“For by grace you have been saved by through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” -Ephesians 2:8
This past week, our daughter underwent major surgery at the University of Chicago. The surgery was scheduled for 12-14 hours. After a hurried prayer in midst of all the people coming in and out of pre-op, her mother watched as they wheeled our daughter away to the OR. She whispered, “Lord, keep my daughter safe today. Please carry her through…”
The day was a very long one for us, but the heavy lifting was happening in surgery. We soon discovered there was a lot of other heavy lifting taking place, as dozens and dozens of prayers started to flood our smartphones: prayers coming from people and places reaching back over decades, all combining to float our daughter on a sea of prayer. As we sat huddled on our little waiting room couch, we realized that we were being lifted, too.
This Sunday is Reformation Sunday, when the Protestant Church remembers its heritage. At the heart of that heritage are the words captured by Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” What is that grace? It is God’s lovingkindness poured out like water on a scorched and hurting world. It comes with sudden gladness, like seeing the waterfall come back to life in Yosemite this week; or it can gently infuse these tired hearts of ours with celestial peace–like the clear light of the crescent moon on a crisp October evening. However it comes, it will come with a joy that whispers, “I am here.”
After sitting more than nine hours in the hospital, it was time to stretch our legs. We walked out into the rain as the grey evening was falling, strolling slowly along the Midway toward Rockefeller Chapel. “Do you remember when we met?” I said. “We used to walk together here, back in Seminary.” Under her blue hood she nodded, moving a little closer under my umbrella. “We’ve come through a lot together,” I murmured. She took hold of my arm. And then her phone rang! It was the surgeon. “We finished early!” he exclaimed. “The operation was successful and your daughter is fine!” And as we stood there together before the doors of Rockefeller Chapel as the evening chimes began to ring, I looked up through my tears at the bell tower above me with awe and amazement at God’s exquisite timing. “You’ve been with us the whole time, haven’t you? And you always will. You always will.” What a gift I’d been given! And none of it was my own doing.
I pray that you, too, will be given such gifts as this. Perhaps you already have. We must open them with our hearts and not our fingers. They bring forth faith in us. And faith will lead us back to where we started: near to the heart of God.
Blessings on you,