I have to come out and admit that, with reference to miracles, I pretty much sit on the opposite side of the world than most other people.
Other people have doubts. Or questions. Or stammerings.
I have none of these.
When I began to have visions that I would eventually experience in reality, I had to stop and admit that I was witness to a miracle. I was fairly young then, but wise enough to know that a person just can’t “see” into the future to an event that hasn’t taken place yet, an event that eventually does occur, without the grace of God.
Or, without the interference of God.
You take your pick.
Because everyone (even I) know that life on Earth is not a set matter. It is ever-changing. Intentions may be one thing, but the execution of these intentions, well, there’s always the flat tire to deal with or the sick child or the change of heart.
And God really can’t come down and squash an event flat into reality just because he feels like it.
We all know that.
So there I’ve been, all my life, having to admit complete wonderment on how God can say, X is going to happen. And X happens.
It’s one thing for him to Know. That’s a God kind of thing to do. See into the future, fine.
But when the future confirms his Knowing. Well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of beeswax and buttons.
But I’ve played with other miracles, too. Witnessing, participating. Healings. Improbable events springing into probability.
You could say, I’m a believer. Some days, more like a clerk in the God store of miracles.
So what is wrong with our relationship to miracles?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Say a miracle happens. (OK, a miracle happens.) Then what do we do with it?
How does it make us feel?
Overwhelmed, for one thing.
Inadequate, for another.
And then there are the questions.
What does it mean?
It’s hard ever to say.
Why did it happen?
Because we asked? Because we didn’t ask but God wanted us to be gifted with it anyway? Because the tides were right?
What am I supposed to do with it?
And that’s the bottom-line.
We as day-to-day, logical, methodical ape-men really, really do not know how to define ourselves when we stand next to a bolt of divinity that changes the life standing next to us in that moment.
Because experiencing miracles, in my opinion, is so much worse than not experiencing them. Because when you don’t experience miracles, but want them to be real, then they belong to your imagination where they can be seen as all sparkly and pretty. Like a child dreaming of what she will find under the Christmas tree. Only to awaken on Christmas morning to find, all wrapped up with a bow on top, a recipe for artichoke dip. Or, perhaps better, a calculator.
Merry Christmas, dear.
There is, in the execution of miracles, a fundamental misstep.
Take Jesus healing the crazed man chained up. It takes the town’s supply of pigs to get the demon out of him. (There go the perfectly good pigs that never did nothing to nobody, but, well. . . .) So the town gets a man who probably has been nothing but trouble all his life suddenly able to ponder Plato. (Sorry, Jesus.)
While the woman in the same village who has cared for the orphaned children all her life, feeding them, clothing them, teaching them to read, is covered with oozing sores and can’t even lie down at night to sleep.
There’s the rub: miracles are not fair.
Let’s face it, in most things, but most especially in terms of spirituality, we prefer a meritocracy. We want the best to win.
In God, in our opinion, Jesus would be at the top of the list.
And yet, after Jesus spends years giving out miracles, when it’s his time, his big time, to receive one.
Not even a breath of one.
You lose, Jesus.
And that’s why we, as a culture, as a society, have in not so nice ways, turned our collective back on miracles.
We want miracles to square with our expectations.
Don’t tell me that a crime lord in prison has been miraculously healed of liver cancer. While my own mother lingers in a stroke-induced coma, on life-support.
Make them reflect my values. My wants.
So it becomes a very big question of, just what do miracles have to do with it?
Even when a miracle touches our own lives. When we are saved by prayer, or by grace, or by whatever-it-is.
Why not back in grade school when I really needed you, God?
Always sizing them up and trying to find a place where they fit exactly.
And they never do.
I knew a man once who admitted to having had a miraculous healing. He could explain in no other terms. And he was only comfortable telling me about it, because even though at the time he thought, Wow! how impressed are people going to be with God when I tell them about this, his other friends wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.
You take your healing, you take God-miracle, you take all your specialness. And you shove them back into the hole where they belong.
And we’ll see you in church on Sunday!
In a way, miracles are the phenomena that brings on our crises of faith.
If this is God here, then why can’t I find him over there? Where I really need him?
But there, if you squint just a bit and tilt your head to the right just a nudge, you might be able to see the, well, miracle of miracles.
Miracles, you see, level the playing field.
They make us know that we are all equal in the eyes of God.
Let me repeat that.
Miracles make us know that we are all equal in the eyes of God.
And while that idea hurts us all very deeply, it can also be a relief.
Somehow if we can become detached enough from figuring our formulas of who should get it and who should not, we can take a wider (God-wider) view of it all and understand that, like the flowers in the field, the rain falls on all equally.
We may read that in the Bible. We may nod our heads when our pastors go on a bit too long about it all.
But in real terms, in practical life, equality in the grace of God almost cancels out our enthusiasm for it.
That, and the fact that we can’t control grace.
We can’t direct it, steer it, shape its consequences.
Like a bolt of lightening. It is in control.
And, boy, in terms of well-if-something-is-going-to-change-miraculously-let-it-be-this, we very much want to be in control.
That’s why we prefer doctors to prayer. We can carry into the doctor’s office our belief that if we pay the doctor, we are in some way contributing to the healing that will, with hope, take place.
We can’t do that with miracles really. Even if we dedicate a certain percentage of our time to prayer, we can never know.
And then we walk by a homeless man who is dancing because he just found the means to go get a hot meal and a new set of warm clothes.
And we wonder.
I pray. He eats.
And so a miracle makes us turn and take a hard look at ourselves. Am I not worthy? Was it something I said?
And the answer is: That’s not the question.
The question is: Why don’t we all join hands with one another so that when divinity comes down to Earth, we all participate in it? We are all there with our hearts open to it. We are all the flowers receiving the rain of God.