At one time or another, we have found ourselves sitting by ourselves daydreaming or talking to a close friend starting a sentence with: “I wish, I could have … I wish this would change….” Why would we say such a thing? Do we believe, more or less consciously, our wish could come true?
A romantic blink opened the memories of childhood when I had listened to fairy tales of brave knights and beautiful princesses, mighty dragons and skilful wizards, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus who brought presents and the tooth fairy who made teeth disappear and put coins under my pillow; then I was convinced of the existence of miracles.
Miracles did not come true, they were true and real, they were part of life, and I expected them to manifest, without any doubt. Then they told me the opposite, and I found out that they had lied, tried to keep me cute and they laughed at me. Not nice.
With a wry grin, let us return to the present, thinking – this was in past ages, now miracles have disappeared.
Why would parents support those beliefs in their children? Some of the reasons may stem from tradition. Perhaps they receive a sense of miracle-reality when they experience their children living in their own world, expanded by magic.
Perhaps a sad romantic feeling of their own childhood or maybe a notion of wanting to protect us from harsh reality, are the reasons for wanting their children to live in the world of miracles, at least sometimes and for as long as possible.
Have they forgotten, children can cope with harsh realities easier than adults? Children have less expectation, they live with and accept what they perceive life to be. As children, we don’t seem to expect much because we don’t know much. At least, this was how it used to be.
Today, the power of marketing as even gripped the littlest in its relentless greedy claws. And so are most adults, so, where should they find someone who teaches them differently?
For argument sake, I started, allow me to go back before the time I just talked about. And if we, as children, expected something, it was something that was better than what we had at the moment.
Observe, what do you expect now? Not to win the lottery, not that someone making you a present or even buying you an ice‑cream. Not that cars run for a really, unexpected long time, but that they break down and we take up an insurance. That’s what we expect.
Anything we buy works for some time, and then it breaks, cheap things in a shorter time, expensive things last a bit longer, but there is no guarantee. We already buy an insurance when the product is brand new. See what we expect?
When our grandparents bought a washing machine, no one thought of it breaking down. Ah, but then products were made to a higher quality standard. Really? The idea of quality assurance was introduced during weapon manufacture during World War II.
What if I suggest, we turn things around, and we expect, that we expect products last? It is not a symptom of our time that more people get sicker, that it is to be expected. No. with the advances in medicine, we expect the people are healthier. See how we are programmed?
Where Miracle hide
Early in the 1990 decade as part of a tourist promotion for Papua New Guinea Airlines, a tribal elder was brought to Brisbane. The airline had accommodated him in a top class hotel. Never before had he seen a western city. He was irritated, shocked. I saw his photograph on the front page of a local newspaper.
Dressed in his formal, tribal attire – a huge mask, spear, loincloth and white body paint. The interview must have been quite unnerving for the reporter.
At some stage during the interview, the elder was asked if he had any message for the people here. His reply: “The greatest miracles hide behind the most obvious.”
This sentence left me puzzled. After some time of searching behind obvious things such as cars, houses, telephone booths and TV sets, I had not found any miracles, but I realised why they would hide there – because, generally, nobody looks there. Quite sensible those miracles, aren’t they?
Before continuing along this thought, permit me to sidetrack for a moment and explore another aspect of miracles. Recently I heard a story. I had several opportunities to tell friends and noticed their response; I decided to write it down.
The Man who wanted a Miracle
Some time ago, (“Once upon a time …?”) there was a man who believed in God. He was very passionate about this and tried extremely hard to be good.
As his life went on, he decided to devote all his time to furthering his knowledge of God to help his soul advance closer towards Him. He sold all his possessions, bought a small cottage in the bush, away from it all. So far so good.
One day, a rain shower turned into a downpour. It rained for days. The water rose and soon he was cut off from the world by knee-deep floodwaters. He did not try to move to a safe place but instead knelt and prayed to God to send him a miracle for his rescue.
A few hours through later, through the hissing and drumming of the pouring rain he heard the deep roar of a heavy truck, slowly approaching. His neighbours had evacuated their farm and asked him whether he wanted to join them.
There was still some space on the truck, and they left for some relatives in town, and he would be welcome to them there as well. He thanked them but refused. If he wanted God to send him a miracle, he could not leave now.
The water continued to rise, and soon his high-set house was surrounded by deep water. For many hours he prayed to God for a miracle, now. Some time later he heard the noise of an outboard motor. He looked outside and saw a boat making its way through the choppy water and curtains of rain. He recognised the orange suits of the rescue squad.
After they had secured the boat to a pole on the veranda, one man jumped out and urged him to come with them. “It won’t be safe much longer. The water is expected to rise for another day or two and your house will be under water by far before then.” He could confirm this information because it correlated with the weather forecasts.
They said, too, water was going to continue rising. They almost dragged the man aboard against his will, but he was fiercely determined to stay. He thought this had to be the one and only opportunity in his life to receive a miracle. If he would leave this chance would be gone.
The water rose further, and half a day later the man sat on the gable of the rooftop. The rain pouring down on him. Now he was constantly praying, excited and convinced the miracle could not be far away. The wind calmed, the rain eased, and suddenly, he heard the sound of a helicopter.
It came close, and the pilot lets down a rope from the rescue hoist. This close to receiving his miracle, he could not leave. Quickly, the storm brought heavy rain again, and the helicopter had no time to wait.
Soon the house was covered by water. The man drowned.
He arrived in Heaven, and after completion of the formalities, he asked for an audience with God. It was granted immediately. Standing in front of Him, he was filled with awe and was embraced by His Love.
