I heard a story about a young man who some kind of way fell 50 feet from an outdoor balcony.
In the hospital, he really didn’t look that bad. His neck was swollen, as were his ankles. He didn’t look bad, but inside, his organs rebelled against the experience they had been through. There was massive bleeding, and an uncertainty of whether the surgery done to quell the bleeding would work.
And there was another problem: the fall had caused this young man to seriously injure his brain. The doctors said to the family that even if they got the internal bleeding to stop that there was nothing the could do about his brain. “You should probably just let him go,” the doctor said.
He had his surgery; the bleeding stopped …but the family decided that they would not “let him go,” not just yet. They said they would give this young man to God. “When God’s face shines on you,” the mother said, “all kinds of things are possible.”
God’s face did shine. The young man was taken off the ventilator; he breathed on his own. The doctors said he would never make another sound; he began to grunt in response to questions asked. The doctors said he would never recognize his family; he recognized them all and would smile, frown …or grunt …in response to things they asked him.
God’s face, shining.
The young man did better for a while; for five years, he made incremental progress, and then, he started to regress. He eventually transitioned, but when he died, his family by his side, someone said he was smiling.
God’s face smiling on us is a gift. It warms us and reminds us of God’s presence at all times. A couple of times, I have been in places where I have run into the water and lay on my back, to let the sun massage my very spirit, and I have always felt like it was God’s face, shining, giving warmth and strength and energy to go on. God’s face, smiling, is a spiritual muscle relaxant, freeing our spirits from their contracted, stressed conditions to a state of release and calm. Our calmed spirits are strengthened by God’s smile; we can sing “I feel like going on,” because we mean it. Our spirits feel the presence of God and release us from a tightness that only inhibits what we do, how we do it, and when or if we do it.
God’s face shines all the time, but we have to request it and then make sure we are ready to receive it.. Psalm 67 says, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us… We all know the words, “You have not because you ask not.” We have to go to God and ask God for strength and tenacity and encouragement…and for God to shine on us. We have to seek God’s face and then ask God to let God’s face shine on us – brightly, warmly …and soon! In the middle of a bout of insecurity or fear, shine. In the course of a day, shine. In wrestling with a problem which seems overwhelming, shine. In the work of seeking social justice and hitting walls of resistance over and over, shine. In seeking a truth that does not want to be revealed, shine. In fighting a sense of isolation, shine. In wresting with a life change, shine. The song goes, “Shine on me, shine on me, Let the light from the lighthouse …shine on me!” We have to ask for God’s face to shine on us, sooner rather than later.
The young man whose situation I described at the beginning of this piece did in fact die …but God’s face, smiling, gave the family the strength it needed to attend to him at home for five years; God’s face, smiling, convinced them that they could and should let him be at home and be cared for with love, not in an institution. The work was hard and long; they ached when they saw him suffer and knew there was little they could do, but they also rejoiced when they saw small changes. It was like seeing a baby take its first steps, and discover and learn new things every day. Morning by morning…they saw new things. The power of God’s face, shining on this young ma was contagious and spread to his family.
He died smiling, and God’s shining made the family able to smile in wonderment even as they wept. God’s face smiling reminds us that no matter where we are or what we are going through. God is there.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us.” On this day, may God’s face shine on us, bless us and keep us…and give us peace …no matter what is going on in our lives.
“When God’s face shines on you, all kinds of things are possible.”
Amen and amen.