Saturday, April 16, 2011

II. Faith

[November 2007, a busy hospital in India]

I met a woman of faith the other day at the hospital.  The antenatal ward is four large rooms filled with metal beds covered in sheets, pregnant moms sitting and eating rice with their own mothers (who once carried them with the same feels they now experience), maybe taking a walk out into the courtyard but always returning to their beds, even for months.  The women are there because of some kind of risk in their pregnancy--maybe high blood pressure or continual vomiting or a history of miscarriages.

A couple students and I visited the ward to practice abdominal palpations.  I greeted Latha as she laid on her bed talking with her mom, and asked if we could do a quick check-up.  She agreed and I went to find her case notes.  I saw the letters and numbers written at the top in red: G4A3.  The amount of pain in those marks is enough to fill a lifetime--this was her fourth pregnancy after losing the three other babies in utero.  She had been married for twelve years and was thirty-four years old.

I just finished reading through Luke and was once again stunned by Jesus--a little bit terrified, but wanting to follow.  Halfway through the story his disciples ask him to increase their faith.  They want more.  They want to see His kingdom come.  But Jesus is gentle and troubled and picks up a seed and tells them that this is all they need to see even a massive tree uprooted and planted into the sea.  Just a
seed of faith.

When a sperm and an egg meet in a woman's body, its the smallest moment with the most eternal implications.  And as soon as it happens, as soon that seed is planted the woman's body begins to prepare for this seed to grow and after some months, to be born.

We listened to the heartbeat of faith in Latha's belly and I could feel it in her hands as I prayed for her--a prayer of cleansing and protection and fulfillment of the promises of God in her belly and her
life.  Jesus said we just need a seed of faith.  Maybe its the kind of seed that, like the first cells of an eternal spirit, kicks us into action.  We need faith that changes us and that we give room to grow in our lives--and to take over no matter what disappointments we have experienced before.  Like a mustard seed grows into a bush that is massive and invasive; like a seed of life planted in a mother's womb changes her body and her heart forever.  Her body does everything it can to make fertile space for him. Eventually when he is born the mother's life is conquered by commitment to this newborn until the end of her life.  That is a seed of faith that will change the world.

As I sat with Latha I thought about the deep disappointment of losing three babies and the fear of carrying another growing seed.  I thought about some of my own hurts and losses, expectations that seemed to arrive painfully and silently, lacking the life I wanted, and how sometimes it makes me fear the growth of a new seed--whether its a new school, a new friendship, or even an idea that I think might be from God's imagination.  And I wonder what changes in my own life need to happen to create a fertile place for the seed of faith planted in me to grow and to invade me and the whole world.

If Latha can carry this seed of faith, then I can too.  That is my confession of faith.  Thank you, Latha, O courageous woman of faith.

May you hold the promise in your hands very soon.

Latha and her promise

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