what i mean about miracles

Yesterday I wrote a hasty and blunt post to go along with a graphic cartoon of a girl in a wheelchair with a t-shirt that says, I believed in miracles. It received lots of attention and comments. On my other site, davidhayward.ca the comments are even more revealing and telling.

But I owe an apology. My good wife Lisa, who is much wiser than I, pointed out to me that the post felt negative and seemed to denounce miracles and those who believe in them. She also wondered if I really said what I really meant. So I told her that I would try to clarify my thoughts today. This is the problem with blogging: I intend to produce a cartoon and some writing every day, and sometimes a drawing or a post comes off hastily without the thought it deserves. So I want to clarify what I think about miracles.

First of all, I want to tell you what I don’t believe. I don’t believe in magic. I am not superstitious. I disdain magical thinking. I don’t believe in an interventionist theology where there is a great big god separate from creation who is up in heaven arbitrarily helping some and not others depending on how we pray or what kind of faith we have or the condition of our hearts or any of that. I’m a complete skeptic when it comes to faith healing with all its charades and hokey pokey nonsense. I’m not talking about the sincerity of those who do this or subscribe to this. I’m talking about what I think is real and true. Rationally, scientifically, philosophically, theologically and yes, even morally, I don’t subscribe to a magical interventionist deity. This is how I think, and I feel morally compelled to think this way, and it would go against my conscience to think otherwise.

Secondly, my experience substantiates this. Someone challenged me yesterday: “Just because you haven’t seen a miracle doesn’t mean they don’t occur!” That’s true in a way. But I’ve been on this earth for 54 years and was totally immersed in the miraculous healing culture for about 30 of those years. I’ve even been behind the curtain, and you don’t want to go there! I’ve attended hundreds if not thousands of healing services and never witnessed one substantiated healing. It took me a long time to admit that. But it’s true. However, having said that, I do need to clarify something I said yesterday in a comment. Weird, mysterious and wonderful things have happened to me. Lisa could not conceive for our first 7 years. Then someone prayed for her and anointed her with oil, she conceived and Joshua was born within a year. We’ve received the exact amount of money needed just in the nick of time. I’ve had prophets “read my mail”, that is, tell me exactly what was going on in my life and in my heart. I could tell you more. I’ve experienced a weird mixture of being completely embedded in charismata without seeing profoundly mind-blowing healing, but I’ve experienced some pretty strange stuff at the same time.

So, third, this is what I conclude: either everything’s a miracle or nothing is. I believe “miracle”, like providence, is the intersection of our knowledge with time… a moment when we are profoundly aware at this present moment of the majestic wonder of life. It’s like W. H. Auden said: “Healing… is not a science but the intuitive art of wooing nature.” It’s a splendid mystery. William Stringfellow wrote, “When all due allowances have been made for doctors and for medicine, it is when these mysteries– healing and love– are joined that, in fact, a miracle happens.” I don’t understand why Lisa got pregnant. Was it the prayer? I don’t know, because we’d gone through tons of tests and procedures and surgeries and experiments and even sexual strategies to make it happen. Did the prayer relax her to the point where her stress levels went down and she could get pregnant? Was it that we were in sunny California at the time when she might have conceived and… geez, I don’t know. I don’t know and I don’t pretend to understand.

But I know this: I won’t call it a miracle because of all the baggage that comes with that word. If I say it was a miracle, then I say something to our many friends who can’t get pregnant that I don’t want to say because I don’t believe it. I will say it is a mystery and I don’t understand it, and they get that. I stopped talking about miracles in a way that went against what I believed because I believe consistency of thought and life is important and necessary. I have a saying: “If it’s not true in Darfur, it’s not true here!” Do I pray? I don’t know what you’d call it. There are times when I am in tune with a Mystery, a Benediction that I simply cannot describe, times when in desperation I cry out for help like most people do. Then there is my daily posture… surrendering myself to All-That-Is in all that is… in which there is no distinction between the mundane and the miraculous.

That’s what I meant yesterday. I don’t regret the cartoon at all, but my words were obviously not clear. I hope this is clear.

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  • Pat Pope

    Don’t ever go against what you believe to appease us, David. We may or may not agree on some point, but stay true to yourself and what you believe.

