I had gone into the patient’s room with a hope and prayer of somehow bringing help. But as is so often the case, I emerged from the room feeling that I was the one helped and encouraged. It happened to me yesterday as I was working at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. I had been referred to the patient by an oncologist who had delivered bad news to the patient on Saturday, and wanted a chaplain to follow up on him.
I sat down beside the patient’s bed and learned of being poked and cut on many times, many tears, regimens of chemotherapy, rounds of radiation, and hopes dashed. And yet, in the telling of his story I couldn’t help but see a resilience, a tempered strength, a calm, a joy in the mystery of life. No bitterness, just peace. It was a God sighting! I felt I was on holy ground.
As I walked away from the patient’s room I thought of Williams James’ description of the “Second Born.” James, the father of American Psychology, in his classic work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, describes those persons who struggle through a long dark night of the soul only to come to a wondrous awakening. James calls these persons, the “Second Born.” They have learned firsthand the “evil facts” of human existence. They have fought, bled, faltered, doubted, and plummeted all the way to rock bottom and given themselves over to God. Using Jesus’ language, they have been “born again.”
Of these “Second Born” Williams James said:
“They may after all be the best key to life’s significance, and possibly the only openers of our eyes to the deepest levels of truth.”
I think that’s what I felt yesterday as I left the patient’s room — I felt I had been granted a glimpse of life’s deep significance and beauty. Here was truth at its deepest level.
Is this something of what the Apostle Paul was hinting at in Romans 5:3-5 when he wrote about our sufferings and pain?
We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
God is up to something in what you and I are struggling through!
Grace and Peace,
Weekly Classes with Tim Smith – Every Wednesday
At the Franciscan Renewal Center (Garces Room of Piper Hall)
Wednesday Noon – 1:00 P.M.
Songs for Life’s Journey: The Psalms of Ascent
Wednesday Evening 7:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
Four Life Changing Prayers