I very nearly to forgot write this post. I’ve done super well, faithfully following through on my New Year’s intention to post something every week…
…TWO WEEKS. Not until Week 3 did I falter. Technically, we’re right at the beginning of Week 4 and I really did miss Week 3, but I’ll treat myself with some grace and lump both weekend days into Week 3, ‘kay?
Truth is, I didn’t even know what I wanted to write about. This week has been so busy – conference last weekend, catapulted into a shortened school week due to a holiday and the end of semester, all in one week, started a new graduate program so all my spare time is spent on homework assignments (God, is three master’s degrees enough? Can this be the last? Why I’m working on #3 is, of course, fodder for yet another blog post…). And this afternoon, we welcomed into our home an exchange student from Thailand. Busy, busy, busy! Not enough room in my mid-life brain to percolate some fresh inspiration…
Even my Scripture study habit has suffered. So today, after looking at my schedule of reading and determining just how much I needed to catch up on, I settled into my cushy chair by the fireplace and began reading…
…over and over again, I came across the connection between FAITH and MIRACLES.
I know, I’m about to get a “You freakin’ Joel Osteen parrot!” from a lot of you, but regardless of some folks’ use of the word “faith” to turn God into a divine vending machine/ATM/barista, Scripture says it – quite clearly:
- In Mark 6, Jesus couldn’t perform miracles because of the people’s lack of faith.
- In Numbers 21, those who had faith in God’s directive to look at the bronze serpent were healed; those who didn’t, died.
- In Acts 3, Peter and John clearly state that the crippled man’s faith is what healed him.
Please understand – I am absolutely not a name-it-and-claim-it thinker. I am a dyed-in-the-wool, choices-bring-consequences, you-made-your-bed-now-get-comfortable, and God-gave-you-brains-and-brawn-so-use-them sort of person. Very independent, and very prone to kicking myself when I make a poor choice or exert less than perfect wisdom in any given situation.
It hasn’t been like me to ask for miracles. Historically, I’ve found that rather embarrassing…a miracle was evidence that I needed God to cover my backside (which, granted, He has done more than once).
There was a time when I no longer believed in miracles, or in God, for that matter. It wasn’t so long ago, and I found myself swimming in a sea of doubt, and despair, and darkness. And I realized that although I didn’t know if God existed, and if He did, I didn’t know if He was listening to little-ol’-me…
…but I wanted to believe He was, and I wanted Him to hear me.
In my mind, I could see myself as that little lost lamb Jesus told us about, and I wanted a Good Shepherd to rescue me before I fell of the cliff (or, rather, catch me in mid-air because I was already falling).
I remember talking with a friend about this, a friend who was acquainted with my extensive background in a variety of religions, and he directed me to Scripture. Mind you, this was at a time in my life when the Bible, the Baghavagita, the Book of Mormon, the daily newspaper horoscope, the Wiccan Rede, fortune cookies…they were all about the same to me. I had great respect for all expressions of faith and religion, but believed none of it. My life had led me to a place where I hoped everyone could find something that would help them become a better person and leave the world a better place, but I certainly could not speak to the supremacy of Jesus Christ, the Savior.
I’d been reading Scripture about the Savior. At every turn, my heart and my mind were being confronted by Jesus Christ – His words, His actions, His love. And my friend asked me, “Do you believe this is true?”
I didn’t know. Like Pilate, I asked myself, “What is truth?”
But maybe the darkness in my life made the light all that much brighter, because it was different than it was when I was growing up and first learning about Him. There was a power in these Scripture encounters that I’d never experienced before, an urgency, a texture and resonance that was new to me. What I was reading was no longer merely cerebral, but three-dimensional and REAL. I could feel the person living inside the earthly tabernacle being sculpted, shaped, literally remodeled. It was almost – heck, maybe it was – physical.
My answer was paltry. “I-I-I [I’m not a stutterer; I was in that moment] think so.”
He said, “Good enough…good enough.”
And you know what?
It was good enough.
The tiny little mustard seed – the desire for the tiny little mustard seed – started a chain reaction of miracles in my life that steered me to a completely unexpected and only-dreamed-of-place.
Where I wanted to run away from my life, I settled in.
The marriage that was failing faster than I could keep it together was healed…because I was healed.
Out of the blue, the opportunity to leave a career that was leaving me withering and lifeless and start a career in music (those of you who know me know how significant that is) presented itself.
And religion (yes, I love that word now) became for me not a trite observance of Sunday ceremony and ritual, but a binding of myself to the God who loves me and makes me able to love, and that love continues to re-create me, every day. My experience with Jesus Christ is as tangible to me as my experience with my husband or my friends or my colleagues. He’s right there, just a prayer or thought or funny comment away (yes, we joke with each other now and again…).
But I had to ask myself today – was it really my faith that made those things happen? Because here’s another thought, no less powerful, but one that looks at this issue from a different perspective.
In C.S. Lewis’ book Prince Caspian, part of The Chronicles of Narnia, we run into a Dwarf named Nikabrik. He’s quite the surly fellow and absolutely does not believe in Aslan. As they’re holed up in a bunker and feeling quite hungry, he quips that, if Aslan (who was standing right there) was real, he’d produce a feast for them.
Well, what do you know? Poof! A feast! And everyone digs in. Roast, apples, potatoes, pie, you name it…
…but all Nikabrik seems to experience is a few moldy turnips and rutabagas (both of which are fantastic – less the moldy bits, of course – in a nice beef stew).
Ultimately, Nikabrik didn’t want to believe, so Aslan was powerless to do anything for him. He chose to remain in blindness, and so he couldn’t experience the miracle that was happening around him. No faith, no miracle…or no experiencing of the miracle. Where everyone around him was rejoicing and delighting in the hand of providence, not only did Nikabrik not experience it, but he couldn’t understand why everyone else was so thrilled with moldy turnips and rutabagas.
So does my faith – little and paltry and weak though it might be – actually produce miracles, or does it enable my ability to participate in and experience them? Does my faith in God move God’s hand or place me in God’s hand? Does prayer change things…or me?
C.S. Lewis had a very clear thought on this matter:
Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shal find; knock, and it whall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, KJV).
All it takes is to ask. But if one doesn’t believe, one won’t ask, and so the miracle remains elusive, out-of-reach, and, for all intents and purposes, non-existent.
After pondering all of this, I don’t think that our faith is like a supernatural power-up for God. God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do…and fortunately, Scripture is pretty clear about His direction, so we don’t have to worry about God being flaky or unpredictable. My experience, however, does indicate that our faith is a supernatural power-up for us, because it gives us the power to move into a place where we can see and hear and experience and partner with everything God is doing.
And that, my friends, is the greatest miracle of all.
You should try it.