Once more familiar with these sensations he relaxed a bit and asked his most burning question: “God, why didn’t you send me a miracle?” And God replied: “I sent you three miracles, but you did not accept any of them.”
Thinking about it
For a short time, after I had heard the message of the PNG man, I was searching for miracles behind the “obvious” with childlike eagerness and curiosity. I did not find any, perhaps I had interpreted his advice a bit too literally.
The story of the God-loving man presented me with a new perspective. There are many things in our environment we are so accustomed to, we would never consider them to be magic. I would like to turn your attention to the electric switch on the wall. We flick it, and the light on the ceiling illuminates.
Of course, what else is new? What’s the big deal? Only when there is an occasional power failure, we feel annoyed. Even then, we hardly bother thinking about the aspect of light coming from the lamp, a tiny artificial sun inside a light globe. A miracle? Nonsense.
We are not uneducated … perhaps, most people don’t know much about electricity. Are we ignorant, because we don’t want to admit we have no knowledge of a certain topic? There was a time when it was crucial to pretend, which was at school, when everything, the teacher expected us to know, we had to.
Why don’t we practise modesty? Why not reduce this self-imposed demand to pretend to be smart all the time? In our field of work, we have acquired specialised knowledge. We have some areas of interest, is that not enough?
After all, the electrician who installed the switch and light, he had to complete many years of practical experience before he would be granted a license. Yet, he would not say he knows all about electricity.
The team of electronic engineers with individual specialist skills who designed the TV set have learned the behaviour of electricity and have learned to control it and make it perform what they want, (almost all the time and if not they begin to wonder). They would even less claim to know all about electricity.
The nuclear scientist after a life of research on the elementary principles of electricity may arrive at a point of awe, of deep respect for the course of creation, a point where there are no more answers to his questions. He certainly would consider his knowledge of electricity being incomplete. Has he recognised a miracle?
If we define a miracle as something, some event that cannot be explained, then electricity is a miracle. Just because we flip arrogantly and /or unaware over this event does not change this attribute. We missed out on experiencing a miracle because of ignorance. It was hiding behind something too obvious. It is still hiding there. Have a look.
Going back to the story of the man who believed in God. What made his neighbours, at a time of panic and distress, think of him and wonder if he might still be at his house? Why did he take it for granted the rescue squad would find his house in the midst of a howling gale?
Why did the wind would calm when help was most needed, and the helicopter went out on a flight found him sitting on the roof of his house? We could easily discard all this into the oversized waste paper basket named “Coincidence”.
Real Life Applications
Just because miracles don’t happen as we imagine them in our almost childlike expectations such as: “I want this job now.” “I want to be rich,” “I want to go out with that person,” “I want that car, that dress, that …,” we disregard them as non-existent.
And if it does not manifest itself instantly, it’s not a miracle. If we are ignorant of the great miracles around us, how can we expect to recognise the myriad of small ones? As we grow up, we accept and adjust our perception of “real life”.
Rather than finding a new way for miracles being part of this “life” we deem them ridiculous and not being real. How sad for us. How could we ever be so blind?
How often has it happened to any of us, when we have found ourselves in a seemingly hopeless situation. When we were unable to imagine anything to lift us out of our despair? All is so clear – the load is so heavy – our sorrow pulls us down to our knees. We are engulfed by an enormous wave of emotion, clouding every thought.
Whatever we do drags us deeper into our misery, the mount in front of us incessantly turns into a mountain. Everything seems to reinforce the total agony. And then a friend touches us compassionately, finds words of understanding easing the pain. A miracle? We could not see a way, suddenly there is one.
We receive an invitation to a dinner party, but we reject it: “I am too depressed, too exhausted.” These unexpected small gestures, those few words, the injection of a new thought – we reject them as an easy way out.
Our misery prevents us from accepting this gentle embrace and soothe the tension, this modest comment close the gaping cleft in our soul? Do we compare the weight of our pain with their “feeble” attempt to help us? And if those surprisingly simple ways of helping do not measure up to our expectations, do we rebuff them?
What’s the point of being depressed, sacrificing all the fun times, if nobody knows about it? The help must come in a big wave. The help must be a sign of appreciation from another person equivalent of the sorrow we suffer.
Why do we hesitate to accept this simple help? Isn’t the helping hand from nowhere offering a simple solution, a miracle? Is it too simple and our problem too grave?
Why do we seem willing to hang onto the situation? We could let go; the purpose has been achieved, the learning is completed once we endured the experience and recognised it for what it is.
Easily we smile about the man who loved God. He probably expected the heavens to part, angels to descend on a beam of golden light and carry him to a safe place. Preferably, of course, a place where all could see his arrival – wouldn’t that be just fantastic.
The miracle did not happen the way he had construed it in his mind. He expected it to be this way and only this way. Any other way he was unable to see it when it arrived differently. Does his narrow-mindedness invalidate the existence of miracles? Clearly, and of course, not.
Perhaps we have to learn to see again – not always taking things at face value but sometimes stopping, asking and exploring, looking for something unexpected to be seen. The world of a child is full of miracles. The world does not change just because we grow older.
A child does not think: “Even if I don’t know how this works, there might be someone who does, and therefore, this cannot be a miracle,” or, “Just because I don’t know, does not mean someone else couldn’t.” Maybe, maybe not.
Perhaps the only reason someone could believe they know everything is because they have stopped asking at some stage.
Perhaps they have become scared they could obtain an answer they are afraid of. What horrific answer could this be? Perhaps, there is one person who pursued your very question to the end where no answer could be found anymore. This person would undoubtedly reassure you in your belief in miracles.
10 August 1997