As I prepared to for my day, I was listening to a presentation on ‘ Life Lessons’, a recording from Jim Rohn, (a well-known Author and motivational speaker. He was speaking on a topic, “the measure of one’s life”.
“Life is not about the length of time but the collection of experiences”.
He went on to say,
“.. not just the collection of any experience but the variety of experiences with both magnitude and frequency. A man can die in his 40’s and still could have lived many (full) lifetimes”.
This made me ponder on how we can understand the quality of living our lives. Certainly, jumping from a plane, skiing down a steep powdered slope, climbing a rocky wall of a very tall cliff is vastly different than wasting hours in front of a television set or spending a life as a recluse, removed from family and friends. I am not saying that all mundane experiences rob the quality of life. In fact, these subtle times are just a small part in the vast variety of experiences that life has to offer us. However, if the mundane is where the boundary of one’s life remains, it would certainly not provide the full range of color in our experiences and can leave us lacking all that our brief existence can yield.
The takeaway here suggests that it may be best to not dismiss unfamiliar opportunities which were not directly experienced, but consider every different part of the event as a new hue in life’s color. Just as shades of grey can bring out the detail of a black and white image, the range of experience we have can offer vibrancy to our life.
As I considered this topic, I thought about a discussion I once had with some friends at my church. We were talking about “Miracles” and the question came up on how we would define a Miracle.
Often when we discuss Miracles in the Bible, like the story where our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead. Clearly, to all who believe in this account, this would qualify this as a Miracle. There seem to be many examples of ‘Miracles’ offered in the scriptures. But what about today? Most, if not all people have heard of remarkable personal stories from others that would meet the criteria. We hear of those who were facing a life-threatening disease, yet restored to health, or someone troubled by a business loss that somehow set the stage for a new direction filled with blessed riches, or we hear about a barren spouse, despite physical conditions for pregnancy, somehow was able to conceive. But how about a less epic situation, like having a flat tire on an unsafe roadside, and yet received timely assistance at the hands of an unexpected stranger? Doesn’t this also constitute a “miracle”?
Reflexively, we tend to consider miracles as supernatural events. We expect some great need was unexpectedly fulfilled by something supernatural, or that occurred somehow ‘beyond what is considered a “natural event”, beyond what occurs in the known physical world. But could we be diminishing activities that are just as wondrous, just less dramatic in our everyday lives?
What if a miracle is not as exclusive and separate from natural occurrence as we tend to believe? It is true that Christ had performed many miracles. Even by historical records, Josephus, the Greek historian of the ancient times wrote about Christ, who was known as a man that “performed countless miracles”.
The very first public Miracle of Christ that was recorded in the Gospels is was where Christ turned water into wine. If we attempt to distill which part of ‘changing water into wine’ was the miracle and what part was not a miracle, we will run into some problems. We can say the water poured out as wine is the ‘supernatural’ part but then we are compelled to say the other activities (mother making the request, having servants to assist, filling pitchers with water, giving the first cup to the wine taster, etc) were not supernatural. This could not be the case since each activity and each person in this story were necessary contributors. We need to acknowledge how each aspect of individual actions and even the items employed were necessary to define the identified miracle. If items and actions were necessary for this miracle to occur, then the actions and items around the “miracle” also had a role in the miraculous.
If we take a very limited view of what we define as a miracle, we would leave many aspects of the miraculous out of the story. It was not a single cup like a parlor trick. These were jar containers which held a large volume of water, that had been changed into aged wine at the molecular level.
We must not forget to consider the unique role that Time held within the miracle. The story tells of a “wine taster” present at the feast, whose role was to evaluate the quality of the drink. The Gospel made it clear that this expert determined that the wine was of the highest quality. The best wines take a considerable amount of time and careful management to assure the highest quality. This allows us to see yet another part of the miracle. The necessary duration of time to age the wine and the special care that would be required had been compressed within the brief moments before it was offered to the wine taster.
There were jars, there was a volume of water equivalent to the volume of wine transformed and cups which brought the aged drink to the lips of the guests. Were these not also a part of this miracle? Were these not also common and mere routine items within this particular wedding miracle?
