They’re all there. They stand tight around her, each touching a shoulder, an arm, her back –any part of her they can reach. There’s Rema with the silver gray hair who always sends me a personal card when I miss a Sunday. There’s Janice who preaches and teaches with such courage and conviction. Connie with her house in the woods that rings us around with camp fire smoke and hospitality, and who comes to visit me and read what I write here. Bunni who has as many children as there are kids in the church and Trudy who limps forward with the cast still on one leg to reach out a hand to join her sisters. Denise – the teacher my sons love – has both hands raised – reaching down only to wipe her face now and again.

They are praying for the woman with the paper thin skin.

I know that woman. I recognize that skin, unnaturally delicate, stretched tight over cheek bones. The fever flush glow to it and the story it tells of a course of treatment almost as bad as the disease. Eighteen years ago that was my mom’s skin and my mom’s scarf-wrapped head and my mom’s eyes sunken low into the face of a woman who sees the world in the perspective of eternity. Today they belong to Peggy.

They are praying for healing. And I know they have no idea what it will look like. They simply know to ask.

They ask like the children they no longer are. They ask like the God they believe in told them to. They ask for life without knowing what it will look like.  Without knowing if He will reach down and regenerate the cells that have mutinied or if He will wrap her in both arms and whisper, “Enough.”

But there they are asking. And my wide eyes are wet because I know He is there too, standing in the thick of that group of pleading women on the maroon steps of a church in Virginia at noon one Sunday morning. I know He is there wrapping them up in Himself, absorbing their grief, their pleas, their desperation. I know, because He said so.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20.

And my whole hard heart that has been curdled with doubt throughout this morning’s healing service crumbles with the realization. That one way or another – He will heal her. One way or another – He will answer those prayers. And I realize that Rema knows that. So do Connie and Janice and Trudy and Bunni and Denise.

They pray for His will to be done trusting that it will be good – whether on earth or in heaven. They pray it together, and together create a fortress of courage and faith for her to rest in. And He is there to help lay the cement and stack the bricks. He is builder and carpenter and healer and good God. He is good. He is good. He is only good.

And the altar they unknowingly build right there, on the steps my kids have so often jumped off when they should know better, testifies to their faith and His goodness and I will not forget.

I will not quickly forget.

“He built an altar there and called that place El Bethel God of the House of God. That’s where God had revealed himself to Jacob when he was fleeing from his brother.” Genesis 35:7.

Because He reveals Himself in the paper thin moments when our need brushes up against His willingness to answer. And these women, they show me the courage and the hope in trusting that His will is what’s best. On Sunday mornings and every day this week.