This I believe
Science is a framework for the way I experience and understand the world around me. The principals of science served me well, though my wife, Joan would, at times, exclaim “Don’t give me the laws of physics stuff again”. My peers in science education tell me that I think deeply in regards to the “how and whys” behind the “facts”. But my world view has changed, expanded over the last decade.
Spirituality has waxed and waned throughout my life, probably because the Catholic church of my youth ingrained into me that I must have a strong faith in God, or else . . . (you can fill in the blanks). I felt more connected to the earth than to the church and developed a strong environmental stewardship that became my spiritual foundation. I have been part of several faith communities from different denominations and consider myself Christian. Church is the community of which I am part. I need guiding principles and modern interpretations of the bible that provide a context for our societal norms and my environmental ethic. Friends find it strange when I say “it doesn’t matter if there is a God or not.” Religious teachings ask us to be caregivers to others and our world while providing perspective for our place amidst the universe. And for me, this was enough.
Then our son Aidan was born and on the third day he was rushed to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for major GI surgery. After 4-5 hours the surgeon came out and told us he was able to untangle his bowels and blood flowed through his intestines once again. He also said that he couldn’t correctly position the lifeline set into the aorta of a newborn (broviac), but it was sufficient till tomorrow when he would assess the bowels and finish. We asked our family, friends and faith community to light candles that night as Aidan means fiery one. We did the same and fell asleep in each others arms. The next day’s surgery was short and the surgeon exclaimed that on a scale of 1-10, it was a 15. He also said that someone up above helped as no further intervention was needed and the broviac correctly positioned itself overnight. An OR nurse later told us that she saw an angel at the end of the operating table during both procedures.
A few days later we received the news that our son had a rare genetic abnormality and would be severely disabled at best and probably wouldn’t live to his first birthday. With community support, Aidan thrived in his own special way and the power of a community of friends united in prayer was as important as any advancement in science.
I have found that experienced doctors seem to hold this wisdom and realize there is more than just their skill and technology involved in healing. As important, are the personal will within and the support provided beyond.
Joan passed away 1 1/2 years ago, one month after being diagnosed with leukemia. Our faith community prayed for Joan as fervently as they did for Aidan 8 years earlier. But this time it did not make a difference, maybe because Joan wasn’t afraid to die. But the prayers were not in vain and supported Aidan, myself, and other’s who knew Joan.
So today I believe that both the insights and application of science and the collective power of people united with a common purpose are equally important in my understanding of how the world around me unfolds. The following refrain from a Greg Brown song sums it up “You take the little that we know and you do the best you can, then you save the rest for the quiet faith of man”.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.