I am just emerging from a stressful 72 hours of family medical emergency. The situation could easily have been fatal. This kind of pressure brings our assumptions of self-sufficiency into sharp focus.
There are few “foxhole atheists.” I am not one. Yes, I do my share of forgetting about God, but it seems an emergency vastly improves my memory of His grace and power.
Here is what I learned from this family crisis: if you call God into the foxhole, you might just find He assists you in helping yourself. The mechanisms of your miracle may be your military training, your previous combat experience, your automatic weapon, your communications device, updated accurate logistics, and a game plan coordinated with your platoon.
I learned too that in a high stress situation with no clear outcome, your best resource is clear thinking. Anxious, fearful, exhausted thinking will not produce the best results. It’s important to find ways of self-calming. This calming can mean deep breathing, getting enough nutrition and sleep, and leaning on friends and loved ones.
But the final and most important lesson is this: a crisis from time to time can bring a healthy realignment of our connection to God. In these 72 hours God didn’t ask “Where have you been?” but said instead “Here I am.”
Not long ago, my daughter saw a monarch butterfly. She stretched out her finger, and the butterfly alighted upon it, and stayed, moving its wings slowly. The event lasted for about 10 minutes, long enough for her to video the event.
Today, as the crisis came to its turning point, from the hospital sixth floor, I saw a hummingbird hover over a tall palm tree. Short version: the hummingbird is God’s cryptic message to me that He loves me, and I am in His care. It has been so for years with me. The history of grace-filled events is just too stark and fortuitous to deny. For my daughter, the story of the butterfly would be for her to explain. She told the story to me from her hospital bed today. But, the image of the emerging beauty breaking free of the chrysalis is practically synonymous with transformation.
Something must end for something new to begin. An attitude shift means an old attitude must die. A “life and death” crisis is a time of another kind of dying. It is the dying of the self sufficiency that keeps us from knowing God’s love in a fresh way. Our self sufficiency must break open like the chrysalis. We too break open. In the newly created spaces, God enters. We feel his presence as strength, clarity, hope, calmness, confidence, and peace even as the crisis continues.
For me, the grace came as tactical thinking. It came as the right questions to ask, and the finding of the right sources of information. It continued as the right plan to use the information. None of this should be confused with self-sufficiency. My basic intelligence, education, and problem solving approach did not operate independently. Those “gifts” were in place, but it was God’s grace that empowered me to use them as needed in the situation. In the words of Johann Sebastian Bach written at the end of each of his compositions, “Soli Deo Gloria.” [“To God Alone Be the Glory.”]
So the lesson I take from this week is that God is a master craftsman who works with the materials at hand. His miracles most often incorporate us. He challenges us to bring our intelligence and energy to the problem, guided by an inner call upon his love and grace to see us through.
Is this natural occurrence within the definition of a “miracle” as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency?” I argue that a miracle better defined is “a surprising and welcome event produced by God’s intervention and appearing as the result of scientific laws.”
Yes, this definition vastly expands the class of miraculous events. But this definition confirms our visceral heartfelt connection to God’s mercy. It also acknowledges God is not a magic show entertainer to dazzle the faithless. God most often uses the natural world to produce a miraculous chain of cause and effect. I and my family were touched this week by God’s mercy, and we know it. Soli Deo Gloria.