In our time, we have to struggle with a fundamental question born of our sense of individual identity, of our increased scientific and medical awareness, a question of faith and a question of doubt . . . for some of us, at least, I suspect, it is ultimately a question of miracles . . .
Do they happen? Are they real? What do they say about God? Why do some get them and others do not?
A long time ago, I was in a car accident and I got a miracle . . . for myself and for others there that day . . . that’s how it seems to me, anyway . . .
My car spinning on the ice out of control, I was ‘driving’ backwards headed into the oncoming lane of traffic at 60 miles an hour . . . others behind me were also spinning trying to avoid me . . . now, when you’re going backwards at 60 miles an hour there isn’t much you can do to save yourself . . . and I distinctly remember the realization that I would soon die hitting me . . . I took my hands off the steering wheel and prayed . . . I prayed that no one else would die because of my mistake . . . I did not pray for myself because I thought my own fate was a ‘done deal’ . . . my vehicle came to a gentle stop in the median and the car behind me righted itself and the 18-wheeler somehow avoided hitting it broadside, which only a moment before, had been a certainty.
But ‘my miracle’ has not always been received as a story of blessing . . . as some have heard it with anger rather than joy, with resentment rather than appreciation . . . if what I got was a miracle, where was theirs?
Miracle stories leave some filled not with questions of wonder, but with questions of mourning: why not me?
In trying to get at the ‘why not me’ question, Stephen Jones says of the Tabitha miracle, "We do not hold the keys that unlock these mysteries. We do not know God's will as it pertains to Dorcas or to our loved ones. The helpful distinction is between praying for a cure, which seems to dictate to God our desired outcome, and praying for healing, which can come in a hundred unexpected ways. God's Spirit will intervene on behalf of our prayers, yet the healing that comes often surprises us and causes us to catch our collective breath."
I like what Jones says, but he is so 20th century!
For the fact is that the biblical miracle stories aren’t about ‘healing’ in our 20th century sense of the word; they’re about cure.
Our faith is a thing of mystery . . . and with this mystery, we do not know why anymore than we know how . . .
In our time and in our place, that uncertainty, that not knowing the why of it all, leads to doubt . . . doubt in miracles and doubt in God . . .
The challenge to us in the now is to live with this doubt, I think . . . to not discard miracles because they don’t happen to us . . . to rejoice for others even as we mourn for ourselves . . . and to understand that those receiving miracles do not have all their problems solved . . .
And so we are left with some simple declarative sentences, I think:
God is . . .
Miracles do happen . . . but they don’t bring a life free from pain or despair or problems . . .
C. S. Lewis once said, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
But most powerful for me is the ‘testimony’ of William Sloan Coffin, who says that he knows Jesus performs miracles because he has seen Jesus turn beer into furniture . . . And only those who have never suffered from the effects of alcohol and alcoholism would ever doubt that it’s a miracle when that change happens . . .
I have never been closer to my God than in the mud and the muck and the pain and the sorrow of life . . .
God moves about our lives and our deaths . . . and we are changed . . .
Old or young, living or dead, sooner or later . . . we all meet God face to face . . . and we are never the same . . .
How could we be?