I already know miracle.
I came across those words this morning in my readings. I started out reading Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith. A man I have known for a very long time commented over coffee recently that he was pleased to hear me say before God and everyone gathered at a library event that I am a woman of faith.
There are some who wrongly mistake remarks like that to be some sort of braggart statement. It’s not. For me, talking about being a person of faith is like saying I’m married to my college sweetheart, or that I’m the mother of four grown kids, or a grandmother-to-be, or a Beaver Believer. It’s a way to define myself that tells you a bit of my history, what shapes me, what compels me, what I value, what I aspire to, and what I have failed at, time and time again.
A book reviewer for a big city newspaper ended her critique of my current book with this statement: Clearly, the author is a devout Christian, but her religious references will definitely turn off any non-believers.
If you’ve read the book, I think you’ll agree that’s a dishonest critique designed primarily to take a pot-shot at Christians. The book is not evangelical in any sense. As far as to being “devout”, I think God himself might argue with the reviewer over that assessment.
There was a time in this society when referring to someone as a devout Christian would have been considered the highest of compliments. Nowadays when used outside the community of faith, it is meant to be cutting, an inference of a someone who thinks they are holier than others. In other words, a big ol’ hypocrite.
Both my Granny Leona (Daddy’s) and my Granny Ruth (Mama’s) were considered to be devout Christians in the hill towns of Tennessee where they lived. Throughout my life people I didn’t know would remark upon learning who my people were that “Mrs. Spears, she is a Christian woman.” They said the same of “Mrs. Mayes.”
I grew up knowing that being called a “Christian woman” was the greatest compliment anyone could pay a woman (the same goes for being a Christian man). My grandmothers distinguished themselves as women who were known for the way they loved God and others. My grandmothers lived a public faith.
As Volf says: “For this, in the end, is what the Christian faith as a prophetic religion is all about — being an instrument of God for the sake of human flourishing, in this life and the next.”
Books have been written about how we got from being the society where being known as a “Christian woman” was the highest compliment someone could pay you, to being a cause for public ridicule. I suppose we have Bill Maher to thank for that, but some of it we earned by using faith as a political battering ram.
“Too often,” Volf says of our public faith, “it neither mends the world nor helps human beings thrive. To the contrary, it seems to shatter things into pieces, to choke up what is new and beautiful before it has a chance to take root, to trample underfoot what is good and true.”
Can I get an Amen on that?
But can we also acknowledge that this is not something common solely to Christians?
Everybody else mucks it up, too.
Too often the whole of humanity seems to shatter things into pieces. Too often the whole of humanity neither mends the world nor helps others. Too often the whole of humanity chokes out what is new and beautiful before it has a chance to take root.
The difference between the Christian and the non-believer (to use the big city newspaper lady’s terminology) is that the non-believer gets a By.
Nobody expects the apathetic critic to do anything but criticize. Nobody expects Bill Maher to do good and purposeful things with his life. He gets 24-7 access to cable television to blast believers just because he’s witty.
He makes a sport of ridiculing Christian women and Christian men.
As long as you can couch a put-down in humor, and as long as that put-down is directed toward evangelicals, the world laughs with you.
I’m not going to lie to you. My feelings get hurt when people criticize me for living out a public faith. Shoot, my feelings get hurt when people criticize me period. I can act all I-don’t-carish on the outside but on the inside I’m still that girl who wants to make people proud. I especially want to make God proud. My grandmothers set a high mark for the rest of the women and men in our families.
But then again, like my grandmothers, like L’Engle, I already know miracle.
I know miracle.
And I’m a woman of faith because in order to have a miracle there has to be a miracle-worker.
A Creator God.
And it’s notes like the one I received late last night that affirm the miraculous I already know: