Special Protection? Really?

Special Protection? Really? May 28, 2013

In response to last week’s post about setting aside the phrase, “God protected me” when surviving a natural or human-made disaster, a reader wrote: “Do you have any ideas about what I could say when someone tells me a miracle story like, ‘God saved me but all my neighbors were blown away?’”

This reader hit the core of my plea: let us stop suggesting that God has shown special favor to those who survived while ignoring the frantic prayers of those who perished or suffered life-changing injuries.

Certainly it looks miraculous when people emerge alive from a tornado or fire or plane crash or terrorist attack, especially when many don’t. Is this explainable outside naming it of “God’s special protection” and therefore a miracle?

Well, what is a miracle? Probably most define one as a supernatural intervention into the normal course of existence.

I find this definition limiting. Personally, I think life itself is a miracle. That we breathe, think, love, create, give birth—all seems utterly miraculous to me.

As a gardener, I never get past the astounding moment when a seed sprouts. Seriously. The main reason I garden is simply to see that happen.

I survey those dead- looking small, hard shells, or oddly shaped bulbs or feathery light centerpieces of spent flowers and say, “How? How can it happen that this tiny piece of nothing can break apart and something alive push its way to the surface? How miraculous!” What looks like death gives way to life .

Far more seeds don’t sprout and reproduce than the ones that do. Those that don’t may be eaten by birds or mammals or float away and land on inhospitable ground slowly decomposing, giving life in the process.

I’ve been researching recently the way we treat our aged and/or terminally ill in the months and years before death. I’ve seen and read of too many who will stand at the bedside of a relative whose body is clearly giving out and demand every treatment possible. “We believe in miracles,” they proudly pronounce.

Well, how about believing in the miracle of death? Consider instead amazement at a body seeking to say, “My time is ending; the best gift you can give is the gift of peaceful acceptance and willingness to let this form of life go so I may enter into a different form of life.”

Just as I was preparing to write this column, I was called to the bedside of a dear friend who is in her last days. Peace, family and friends surrounded her, gently caring, graciously letting go. This, too, is a miracle.

Of course no one wants untimely deaths. To hear of infants and children dying so breaks my heart that I can hardly hold the pain in. Surely God weeps with us. The fact that death is part of life brings no comfort or appeasement of grief here.

But even so, I ask, “Where would we be if the miracle of death did not accompany the miracle of life?” The seasons themselves tell us that without the death of winter, spring cannot come forth.

Still, I know of no adequate answer to those who claim that the Holy One has granted special privilege of physical life to some above others. The idea springs from our sense of special privilege. We may say there are equal opportunities, but we all know some people are far, far more “equal” than others. Yes, in the world we know, privilege is rationed–and most are left out.

But in the Kingdom of Heaven? Surely not. Surely, all special privilege disappears in the Holy Presence when we all see ourselves fully—and fully in need of grace.

Even so, may God have mercy on the souls of those who affirm their own special protection from God. They know not what they do.

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  • Elaine

    I agree that life is a miracle.

  • Angie Hammond

    Ok, I’ll be the first to say that we don’t really know what a miracle is in God’s eyes. In fact I will go so far as to say that we call anything we can’t explain that is good a miracle from God. All of that being said, I have an observation of my own. Jesus performed what we call miracles so that people would believe, yet he did not think they were necessary except that people needed to see them to believe in him. He wept when his friend died and yet he performed the miracle of raising him from the dead so that we would believe in who he was. He was like us and felt the loss but yet he knew that death was not the end for his friend.

    So perhaps miracles are the same today. God performs what we call miracles when they are needed so that those who need to see are able to see and believe. This is not any different than what Jesus did during his time. As he said to Thomas blessed are those who have not seen but believed.

    I am afraid that I fall into the category of one who has to see and touch to believe. I am going to assume that is why God chose to show me through you Christy Thomas that he was real. For me, it was a miracle that night and I saw Jesus and he spoke to me and I believed and was forgiven and accepted it and was forever changed.

    Bottom line, God does not play favorites with miracles. He gives each of us what we need in the way we need it. For one it is the miracle of life, for others the miracle of a peaceful death, and for yet others it is something many never would see as a miracle. In other words, God is in the details and if we look for Him we will see him and the miracle is that he can be all things to all people at all times. God is the miracle, and we are all the recipients of His love and infinite Grace that is the real miracle.

  • Lee Yeager

    Great post Christy. I agree with your point and the idea that we too often attribute miracles to God as a way to explain events we cannot explain. God is in control, sit back and marvel at the journey.