Warning, I am about to discuss how faith and a dad’s bias work together. Both present an overall picture of our journey through the rough terrain of a chronic illness. While I admit that I am a United Methodist pastor in the protestant Christian tradition, my writing is not meant to favor any spiritual or faith practice above another. My goal is to find commonality across cultural differences as we journey through the ups and downs of chronic illness
When I attended Iliff Seminary, on the campus of Denver University, a professor came to the class to discuss how those with disabilities read the miracle stories of Jesus differently than those of us who do not face a constant medical challenge. I never thought about this topic. Because my boys have hemophilia, does that mean they struggled with questions of faith?
How can I help them maneuver this complicated territory? Because “MacDonald the Older” and “MacDonald the Younger” have an inherited bleeding disorder, does that mean they must hide in the margins of the church? The ultimate question frightened me; would my children be fully welcomed in my house of worship?
I shuddered to think that the place that I gathered my strength and hope would exclude anyone, especially my stinky boys. I started talking to my oldest, who was thirteen at the time, and he looked at me and said, “Dad, it doesn’t matter.” I assured him that one day, it would, and when the time comes, we will find our answers together. He needs to know that his church welcomes him with open arms, no questions asked.
Miracle stories are not meant to exclude, but to give in examples of a power outside of ourselves, which leads us to heart-healing wholeness. I stopped measuring my life by a skewed standard of perfection and redirected my thoughts to fulfillment. I throw away the lies that people taught me at a very young age and embrace the truth that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139: 14 NRSV). I, my children, all of us are complete, precisely as we are.
I began to look at the scriptures and realized that while miracle stories pop up throughout Biblical narratives, one thing is clear, the primary purpose of life is not to search for an instant healing, but to be made whole. We are survivors, not because we receive some medical or divine intervention. We are thrivers because we plug into the source, where our souls receive strength. The benefit of finding a place to recharge your battery gives you a chance to think through decisions, take the focus off hemophilia for a moment. Be still and rest.
Another thing I learned about myself is that I am not willing to remain in a group if my children cannot participate as complete human beings. Just because someone does not experience an extraordinary act of God, does not mean they are any less critical in the world. My stinky boys know that nothing will stand in the way of my loving them. Miracle stories or not, the deep foundation of love and trust outweigh anything. The depth of faith, found at the headwaters of love, reaches to the core of our beings.
And so, I finish my conversation with “MacDonald the Younger and MacDonald the Older,” hoping that they know that I love them beyond all measure. I invited my oldest son into a sacred conversation to tell him that his voice matters. Maybe the greatest miracle is not found in an ancient holy text, but the overwhelming joy that these extraordinary men bring to my life. Real miracles are not only left for people to see, but also for people to experience within their souls.