice snips at me and says, “Well Kev, do you really believe God is in control?”
As a person who considers himself a deeply spiritual person, my experiences of surgery day have been interesting. Strangely, I am often flooded with an unusual calmness; at times, it has verged on euphoria. If one saw me five minutes before surgery, you would likely wonder why my heart rate is perfectly normal and my breathing is deep and anchored. Why is this, you make ask. By nature, I am a somewhat calm person, but I am also a very high-energy guy. Yes, I can practice deep, focused breathing, but I’m not convinced that this is the reason for my calmness. I think the true reason is something that does not fall within the boundaries of our material world: the spirit world.
Do you believe in such a world? In this world, people pray. They don’t pray because it is simply a self-assuring gesture that the forces of the spirit world are on their side; they pray because they believe prayer has the power to impact the material world, to uplift people.
Of course, no conversation like this could be complete without my own full disclosure. Do I believe in an eternal force at work in the sustaining and unfolding of the cosmos, the one that is often referred to as “God”? Yes, but that does not mean that I assume my belief in God presumes that my life is destined for good and perfect life? No. I have come to agree with what the Psalmists said, “God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.” It is neither because I have done anything good or terrible to merit my own fate. Instead, sometimes our circumstances are simply the result of living East of Eden. At times, this world is no paradise.
Though my life has seen many rain storms, I still find deep comfort in the belief that there is a Force at work behind this immense and incomprehensible cosmos in which we dwell. This Force, I believe, is one of stability, One that brings order to our world, night to our days, days to our night. It is the Force that causes the sun to rise each morning (though none of us quite knows why). But most importantly, I believe that this Force is one that transcends our world; this Force can be known, experienced, and encountered. It is in the quiet moments of pre-surgery that the power of our prayers mingle with the weight of the Divine and infuses us with a calmness that extends beyond our own capacities. This same Force meets us in the glory and the goodness of life as surely as it meets us in the weeping by the graveside. It is the Love that is eternal. For all of us, no matter how far we stray, no matter how we conceive of it, it is always with us – only a breath, only a prayer away.
So what about you? Have you ever had a moment when you felt completely helpless? What did you do? Were you tempted to pray? Call a best friend (for a hand to hold)? If you’d ever like to chat about it, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 453-5089, or on our blog: http://blogs.unb.ca/chaplains-corner/.