Let us consider another miracle presented in scripture about the “feeding of the five thousand “, with five loaves and two fish. Here, a young boy donated his meal which was blessed by Christ before he broke it to disperse to a hungry crowd that gave Christ audience. After everyone finished eating to their satisfaction, the scraps of food were collected and found to be over 12 baskets of leftover food. Was this a miracle? Yes, it was. But the miracle was not the incredible volume of leftover food from the small-donated meal. Every bite of food was a miracle. The donated fish and loaves were a miracle. The faith of a child was a miracle. The joyful collection of remaining food was a miracle. Every part of this event was a miracle and resulted in praise to God from all who were present.
Sometimes, people report having some miraculous event occur in their life only to later discover a natural process behind the situation, which diminished their claims of experiencing a “miracle”. However, based on what I am sharing, the new disclosures do not have to diminish a special experience, nor would it imply the experience was any less a miracle. Consider the following account also from scriptures.
The Bible shares the account of the pool at Bethesda. The story tells that there were many diseased, lame, blind and paralyzed people gathering at this pool. They had a belief that angels would stir the water at infrequent times and the first one to descend into the stirred water would be healed from their illness.
The story further tells how Jesus was passing by this pool and observed a lame man who was alone near the pool. Jesus was moved with compassion and approached the man and asked, “Why are you here?”. The man answered, “Sir, each time the angels stir the water I have no one to help me into the pool first”.
Jesus then asked, “Do you want to be healed?”. The man said “yes” and Christ said, “Your faith has made you whole, take up your bed and walk”. The man reportedly picked up his bed and walked, immediately healed. Was this a miracle?
Yes. A lame man walked after his encounter with Christ. What was the miracle? All of it; the water, the stirring of the water, and the faith of a lame man.
I learned some years ago that this same pool was excavated by an archaeologist. They found that this pool had a crack in its base where an underground spring caused the water to occasional stir. Does this information change the miracle? Even though it was discovered that it was likely a natural event that stirred the waters and not the that the water was stirred by angels. The explanation the stirring of water did not rob the miracle. Did Christ condemn the belief in angels stirring the water or the belief that the first one to descend the waters would be healed? No. But he did ask a direct question, “would you like to be healed?” and followed it by, “Your faith has made you whole..”.
I bring this particular story to emphasize a point. Just because we are able to explain an event in natural ways at the time, it does not take away from the miracle. Natural events are often a part of the miracle, a significant part, connected intimately to the very miracle itself.
I would offer that even though we may regard a miracle is “supernatural” activity, it is likely to still be an extension of a natural of common activity. Even though the special event may be eventually disclosed as a natural activity, it does not make the outcome any less of a miracle. Furthermore, I tend to believe that even if we understood all the laws whereby Christ healed the sick, the effect would not pale as a miracle. It remains a miracle even when we consider the background of the event as less miraculous, or a common phenomenon based on our present understanding.
The factors that often promote an event to the status of a miracle, is what is introduced as the background of what our experience tells us by comparison. Water is not routinely changed to wine, lame people do not naturally walk. Through our journey, we have considered some factors that help define a miraculous event. There is the deviation of the naturally evolving (timing), the scope of the event (intensity) and the frequency (a rarity). These are the factors which help stage the common redefining of a miracle, separate from commonplace events.
Now, if we really apply these factors to our everyday events, we need to concede that we are surrounded by miracles often. It may be a kind word at the right time(timing), or an act of generosity from a neighbor(intensity), or a warm meal on a cold day(a rarity). Under the same lens, all such events are equally considered as miracles or connected to the miraculous.
I challenge you, my readers, to live miraculously by seeking the new experiences of adventure, to broaden your investment in the lives of others and add to your life the adventure of the miraculous. If we really observe the events that occur in our day and grasp the wonder of how unique each event is in our meaningful life, we will recognize the miraculous. Recognize that when we participate in the miraculous, just by association, we can be miracles in the lives of others.
Thanks for sharing the miraculous with me.