Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Powerlessness of God

Have you ever been completely and utterly powerless? Have you ever been in a situation that at any other time you would've had the ability to influence the outcome, but at that given moment you were powerless to influence of affect anything? Have you ever felt like you had both hands tied behind your back and that you were completely bound and gagged?

I've had these feelings many times over the past several years. One time in particular has always stuck out to me. After my first child, a beautiful little girl, was born we were overwhelmed with the diagnosis that she was "special-needs," having an extremely rare syndrome that not much is known about. When she was a few weeks old she had to undergo surgery in order to have a feeding tube inserted into her stomach. For me the hospital trips and the "special-needs" diagnosis weren't so bad. Sure such things were overwhelming and felt beyond my control, but overall it wasn't that bad. What was the worst for me was the night immediately after her first surgery.

I remember getting to the hospital from the job I had been working and relieving my wife so that she could go home and get some much-needed sleep. My daughter had just had her first surgery about an hour before I arrived, so I was holding and comforting her as best I could. I sat up with her all night and tried to comfort this tiny little person who barely knew life and was already learning about pain. But I was still elated at my first-born child, and so sitting up all night was a wonderful bonding experience for me with her.

What I wasn't prepared for, however, was the fact that typically while children are coming down off of morphine after surgery they will often stop breathing. The first time my little girl stopped breathing scarred me. She was sitting in my lap crying and all of the sudden she just refused to inhale. Nurses rushed in because monitors had started to beep wildly. It didn't take much effort that time to get my little girl breathing again. But the second time that happened things were more difficult. They had to take my angel from me and place her on the hospital bed. Doctors and nurses surrounded the bed and pumped air into her with the big blue bag. I stood behind them watching as my daughter's entire body went rigid, arms and legs stretched out as far as they could reach. She turned a deep shade of purple, and I wondered if this was it, or if she was actually going to start breathing again. I was powerless, there was nothing I could do. I was watching life slip away from the child to whom I had given life, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Fortunately the doctors got her breathing again and she is alive and well to this day.

But I was reminded of this as I was praying Safro/Morning Prayer this morning. In it we read the account of Christ's trial from the Gospel of Matthew. The irony struck me. God was powerless. Jesus, Who is "Light from Light and True God from True God;" Jesus Who is the Word of God that spoke all of creation into existence; Jesus Who created us from nothing, was powerless before His persecutors. He was powerless because He gave up His power as God when He chose to take on our flesh for our salvation.

The prayers from Safro today emphasized this humility of Christ. But the prayers also pointed out how this humility leads to glory. Powerlessness leads glorification. Christ was raised up because He, although being God, did not deem equality with God a thing to be grasped. The entire Paschal Mystery, as the Maronite tradition teaches us, is a mystery that causes both sorrow and joy, or perhaps it would be better to say that the mystery leads from sorrow into joy. All throughout Lent we have been repenting in sorrow over our sinfulness. But that repentance has not been a repentance without a goal, a repentance that leads only to despair, self-loathing, and guilt. Our repentance has been a repentance focused on hope in Christ and in His Resurrection. In our powerlessness to overcome our sinful nature on our own, may we continually turn to Christ and hope in Him. May heaven consume us.

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