I think the Lord delights in setting up impossibilities. I used to call it “chicken,” meaning that it felt like I was faced off against him and we were heading straight for each other at breakneck speed. Of course, he being perfected, all-knowing, and omnipotent, I was going to be the first one to dive aside to avoid the catastrophe. All seemed rather rigged. I’ve since decided that he and I are on the same team playing chicken with life, and it’s actually kind of fun, he being omnipotent and all. So satisfying to be little, yellow, and fluffy, and still pull one over on the chickenhawk.
On Sunday I was reminded of twenty minutes that changed my life, that unraveled those impossibilities. The twenty minutes was last Fall, when a simple man, who also happens to be a prophet, said this. The part that got me was that there was a process to miracles. Playing chicken is so much more productive when you know the rules. That would have been handy to know a couple of decades ago.
I had never prayed so hard for anything in my life as when I prayed that somehow God could change my husband’s heart. I read for hours a day in the Book of Mormon, studied the whole thing in two months, and found out for myself what I really believed as the person I loved more than anyone else grew colder and more distant. I was willing to do anything to prove to God how much I wanted this miracle. I read about faith and how when miracles ceased it was because the people’s faith had withered. I made gaining faith my day-and-night focus. I don’t know what I could have done more – I was as singleminded as I’ve ever been.
And yet, it didn’t happen. Or at least, not the miracle I hoped for. He walked away, I had a baby by myself, and I tried to figure out how I felt about a lot of things. Turned out, my life didn’t end, and every morning I woke up and I was still breathing, and the miracle was that I learned who I was. I cry every time I watch Under the Tuscan Sun and Patti sobs those lines about how she’ll never breathe again. I remember: grief so intense that I thought that no human being could continue to exist after feeling it. It doesn’t hurt like that, and hasn’t for a very long time, but the memory makes possible sincere sympathy. I want to tell her: there’s a process for realizing miracles.
It was all right there in the gospels, all along, like so many other truths, hidden in plain sight.
Jesus looked with compassion at a crowd, maybe more than ten or twenty thousand since they only counted men in those days, and saw the need. He didn’t look away or pretend it wasn’t there, he acknowledged a big, hairy problem with honesty. He asked what they had available; what their resources were. They had enough for one person. And then, instead of allowing any fear or worry or visualization of defeat (we pragmatists call this “reality”), he gave thanks for what they had and asked God to bless it. Then he told them to go serve all those people. And they could.
Acknowledge the problem, take stock of resources, give thanks, and then go to work believing it will work.
I’ve come to terms with the wisdom of not being yoked to someone whose belief in God was much more shallow than mine, so I wouldn’t take my newfound knowledge back in time and try again for that miracle. But I delight in looking for problems that can be “miracled,” with about the same relish as a toddler who has figured out the remote.
Yesterday we had a little miracle, one of the little daily ones. Several people were sad and discouraged, so we talked. We talked about what the problems were. We counted our blessings and looked them over from several angles. We were thankful. And then everyone was happy. The problems were miracled into oblivion. That’s not Pollyanna; that’s hope, and it’s real. When you find it after you haven’t had it, it’s a miracle.
My life has been a long train of miracles since that Spring nearly 25 years ago, and some of them have been breathtaking. More times than I can count, and I’ve tried, the game of chicken has been on and I didn’t bail, but somehow I didn’t crash either. My nerves are getting steadier. I appreciate that the impossibility has to be there so that the miracle can appear. It’s as if God delights in setting up opportunities to show me how much he loves me – what he’s willing to do for me. I don’t find myself hunched over with my eyes squinched shut anymore. I want to see it all happen. I want to watch as he does what he does.
I wish I had known earlier in my life that the secret to making miracles is gratitude. I wish I had relaxed, spent less time being realistic and more time surveying my resources, imagining how they could be multiplied, and then diving in. I do know now, and I haven’t even hit the half-way mark. It makes me want to find the Pattis of the world and hug them and help them breathe and tell them the problem isn’t as big or hairy as it seems because not only are there miracles, but there’s a process. Get hope, get faith, and get going.
Got problems? Get miracled.