Forty hours ago I logged out of Facebook and asked Tim to reset my password. He did. And I don’t have it. So I can only go on when he signs me in. I then went to WordPress and relinked my blog to my FB account so that I can post blogs automatically. While I do not spend a lot of time on FB, most days, it is easy to get caught up in the opinions and debates of current events. Some of that is good. Some of it is not. All of it is time consuming. And the fallout of various aspects is more than I have energy for in the middle of finishing up my PhD coursework.
Since posting it I have managed to squeeze an 836 pound beef in our freezer, canned 14 jars of stewing beef, and completed my final quiz for my Statistics course. (This beef will be shared, not hoarded. In fact, about 20 pounds already left the house this morning. And, for the record, it was ordered prior to this ‘craziness’ going on). Now I’m working on my final paper for Stats course, and am about to start my final course, a reading course and research project to be completed between now and August. And then comprehensive exams. They will be the ‘make it or break it’ of my degree. The aftermath of medication last year, combined with a concussion after being rear-ended at 100km/h (65 m/hr) have made memory work a challenge. Exams require strong memory capabilities, or the determination to get everything into longterm. For stats, I overcame this by rewatching class lectures between 2 and four times, and rewriting notes 3 to five times. It has been extremely time consuming!
As I was doing all of these things, I’ve been contemplating why we humans reach for miracles. More specifically, why do I? I’ll admit, apart from taking Bible stories at face value, I’ve not seen many miracles and used to be a skeptic. And then one day a friend who knew I was having a lot of issues with my one knee ‘giving out’, and accompanying pain, called me up and invited me to church. We’re having a healing service, she said, and I think you should be there. I agreed, because she is my friend.
Nothing wonky happened. But I did muster the courage to ask for prayer, and a group of strangers gathered round me, and prayed. The problem left and never came back. That was about 14 years ago.
I am one of those who gets to have a colonoscopy ever 5 years. It started first in my 20’s, when I had significant rectal bleeding with no explanation. After the colonoscopy showed nothing, the specialist chalked it up to stress. That made sense. I was just starting to acknowledge and work through the trauma of my childhood. Nothing more was done.
In my 30’s, they started with the scopes every 5 years. Just keeping an eye on things after weeks of the same issues. At one point, I believe it was two weeks into another round of bleeding, we had a worship night. I had my eyes closed, hands raised, and when I opened my eyes i was surprised (and deeply moved) to be surrounded by a handful of individuals, including one of our elders, praying over me. A woman, who had no idea what was going on with my health, was among them. She placed her hand on my abdomen and began to pray. As she did so, I just knew the bleeding had stopped. That was around ten years ago. The bleeding has never happened again.
Were these miracle healings? Frankly, I don’t care what they were. I’m thankful for the outcome. Even so, I like to keep one foot firmly planted in the practical and scientific realities of this present world, while keeping the other firmly planted in the mystery of God and the spiritual realities that we cannot fully grasp. It keeps my faith in balance and rooted in the eternal, not the temporal. It helps me live in a place of trusting God, in the unknown.
And maybe seeing a loved one fighting a fierce battle with cancer right now, forces me to grapple with the absence of such mysteries as miracles. I have prayed. I have wept. I have tried to hold onto a fragment of faith in the miraculous, when the practical screams it is a lie. When the fight against cancer is a quiet, persistent evidence of the absence of miracles. And when faith in God’s goodness boils down to knowing, “Even now. Even here. Even in this, He is good.” And to somehow reconcile myself with that certainty, when there is no evidence that good can or will be done in a given circumstance.
Maybe, hearing another’s ‘miracle’ offers us some borrowed hope in a place or circumstance destitute of such hope. It is a reminder that God is sovereign and He is goodness. It is the very essence of His nature. And where no miracle is granted to the naked eye, a greater miracle, reserved for the spirit to see, is born.
With the passing of time, my world has become more and more that of ‘living in a glass house’, thanks to my work and how public it is. I am ok with that, for the most part, as I have nothing to hide. I am human. When I fail, I will apologize. I aim for due diligence, and throwing in disclaimers in my writings, and apologize if I have erred. It’s who I am.
However, the standard of perfection that is required to function within Christian context is one to which I cannot live up. I never have. I never will. It has been months of ‘off and on’ discussions with Tim, wondering how long I can do what I do, within the context and ‘audience’ of my work; conservative Anabaptists and ex-conservative Anabaptists. I’ve lived simultaneously the past four years in another (secular) world (university) that is, ironically, far more grace-filled. It is strange to say that out loud, but it is true. This contradiction has been challenging to process. It is in university I was trained to be culturally sensitive and separate the horror of sexual abuse I encounter from the Anabaptist culture in which it takes place. It is in university I was trained on Restorative Justice practices (that strangely echo the teachings of Jesus). It is in university I was taught to separate the crime from the criminal and remove crime labels from their identity. It is in university I learned to extend grace to myself, when profs would say, repeatedly, “Trudy, you don’t have to be perfect”, and “It’s ok to make a mistake.” Most of my profs have said that, and several have gone above and beyond, entering into my world, my life, my story in ways that few people ever have. I never looked for it, and didn’t even realize how much that can do for a person, other than seeing what it did for others when I entered in. One prof (not a believer) in particular, sat with me for more hours than I can keep track of, and would say, “Someone has His hand on you.” I understand why people are drawn away from religion.
I could now do a list of things that do not align with Christian values, but I won’t, because I have no expectation that a secular entity will uphold my Christian values. Instead, I will thank God that He reveals His kind heart through those who do not believe. I will thank Him that He has protected my faith in Him, in spite of … in spite of so many things, even while He is eerily silent in the space of other prayers that are wanting in answers.
Today, while miracles are glaringly absent in the wilderness of many of my prayers, I will grieve those disappointments while holding on to this one thing: God is a God of miracles. Even if the only miracle is that I (or you) can somehow hold on to Him and embrace hope in spaces and experiences that, humanly speaking, should drive us to cynicism, atheism and rejecting God.
Maybe, at the end of the day, that is the greatest miracle. To live daily finding joy and hope in God. That my heart has not grown cynical, in spite of daily reminders that incredible evil lurks ‘among God’s people’ (along with goodness). To separate that evil from God and see Him is good and kind, and to separate that evil from the ‘personhood’ of the evildoer and still see him/her as holding value and being worthy of kind treatment (albeit good ad firm too). These are miracles of another sort.
I will trust Him as I process things what seem upside down in my world. Harsh judgement from the religious, Christ-like kindness from unbelieving professors and peers, sexual abuse blithely brushed off in religious community where children should be safe, and much more.
Because the thing about miracles is that they don’t make sense. They are the unexpected outcomes. So I will continue to believe that my God is a miracle working God.
As for Facebook… for now I will likely pop in from time to time. I care deeply about my friends. Hundred and hundreds of the 5000 are familiar to me. Many have engaged privately, so that you come to mind even in my day-to-day-not-on-Facebook work and world. You are not just ‘one of many’. Your wellbeing, each one of you, matters to me. That does not change with my absence from Facebook. Maybe I’ll be back one day. Maybe sooner, maybe later. Or maybe I will find the world of real interactions is much more life-giving without it, even in a world suspended in time, with no gatherings. Either way, I am taking this time to be thoughtful, to live with grace, and to continue to seek the heart of God, and let Him seek mine. The processing of experience is my responsibility. The outcome of things that come into my life, good or bad, invited or not, is my responsibility.
And I choose redemption and grace.