Getting my mind around miracles
A blog may be a dangerous place to do some thinking out loud, but I can play with danger occasionally. I’ve had several “minds” about miracles in the context of ministry in health care settings for 2 dozen years. One of those minds is that yes, miracles happen. I’ve heard incredible, delightful, awe-striking stories of conditions that were sure as the day and clear as x-rays, that later couldn’t be found with a radiological magnifying glass. I’ve seen many people we thought were doomed because of their injuries or their overall condition, and later they come to show us how well they’re doing. I think alcoholics who are able to make the move–the very difficult, painful, transition– to recovery and undergo miraculous changes that are so beyond them and their power to live well. Miracles happen. Amazing things happen. So much happens that we cannot explain or find an accounting that serve to remind us of our limited vision.
Another part of my mind on miracles is that we cannot expect them or demand them. That’s like breaking the rules. Miracles happen, and we don’t get to order them or plan on them. In a world of science, medical information, and strong faith, saying “a miracle will happen” is like demanding that the genie appear, or that the magic wand’s powers be subject to our whims and wishes. Planning on a miracle, or demanding one, seems rather unlike miracles, and rather unlike a believer’s reliance on God to tell God what to do. But that seems like what we’re doing when we say, “I’m counting on a miracle.” I think seeking miracles takes humility.
And yet…I have so wanted to convey in my ministry that “it’s never too late to connect with God.” It’s never too late to call upon God to be God for you. God’s been God for you all along; we only rarely pay attention. And how many biblical stories tell us to be bold with God? This moment, any moment, is exactly the right time to seek God’s face, to look for God’s power, to invite ourselves to be aware of God’s work. Pray boldly!
I think some of my “issues” with miracle-thinking/demanding is that it’s escapist. In my context of an acute care hospital, Level 1 trauma center, transplant center…I hear people claim or demand a miracle in the face of being told awful, terrible, pit-of-the-stomach news. And my concerns include issues like: “have they heard the physicians? how can they ‘blow off’ such overwhelming evidence? what if they don’t get their miracle?”
You would think that I’ve learned my lesson. All the years I’ve been in the thick of grief with people, and my mantra was something like, “the strength of denial equals the level of the bad news they’ve been told.” In other words, given terrible prognosis, one’s need for a miracle, or to believe in a miracle, is that much stronger.
And yes, this kind of open dialogue on this blog means I’m bracing myself for getting slammed. But I will persist in trying to sort out my thoughts here.
My concern if folks don’t get “their miracle,” includes a sense of wondering how they will deal with a reality that’s less than their ideal. Of course I understand that in the midst of trauma, we want our loved ones back. We want NORMAL. We want–we scream with yearning–that we want what we had. Good Lord, why can’t we just go back to the way things were?
Another dynamic in this “what if the miracle doesn’t happen the way they want it” touches on those with disabilities, and how we perceive their/our “brokenness.” I suspect that if you have dabbled in disability theology, you’ll hear the perspective that one’s disability is not necessarily perceived as brokenness, but a “I’m made this way” posture. Or, there’s a component of having a disability that pragmatically accepts the disability, and learns to deal with it. It’s other folks who might have issues–and a need for a miracle to happen. There’s a presumptiveness about that; most folks with any disability have short tempers for such presumption. It’s kind of like the story of the man born blind, and asking “who sinned?”
What I appreciate about the appeal for a miracle is the desire for health, wholeness as a way to equip us to continue to live into God’s call for us. When that desire comes in the context of trusting God to hold us–and the person for whom we desire a miracle–that expression seems much more humble and faith-filled than the folks who blatantly tell physicians that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and that God will “show them.” The posture of trusting God’s providence seems much more suitable to us humans than the insistence that we will have our way with God. My Calvinist self says God will have God’s way with us, whether we are demanding or humble.
One of the articles I read about miracles, which I found quite helpful, is this one:
I also know I need to read CS Lewis on miracles; I’ll take that on as a homework assignment.