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.