  • Jacquie

    David, I got it yesterday and you’ve clarified it so beautifully and truthfully in a more substantial way for the many who might have misunderstood your intent.

    For your reasoning, for Lisa’s attuned heart, thank you.

  • Michael

    “everything’s a miracle or nothing is”


  • Mike


  • Gary

    Posted previously on your other site. 😉

    Very clear to me David and very well said.

    For myself I can honestly say this description is well received. I was fairly vocal about my bad experiences with faith healing and interventionist theology. It just goes so dramatically against everything I believe about the nature of God. And of course there are way too many examples of faith healer charlatans. (I might even argue all of them are) But I also embrace a theology of a God who is active in our lives and seeks to help/fellowship with us. In this vein I embrace the mystery and unknown element of just how God might accomplish this.

    Great clarification…Thank you.

  • Heather

    Since I’ve come to a place of unbelief – or, I’m not sure how to describe it, perhaps “less belief”? – I have experienced a lot of what I would once have called miracles. One day I was totally out of money, had no idea how I was going to even feed my kids, and miraculously somebody I barely know came to the door with a $250 supermarket voucher. I got a job that I love right when I needed it, totally unexpectedly and with no experience. I won’t bore you with the entire list, but you can see that these things, had they been prayed for, would have constituted “miracles” before. Now with no prayer, things for me seem to be going far better than before.

    I’ve been told a theory – God is still blessing me, because he still holds out hope that I might repent. This to me is just trying to explain away the truth – most “miracles” that are relied on by Christians are in fact just chance. There are a tiny few that I’ve heard of (but not seen) that seem legitimate and I can’t explain. However, the vast majority are just good stuff happening to good people. Or bad people too, sometimes. And a lot of pure chance thrown in.

    Plus, the added bonus – my life is happy. I mean, deliriously happy, all the time. I no longer have to hold the guilt that Christianity poured over me. For the first time since I was a child, I know what truly free is.

  • i hear that heather. thanks.

  • Emily

    I think I understood your message before. The cartoon was sort of a punch in the gut, but not in a bad way for me. Just in a way that raises the kind of awareness that needs to be raised. Your more nuanced clarification today articulates pretty much what I feel myself, but hadn’t really articulated. The idea of an interventionist God always makes me cringe, even (perhaps especially) when I find it in the Bible. (God gives victory to the Israelites… because God hates whomever the Israelites hate?) I suppose I’m open to the idea of miracles, but I’m still unsure of how to define them. Requires more thought.

  • nobody

    try to look busy the boss is coming

  • Hi David Hayward! from the other David Hayward!
    I try to keep my mind open to anything being possible. I often would like a miracle in my life but I don’t have the experience of one. Although, when my only son, Jacob, was killed, I visiited a psychic who described the scene almost perfectly without any prompting. I left a total believer! I am a practicing ELCA Lutheran and I don’t talk about this with anyone, but it gave me such comfort and belief in that he is doing well.
    I love your work and art and look forward to it daily!

  • Interesting David. Have you heard of Bishop Pike of the episcopal church in California? He lost a son to suicide and sought out psychics, seances, etc… Eventually he got lost in the wilderness of Judea on some kind of strange journey. William Stringfellow wrote about him. Interesting man.

  • We love miracles – at least the idea of miracles. Each of us wants to be touched or rescued by God in a way that is touch tangible, directly personal, and inexplicably wonderful. We know that not everyone gets to experience a miracle. We know good and faithful people who are deserving, people who would benefit so much from a miracle. We know good and faithful people who suffer so much and never receive a miracle. Miracles seem so rare and fickle. Rarity and randomness seem to be part of what constitutes a miracle.

    When we study the scripture and we find an act of divine intervention, a miracle – it is of secondary concern, almost a red herring. The purpose and focus of the narrative is not the miracle. The lesson of the narrative either surrounds the miracle or is much deeper than the miracle. The miracle either draws us to the lesson or is a gateway to the lesson. The miracle always serves the lesson. The lesson is neither subservient nor inferior to the miracle.

