“The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.”Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
Grace. I have meditated on the grace of God many times over these past two months since we began our work here. It is something I have often needed extended to myself, while simultaneously acknowledging its’ quiet presence and work in the life here. My parents taught me the simple, child-like definitions of grace and mercy when I was young – mercy being that we do not get what we deserve, and grace being that we get what we do not deserve. The concept is simple and it is astoundingly beautiful in its simplicity. The year my father passed away, I hungered to know God in a way I never had previously – I wanted to better know this intangible God I loved and served and in whose presence my previously wholly tangible father now stood. Then, too, I found myself in wonder of the grace extended to us.
It is easy for me to acknowledge how I have seen grace extended to myself here – from the patients who smile as I sometimes fumble with broken Pidgin when the conversation becomes complex, to the staff who not only patiently explain to me the different ways we care for patients here but also trust my assessments and plans for our patients, to my fellow physicians who graciously step in and teach me new things every day, to my husband who makes me coffee in the morning (even when he doesn’t drink any) and dinner after we have both had busy days working.
Then, there is a grace that is just beneath the surface here permeating everything.
“Grace is everywhere, like lenses that go unnoticed because you are looking through them.” -Yancey
Within the span of just over 1 week, I cared for two women who had similar complications following childbirth. They had both delivered at home in very remote areas and subsequently suffered from massive hemorrhages. Their families carried them to the closest local health centers where a helicopter was then obtained for them to be flown to our hospital. They presented with the two lowest blood counts I have seen in someone living (hemoglobins of 2.4 and 3.1; normal is 12-14) and were both tenuously hanging onto life. We provided them with such basic, yet life-saving care – IV fluids, blood transfusions, antibiotics. And I held witness to the grace of their recoveries.
I have seen God’s grace in the sweet smile and gratitude of the mother for whom I safely delivered her baby girl via c-section just two short weeks after her four year old son had died in an accident. I have seen it in the words spoken by my surgeon-mentor, Dr. Ben, as he helped me see and counsel a young woman with terminal vulvar cancer – saying, ‘I don’t know why God chooses to heal some people and others he does not.’ There was grace in his reassurance to her of Christ’s faithful love and presence, even when the healing does not come. Just this morning, I saw God’s grace in the feisty personality of my 80-something year old patient as she sat up in bed and talked animatedly in her Tok Ples only two days after we removed a large, likely malignant, ovarian mass that had occupied most of her abdomen.
“Grace is shockingly personal. As Henri Nouwen points out, ‘God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, nor because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost has been found.” -Yancey
As God said to Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Marimari is the Pidgin word for grace. And as the verse says in Pidgin: “Marimari bilong mi em inap long yu. Long wanem strong bilong mi, em i save kamap strong tru long man i no gat strong.”
Paul goes on to say: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It is in Christ’s strength I am finding myself lately. And that is more than sufficient.