Something very strange happens when I visit Walgreens. I feel it as I cross the threshold: a subtle pull like undertow, a siren call from the rocky shores of aisle three. I try to fight it by heading for the snack section. But it’s too strong. The call eventually overtakes me, and soon I find myself oohing and ahhing at all the wonderful things in the section labeled: “As Seen on TV.”
I know I’m not alone. What normal human being could possibly walk by and ignore the Egg-tastic, the Miracle Bamboo Pillow, the Windshield Wonder, the Chop Wizard, or the Tummy Tuck Miracle Slimming System?
Part of the attraction is convenience. Of course I want to have abs like Olympic beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh Jennings. “As Seen on TV” promises that by simply wearing an elastic tube around my waist for only five days, I can!
But there is a deeper allure, one that cuts to the heart of life. And that is the allure of miracles. The word miracle comes from the Latin word miraculum, meaning “something wonderful.” Sadly, many of us have stopped believing that something wonderful is still possible.
And how could we? We live in a world full of racial and ethnic hatred, civil wars, terrorist bombings, natural disasters, hunger, homelessness and hopelessness. We also live in a world where we think we have all the answers. We can split an atom, send a spacecraft to Mars, clone a sheep — what miracles are left?
I probably shouldn’t say “we’ve stopped believing in miracles.” Human beings have been doubting miracles since time began. For example, the Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus at a wedding where they had run out of wine. Jesus orders the wedding servants to fill up six stone jars, each holding approximately 30 gallons, with water. Somewhere in the pouring, the water transforms into wine. When this great new wine appears, the steward doesn’t even consider the possibility of a miracle. He immediately assumes that the bridegroom was simply holding the good stuff back.
That’s a lot of “good stuff.” One hundred and eighty gallons to be exact. The gas tank of my Jeep Wrangler only held 19 gallons, and that would get me from the lower east side of Manhattan to the state line of North Carolina. How could you ignore that?
But just like the wine steward, we are surrounded by miracles every day, and we miss them. Does that mean we should keep vigilant watch over our Brita water filter hoping its contents will turn into a Chateau Margaux? Probably not. But the first step is to simply believe a miracle is possible. And that means changing our perspective. The author Anne Lamott said, “It’s not what we are looking at, but what we are looking with, that matters.” To see miracles, we have to look not with our eyes, but with our hearts.
Let me offer an unexpected yet helpful Bible verse. Every once in a while, I like to include scripture in my sermons that immediately makes my millennials look up from their smartphones. Like the book of Sirach. You can see them turning to each other and whispering under their breaths —“ What just happened? Did she just say Sriracha? There’s a book in the Bible named after hot sauce?”
For all the Millennials reading this (and you know I love y’all), here’s something interesting from Sirach 10:12: “The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.” That short phrase captures the problem in a nutshell.
When we are connected to our Maker (through whom all things are possible), hope burns brightly within us. But when we disconnect, when our hearts withdraw, we lose the ability to see possibilities. A beautiful Jewish prayer warns us, “Days pass and years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.”
Recently, I visited some friends who just had a little girl. They were sharing how they sit and stare at her for hours, marveling at the tiniest things: her wee hands, her ability to notice new things, her smile. Even the poop diaper is something miraculous. But of course they would do this. She’s their daughter. They created her.
I don’t think that is so far off from how God sees us and the world. We are God’s children, the universe is God’s creation, and everything in it is a miracle. We might not see it, but God sees it. In fact, Genesis tells us that in the beginning a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. I would bet that wind came from God’s gasp at the utter perfection and beauty of creation.
We can connect with our Maker by doing the same thing. Every morning when our eyes open and we realize that, once again, we’ve been given the precious gift of life, we should gasp with delight. With that breath comes an intake of air, and the Hebrew word ruach teaches us that breath and spirit are one. This means that when we gasp with delight, we not only take in air, we take in the spirit of God.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Here’s my question: How long has it been since you have allowed something to take your breath away?
Too long I bet.
Well, friends, it’s time.
It’s time to reclaim a life in which we still allow something — anything — to take our breath away. A life in which hope, joy, and wonder are still possible.
A life full of miracles. Real miracles — and not just those “As Seen on TV.”