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The Healing Tree


Chapter 19

Tác giả: unknown

Peter and Rufus had left, but Maggie (I’m sure this was all Maggie’s doing) wasn’t done yet. I was sitting up in the bed with the journal open on my lap, trying (not very hard) to not fall back into the self-pity I’d been wallowing around in before their visit. I wanted to write a poem about Maggie and Rufus, pretty birds up in a tree – but this is what came out:

Pretty Bird

Tiny yellow goldfinch lying –

Dead on –

The side of the road.

Why is it that only the –

Pretty birds break –

Our hearts by their dying?

“May I come in?” I recognized the man at the door as being one of the hospital chaplains, though I did not know his name. I shrugged in a way intended to say “go away,” but that evidently conveyed “sure, why not.” And in he came.

“Hi, Carrie Anne, I’m Andy Brennan, one of the volunteer chaplains here at the hospital. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come up, but your request somehow ended up under a pile of papers on my desk, and I just saw it this afternoon.”

“My request?”

“Yes. It’s our policy, that we only visit patients who’ve requested it.”

I shook my head. “I didn’t request any visits.”

Andy was visibly confused. “Carrie Anne Murphy?” I couldn’t very well deny that, not even to get rid of a pesky priest, so I nodded. He rifled through some papers on his clipboard, and when he found what he was looking for, put it on top and showed it to me. Sure enough, my name was on the visitation request. As was a squiggly little mermaid swimming across the top of the page.

I could just picture Maggie up there in heaven, those green eyes all a-twinkle, quite pleased with herself for having this keep Carrie Anne from getting depressedclub of hers carrying on the effort. I handed the clipboard back. “Well, my brain’s been in a fog since the surgery. I guess I forgot about making this request. But thanks for coming up.”

He set the clipboard down on the bedside table and put his hands in his pockets. “It’s my pleasure. That’s what I’m here for.” We endured the awkward silence for a moment, then he said, “here’s what I mean by that. I’m here because it’s not just the body that needs care in times of trouble; we also need to tend to our spiritual beings. That’s where, hopefully, I might be able to help.”

“You’re not going to give me that ‘patience of Job’ speech, are you?”

Andy didn’t laugh. He did pull up a chair and sat where I could see him without having to twist my neck. “No, I’m not going to give you that speech. For one thing, anyone who’s actually read the book of Job appreciates that Job was not a patient man. Faithful, yes. But Job was angry and anguished and anything but patient. If you’re interested, I will tell you something about the book of Job I think you’ll find helpful. After all, like you, Job lost both his health and members of his family.”

“Yeah, but unlike me, Job got it all back.” I started thumbing through the pink journal, hoping that Andy would take the hint and excuse himself. He didn’t.

“You say that as if the final chapter of your story has been written, Carrie Anne.” I didn’t reply, and Andy let the silence hang in the air. At last, he said, “You know, I’m pretty certain that in the months after he lost both his family and his health, Job didn’t see any path leading to a bright future either. How could he? How could anyone? But he kept walking, and eventually the path made itself visible. That path brought Job to a new place, but it could not bring him back what he had lost. In time, God blessed Job with a new family, but God could not erase the grief that Job would always carry from the loss of his first family.”

“So what’s that got to do with me?”

Andy shrugged. “As with most stories, it pretty much means what you want it to mean. But here’s what I think. While God cannot replace what you’ve lost, God can show you a new path, a path that will lead you to a wonderful place, perhaps a place you didn’t even know you wanted to go to.”

“Yeah, well, it’s been several thousand years since anyone’s seen God come out of a whirlwind. I think he must have lost interest or something. I’m certainly not banking on any such thing.”

Andy laughed. “Neither am I. I’d probably have a heart attack, to see God up close and angry! Frankly, I think God is more subtle than that. And there is a very subtle message buried in the book of Job, a message that’s often overlooked. It’s a message that just might help make your path visible.”

He leaned back in his chair and just sat there. Finally, I said, “well, are you going to tell me what the message is?”

“I will, but I’m not sure you’re ready to hear it.”

“You let me be the judge of that.”

“Okay. As you’ve just alluded, God came to Job out of the whirlwind and confronted him with his ignorance. But he did something else as well. God instructed Job to pray for the three friends who had accused him falsely. And the Bible is very specific in saying that it was after Job prayed for his friends that his wealth was restored and his family replaced. That’s the punch line, if you will.”

I shook my head. “I don’t get it.”

“If you consider the story of Job to be a metaphor, which I do, then that’s the most important lesson. Job was made whole when he stopped obsessing over his own problems and instead prayed for someone else. I don’t believe that God made a bet with the devil, using Job’s family, his health, and his possessions as chips on a celestial gambling table to be sacrificed in a test of Job’s faith. What kind of a god would do that? But I do believe that God was there for Job in his hour of darkest need. And God will be there for you, giving you strength when you are in need.”

Andy stood up and placed his clipboard under his arm. “I spend a lot of time working with support groups, Carrie Anne. And I always find that whatever problems people are faced with – addictions, cancer, whatever – the ones who can at least for a moment set their own problems aside and pray for others, in whatever way they pray, find the greatest measure of healing for themselves. That is the message of Job, I believe. Something to think about, isn’t it?”

Andy left, but the questions remained. And they multiplied. The notion of making a bet with the devil struck my fancy. Would God really have made a bet with the devil to test Job’s faith? Would Job still have passed that test had he known the whole truth – that it was God who gave Satan the go-ahead to slaughter his family and his servants? Where was God before he showed up in the whirlwind? Did Mark and I unwittingly make, and lose, a bet with the devil the night we thought we were going out to dinner but instead ran smack into a drunk driver who at that very moment might also have been losing his own bet with the devil? I opened the pink journal to the next blank page and started to write.

Castles in the Sand

The devil and I sat together on the beach

watching the children build castles in the sand

and he, being a betting man, said…

I’ll bet you a dollar the next wave knocks them down

and I, being in my bathing suit, said…

I would, but I don’t have a dollar with me

and he, being in a generous frame of mind, said…

I’ll lend you a dollar if you should lose

and I, feeling particularly lucky, said…

You’re on.

How was I to know that three hours ago

that sly devil had dropped a big stone into the water

far out on the ocean, at just the right spot

to cause an unusually large wave to hit the beach

at just the next moment

toppling over the sand castles

and washing the children out to sea?

You owe me a dollar, said the devil, and I, said he,

being the devil, am reneging on my previous offer

of a loan…

But if you’re unable to pay in cash

other arrangements can be made.

No, I decided as I reread my poem, Andy was right. God wasn’t responsible for Job’s tragedy, or mine. But God was standing there beside Job as he struggled to cope with it. And though God might not appear out of a windstorm for me, I knew that Andy had been right in saying that God would help me to bear that which otherwise would have been unbearable, and might help me find a new path, since the old path was forever closed to me. But first I had to pray for my friends.

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