the god of small miracles
This story is heartbreaking. When Danny and Danielle learned that the baby Danielle was carrying had hydrocephalus, Danny was livid at Danielle’s god. Understandably so. Doctors told the couple that the baby would either be stillborn or would only live for a short time.
Enter the Christians. A compassionate pastor and a group of friendly church people befriended the couple. Church members raised money to help pay mounting medical bills. The pastor and the church members kept in touch with Danny and Danielle throughout the pregnancy. Eventually, Bobbi was born alive; she lived for 18 months. And, in that time, Danny became a born-again Christian.
I’ve got four things to say about this story. First, I commend the Christians for behaving according to their creed. Their religion commands them to love others and they did so. They gave both practical and spiritual support to people who were in great need emotionally and financially. Good for them.
Second, I can’t imagine the hell that Danny and Danielle endured and I understand how the support of a loving community made the difference between surviving their ordeal and sinking into despondency. When Danny and Danielle were in need, a nice group of people helped them and loved them. I also understand that even just a few short months of life with their child was better than never having that relationship at all. And, I understand the attraction that a group of kind people and their faith had for a couple searching for answers to some of life’s most profound and painful questions.
Third, I’m not at all impressed with the god of this story. He didn’t perform any miracles. Doctors predicted either a stillbirth or a short life. The baby lived, as predicted, a short life. Poor Danny asked for a miracle and this was what he got. He, his wife and their church friends set their standards far too low. If God is powerful enough to raise the dead, to smite armies, to feed thousands with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, why didn’t he deliver a child free of a debilitating defect? I don’t see the activity of a deity in this story at all. I see nature working in its indifferent way, a way that sometimes leads to beauty and sometimes leads to tragedy. I don’t see God working in and through the lives of his people. I see people who probably would have befriended the couple anyway, with or without a religious creed to define their attitudes and actions. Their compassion was not the product of a god working in their hearts, it was the product of their own innate decency.
Four, I wish that the friendships that abound in this story would have been accomplished without the framework of religion to constrain them. This story speaks poignantly of both the power and the depth of human empathy and compassion. Danny, Danielle and Bobbi didn’t need a deity; they needed other people. The Christians didn’t need a deity; they had tremendous strength and love within themselves. Danny, Danielle, the pastor and all of the church people have sold themselves short. Instead of recognizing their own virtue, they believe that the source of all their goodness is a small god who performs pitifully small miracles. That’s almost as tragic as the death of baby Bobbi.
– the chaplain