Miracle Drug (1)

Miracle Drug (1)

The heroism of Christopher Nolan (1)

“I want to trip inside your head, Spend the day there… To hear the things you haven’t said, And see what you might see. I want to hear you when you call. Do you feel anything at all? I want to see your thoughts take shape and walk right out. Beneath the noise, Below the din, I hear a voice, It’s whispering, In science and in medicine, ‘I was a stranger, you took me in.'”  (from the song Miracle Drug, music by U2, lyrics by Bono)

Truths and epiphanies often come from unlikely sources… Persian astrologers, little children, turncoat tax collectors, and maybe even theatrical rock stars. Bono isn’t a surprising source of truth for me, though, because he has long been doing what Christians have always been called to do: engage the world on its own turf, build bridges, befriend sinners, spread the Word creatively, winsomely and subversively.

Anyway, as I hum the melody and reflect on U2’s Miracle Drug, I am reminded of what it takes to be a loving parent, teacher, spouse, pastor, friend. Here’s how Bono explains what he’s thinking about in this great song:

“The character of Christopher Nolan was in the back of my head. He was a boy who came into Mount Temple (a Christian high school in Dublin) just as we were leaving. He had been deprived of oxygen for two hours when he was born and developed cerebral palsy, so he was paraplegic. It’s written from his mother’s perspective. It’s about her faith in her son when for nine or ten years she had no idea if he was a conscious, sentient being or not. The hospital, the doctors and nurses could not guarantee her that he was awake to the world. But she believed it. She saw something in his eyes that was the light of being. And she had enough faith in her instinct and in her love for him to teach him, to read to him, to talk to him as if he was there. And then, aged eleven, this drug appears on the scene which frees up one muscle, which is the neck muscle, and allows him to move an inch. And through that movement he was able to type out all the stories and poems he had in his head for all those years. He had a little unicorn device attached to his forehead and his first poem was called, “I Learn to Bow,” which is about this mechanism of the head movement but it’s also his poem of gratitude to God, who I think he felt had worked through science to free him up. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had been locked in myself for ten years and I eventually got out, I’m not sure I’d be so full of praise for my Maker. His first book, Damburst of Dreams, went on to win the Whitbread Prize award when he was fifteen years old. But my song is about his mother. It’s about faith, and the faith that God can work through science, and in particular medicine.”

Isn’t that an amazing story? God used medicine to unlock Christopher, for sure. But God used his mother’s faith in a profound way as well. Bono’s powerful lyric shows us what we need to do to plumb the depths with each other in a transforming way. We need to be like Christopher’s mother… fearless deep sea divers with sonar; persistent diamond miners with high-watt lights; patient trail scouts mapping out new territory. She shows us what it takes to be humane, full of grace and truth with the people we love. Believe in that person. Honor God’s image. Remain convinced that that student or child or spouse has gold in there, deep, waiting to be discovered. Trust in the presence of unseen treasure. Love that person so much you’ll never turn off the sonar, never extinguish the miner’s lamp, never stop believing that this person is of inestimable worth and is waiting to make a unique contribution. Please reread those lyrics at the top of the page. There, he says it. Do whatever it takes to take that stranger in.

The Jewish theologian and Old Testament scholar Martin Buber echoes Bono with these words that should laser-burn into our hearts: “The greatest thing any person can do for another is to confirm the deepest thing in him or her – to take the time and have the discernment to see what is most deeply there inside, most fully that person, and then confirm it by recognizing and encouraging it.”  (Between Man and Man).

So, teacher, strap on your miner’s helmet and take a trip inside that student’s head. Mom and Dad, turn on your sonar and dive deep into your child’s heart. Husband, install your hearing aid and listen to what your wife hasn’t said. Wife, pick up your shovel and dig for that treasure hidden in your husband. Pastor, put on your 4-D glasses and see what that person sees. All of us are mysteries unto each other, and these strangers we love need to know that we believe in them.