    Miracles are prohibitively expensive. The cost of living in a universe that includes miracles requires a God who is capricious. Miracles require a Zeus or a Jupiter. Miracles require a God who is – unpredictably – either angry and onerous or calm and benevolent. It requires a God who is petty and arrogant and who has no qualms about interfering in, controlling, or playfully dabbling in the course of human events. This is a pagan god. This is not a theology that expands or promotes human understanding or raises the human condition. It is not a theology that enriches or informs the human experience. With a capricious God, our lives are a constant gamble and the universe is one big craps table.

    This is not the God we worship. We do not worship a capricious God. We worship a God who is consistent – consistently and constantly loving, present, and inviting. A God who is consistent (who is not capricious) does not engage in either miracles of healing or miracles of retribution. God neither intervenes nor condemns, neither rescues nor punishes.

    Have you ever been in the presence of an excellent person? Have you ever been in the presence of someone who has a gift and who excels in the use of that gift? A trained gifted singer can raise the performance level of an entire choir. Just one knowledgeable competent person can raise the performance level of an entire office. It is not by their sole efforts. It is by the singular influence of excellence on others, in the way that the presence of excellence inspires and enables others to excel in their respective gifts.

    That is how God works. God is a presence – an influential guiding presence of excellence. God is not intrusive or manipulative, demanding or passive/aggressive. God is an influential guiding presence of excellence only to the extent that we make ourselves aware of it and learn to be sensitive to it. God can imbue our being – our thoughts, emotions, choices, actions, our very life essence – only through our invitation and practice.

    In that context, in the presence and influence and guidance of an excellent God, there can be a miracle – the resurrection and transformation of the human spirit to a life of Good News, to being the Kingdom of God. Such a resurrection of spirit and radical transformation of character deserves the respect and wonder and contemplation that has always been reserved for the miraculous.


  • Renny

    Whatever Heather said…is what I say

  • Denise

    Doug Holman, I found your post immensely comforting.
    David Hayward, don’t let anyone hush you! 🙂

  • chuck jarvis

    Your clarification is excellent to me, David. Excellent. I had similar journey, for sure.

  • VanPastorMan

    I think many miracles happen and we are unaware of it. You are about to walk across the street and a car comes running through real fast. If you had been a few seconds ahead in your journey, your journey would be over. I’ve seen people live after terrible surgeries and the like. Most people would just chalk it up to luck or say how great the surgeon must have been. But lo and behold in eternity we find out that God’s hand was with it.
    Most of all I think the greatest miracle is the person who trusts in Christ for their salvation, leaving behind a works centered doctrine for the doctrine of God’s grace. Jesus saved me, and that’s a miracle.

  • Thanks for the clarification. Though my experiences are different than you and have an effect on my interpretation of Scripture, I still am grateful for what you’ve written. In fact, I have a friend who struggles with what are perceived inconsistencies from what he reads in the Bible and what he experiences in his life, so I may pass on this column to him as I think it might comfort him some. He keeps hanging around me as I am an anomaly to him I guess because I have experienced healing and witnessed healing and he knows my character and that I’m not lying. Still, it doesn’t match his experiences, so it mystifies him.

    I’ve experienced a physical healing in my own body after some people prayed for me and doctors verified it with x-rays and I didn’t have to have a planned surgery (previous xrays were taken indicating that I needed surgery). I’ve also prayed for others as God directed and I’m pretty understated (you met me in Haiti and I wouldn’t be surprised if you forgot me as I don’t try to draw attention to myself), but without excessive emotion or faith-healing flair, I’ve seen people get healed too- and not just a sore toe or splinter in the finger sort of thing.
    I don’t pretend to have it all figured out or even much of it, but I’ll keep on praying for healing for those who need it, knowing it is not my magic nor hocus pocus from God, but that the Bible suggests I pray for those who are sick and sometimes those who were hurting and in pain actually get healed and stay healed- so I’ll pray on even if I don’t understand it all to a T. Because not everyone I pray for gets healed is not enough reason for me to stop my praying.

    Thank you again for being real with us and articulating your experiences and reasons you believe as you do.

  • May

    Somehow your thoughts remind me of ecclecaistes. The same things happen to good aswell as bad people.
    I cannot wrap my head around it most of the time.. It’s like the wiser I become, the more I don’t understand. Only the feelings of comfort stay with me, when I feel little miracles of connecting with God once in a while..

  • Jacquie

    Yes, May….it fits Ecclesiastes down to the ground….to everything there is a season….& on..