As followers of God’s final prophet and members of the elect Bride of Christ, we made a lot of promises in God’s name. We promised safety to a world we presumed was in its death throes, ready to face tribulation, destruction and ultimate renewal. We promised healing, hope and happiness to those who accepted God’s provided way of escape. We promised individuals that their broken families would be restored, that their financial problems would vanish when they tithed, that God’s will would give them purpose and the strength to deal with the wearying parade of everyday troubles. We promised Alissa that God would heal her daughter.
Alissa was a single mother of two young boys. She worked as a clerical assistant in a faceless grey office. It paid the bills, but not all of them. She had a husband, too, but not all of him. He brought home other women, parading them in front of her face. He took them out to places she would never see. He riled up the boys, then refused to parent them. He made them despise and curse her. He probably took her money, too, but I don’t know. I was a kid, and I wasn’t supposed to listen to these kinds of stories, even though my dad was doing the same thing.
Late in the 1990s, Alissa found out she was pregnant. A third baby for a man who hardly noticed the first two. But Alissa had dreams for this one: this little girl would charm her daddy’s heart, bring him back, make a real man out of him. And our church turned those dreams into promises. God would honor her faith and restore her marriage, since she had submitted to her husband despite all the trials and was ready to bear him a daughter. Just wait and see, we promised her, God has a special miracle for you. How glorious it will be when he reveals his power through you and your family!
Within weeks, Alissa learned that there was a problem with the baby. The child had a genetic abnormality: an extra chromosome, perhaps. She was expected to live only a matter of hours, if she wasn’t already stillborn. The doctors recommended abortion. They said it would spare Alissa the pain of saying goodbye to a daughter who would never hear her hello.
Everyone at church smiled knowingly at this point in Alissa’s story. Doctors loved to recommend abortion, especially unnecessary abortion. It made them money, after all. Alissa ought to ignore them. They were part of a culture of death and hated motherhood. Worse, they didn’t believe in the power of God to heal the sick! Not even cancer could stand before the prayers of God’s elect. Heads wagged along with the tongues. Those doctors might think they knew what they were doing, but they didn’t know our God. He could turn Alissa’s dreams into promises.