Monday, September 24, 2007

Send in the Clowns

I used to believe that when a story was told about someone being raised back to life that the storyteller was either selling something or was some starry-eyed hill sitter lost in a vapor of delusion. God likes to mess with people like me, erode our self-made beliefs and trade them for God-birthed (and scripturally reinforced) realities. Many years ago, God led me to start a clown ministry, one that he promptly pulled me out of as soon as I started writing.

Clowning attracted people like bugs on butter. Every Thursday our troupe visited the children’s wings in Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We performed a routine in every single sick child’s room, songs, comedy, and a light blending of faith and hope. Out of that period, otherwise shy people joined our ranks. Many went on to start their own ministries in other states. We accumulated a long history of stories.

The only days we visited the infant rooms was at the invitation of parents that needed cheering up. As in the cancer and burn wards, we found that adults benefited as much from our little song and dance as children. We tumbled out of the elevator with our usual silliness, ready for Miss Connie to hand us our room list and a few preparatory directives. Instead, we found her crying. An infant had just passed away. One of the corridors was full of family members, mourning, holding one another up for support. Miss Connie asked if we would mind praying for the grieving family. Our troupe joined hands and the staff joined us.

I still can’t explain why I said what I said next. It isn’t like me to blurt out things, especially knowing my pastor husband is about to lead us in prayer. But it was a sense of urgency that came over me at that moment. I said loudly, “Father, in the name of Jesus, we ask you to raise this infant back to life!”

An awkward silence followed. My next prayer was that the floor would open up and swallow me. Some of the staff members went back to their posts. Miss Connie got us our list and we headed down the hall to visit patients. She headed back to the mourning family along with her assistant.

My husband kicked off a riff and we sang to the first patient on our list. Then we heard screaming outside. Miss Connie’s assistant ran into the room to grab us and drag us back out into the hallway. She shouted, “The baby that you prayed for just came back to life! He’s alive, he’s alive!” In plain sight of the nurses attending the body, the baby turned pink, took a breath, and opened his gorgeous eyes. The child had been dead about a half hour. We followed Connie’s assistant back to the infant’s room. The morgue attendant came wheeling the empty gurney down the hall, grinning, and said to us, “This is the kind of trip I love to make!” The infant’s family members hugged and cried for joy. My husband approached the father and said, “You’ve been given a gift from God, you realize.”
I'd like to say that I started a resurrection ministry from that point on, people gathering in large coliseums to see their loved ones raised back to life. I needed it very badly the afternoon three Huntersville policemen showed up on our doorstep to tell us that our daughter had been killed in an accident.

(Our story of loss will be shared from my current WIP, Our Horn of Plenty--A Thankful Life; WaterBrook/Random House)