A Year of Morning Thanks
At the gates of heaven, a storm
All the while Diet Eman had been incarcerated in the Nazi concentration camp at Vught, the Netherlands, she'd played a character she wasn't, a simpleton. When finally she came up for her hearing before SS thugs, a hearing which would determine whether or not she would stay in prison, be deported a place like Auschwitz, or released, the pressure was immense. She had to continue to fake an identity that wasn't hers in front of men who would choose life or death for her.
One of the very few people who knew she was lying grabbed her that morning on her way to the hearing and whispered something into her ear that she never forgot: "I'll storm the gates of heaven for you." When she told me that line, years later, she repeated it time and time again and that line found a way into my soul too.
War raged all around them, all throughout Europe; the metaphor itself may well have been fitting. But the line stuck with Diet Eman, not because it was appropos, but because of its promised heft. That woman told her she wouldn't let the Lord alone, she'd mount all her forces, she simply wouldn't stop praying.
I've got no idea what prayer does, in fact--whether it quickens the surgeon's hands or sharpens his or her mind in diagnosis. I suspect that a miracle is biological thing, finally, cells that are shipwrecked somehow find their way home. I don't know what prayer may be doing right now for those two colleagues of mine, friends too, people beside whom we sit in church almost every Sunday--twice, in fact, the husband and wife who were gravely injured in an accident just a few days ago, on the Sabbath. I don't know if it's prayer that's kept them alive or prayer that will get them healed.
But I know this. When I look down the immense list of people who've journaled their blessings and promised their prayers to the family of our friends--thousands of people from literally all over the world, whole schools and institutions, old friends, ex-students, and tons of people who simply want to pray--then today I can't help but think of the gates of heaven being heavily stormed.
I may never know what Diet Eman felt when she marched off to that SS hearing, the assault of heaven going on behind her; but I know this, to read all those pledges is to feel at least something of what has to be the immense power, even the miracle, of prayer.
For that long and growing list on a caring website, I'm thankful this morning.