Paisley

The near brush of death leaves upon us an indelible mark. So much more the case, when the noose of jeopardy closes upon a child. Our daughter Paisley hazarded that scaffold just twelve days after being born. This was three and a half years ago.

Medical intervention was swift, bending a potent light upon her affliction. As she fought to live, our church family rallied around us, lending full force to our plight. Much prayer was lifted on her account, and friends gave selflessly to help and to comfort us in whatever way they could. It was a darkness driven back by creeds, both Hippocratic and Christian.

Perhaps it was unavoidable that the pendulum, which had reached a zenith of rejoicing at her recovery, was destined to a mirroring height of disillusion, when I departed from the faith a year ago. Questions about Paisley were initially frequent, and they continued to recur from time to time as the months passed. Eventually they ebbed. But after a long quiet, the query resurrected again just recently, on two separate occasions a few weeks apart. One close friend, in heartfelt concern and pleading, asked if we had forgotten Paisley and her miracle. She had, in many ways, been a proof for us all.

It is an important question, perhaps one of the heaviest of my life. I have grappled quite long with it. What about Paisley? How can I explain what happened? Have we forgotten?

The spectrum of questions has come in many hues: the honest, the baffled, the incredulous, and the combative. Some moved to weaponize Paisley’s story against my departure from the faith, and this created within me a strong temptation for rebuttal. But I had no wish to reciprocate such an impulse, so I never did develop a substantive response. I think it was the most recent query from our friend, heartfelt and grasping, that finally dislodged me from inaction and put me to the page.

At Fault

I must confess that, in several ways, the fault lies with me for the persistence of these questions. I have not perhaps spoken of it all when I should have. To be perfectly open, I began to write about Paisley twice before, and both occasions were at some remove from any direct challenge from friends. Yet I was never able to finish. The effort requires that I revisit a yesteryear pain. I had been so exhausted from research and difficult conversations with friends, that I simply did not have the reserves to finish before. But now, the respite of the intervening year allows for an attempted full account.

Paisley bookended my journey out of faith, which complicates a full telling. It may surprise some to learn that she was a notable cause behind my deep queries: one of the triggers. My dismissive and casual relationship with certain truths perished on that fateful twelfth day, though the death notice would take some time to find me. Deeper probing uncovered many things, about which I have already written. It was certainly not all academic. The search also bared to my eyes errors of a more personal sort: that I had trafficked in some unwitting falsehoods about Paisley. The tripled strands of prayer, miracle and providence can make a fine rope, by which a happy man may, in the town square, hang himself. Thus came my own bafflement: having found that Paisley was a catalyst at the beginning, I later found her a solvent for untruths at the end.

Green shoots were slow to emerge after the fire in the old wood. It has taken time to sort through it all. Reconciling myself to certain transgressions has not come easily. It has taken two years to square myself to it all. But now I can at least make of my errors an object lesson.

I must also admit a further point of prior reluctance in mentioning Paisley’s connection to my Journey. With a certain foolhardiness, I had assumed that my friends would find the issues of Biblical fact and fiction of high importance, and that they would be as disturbed by historical and textual problems as I had been. The catalogue of conversations since has disabused me of this notion, with few exceptions. Most talks detoured quite early and quite sharply toward the deep labyrinth of the personal, many paths of which seemed, sooner or later, to circle Paisley. In any event, my reluctance to bring her into the discussion seems, in retrospect, decidedly unilateral.

Perhaps giving it full address will fade the labyrinth. And I must own that I helped first push the pendulum up to altitude.

Thankfulness

Still and all, I wish to begin and end in the same way: by reaffirming my thankfulness. Despite the tempest and silence that has fallen on many of our friendships, I still recall your many visits to the hospital. The presence of friends bore us up in that place. I still thank perfect strangers when I find out that they are doctors or nurses. I tell them that I am grateful for their life’s mission, and indebted.

We cannot forget what happened just yesterday.

Despite our changed view on faith matters, our thankfulness remains unaltered. In consequence of our change, we feel that the owed sum must now be credited the more fully to those of you who were there.

The Hope

So my friends, I will strive mightily to answer those earnest questions about Paisley, to make a frank confession of my own unintentional errors, and to close further attempts by some to weaponize Paisley’s crisis for their own ends. To do so, I will begin by telling Paisley’s humble and potent story. It is a story of prayer and miracle, of providence and song.

And after her story has been well and fully told, I will tell the more factual remainder of the tale.

[Series to be continued over the next several weeks…]

Next >> Tempest Rising… Paisley, Part 2.1

 

Comments

  1. Cody says:

    Matt, your willingness to tell this story will not go unvalued. I think many have experienced, and taken comfort from the ‘town miracle’. They are persistently tossed around as false pretenses to suspend disbelief. I have THREE to deal with in my small circle, and I am very much looking forward to, as much as I appreciate, your forthrightness.

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  2. archaeopteryx1 says:

    Any catastrophe that a given supreme being can be credited for resolving, it can also be blamed for causing.

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  3. Matt, thank you for your openness and sharing. I’m looking forward to the series. 🙂

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  4. Thank you for sharing this story. Love her name.

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  5. I can’t wait to read the rest. These are raw truths at the heart of many matters. And frankly, it seems, that it is alright to come to Jesus for emotional reasons – but to leave him for anything remotely emotional is taboo. While I know, and you know, that’s not the reason you left him, it was, as you said, a catalyst – maybe the catalyst – for the many questions we all ought to be asking ourselves.

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  6. Matt, you have an amazing ability to string together a bunch of words and have them express mountains of meaning. I’m looking forward to reading along. Thank you for taking the time to share. I believe the story will help others, and I also think that as painful as the telling might be, that it may even end up helping you more than it will help others.

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  7. Ditto. 🙂 I know this isn’t an easy series to right, but I agree that it’s an important one. Good luck with the telling.

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