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Incidental miracles (03/20/2005)
By Janet Lewis Burns

"The mystery is simply that there is a mystery, a mystery that can never be explained or understood, only encountered from time to time. Nothing is obvious. Everything conceals something." - Lawrence Kushner

The miracle of life is that there are some things that offer no explanation. Even when prophesied, we often cling to the enchantment of the mystery rather than believe the wrong thing. I've often marveled at the strength of threadlike roots of a flower, which seem to be indestructible in the most devastating of circumstances.

During a severe windstorm, deck furniture, garbage cans, and every sort of weighty object can be picked up and tossed around like a beach ball. Even as morning's windows smile once again with a new burst of sunshine, destruction is apparent.

A tree branch flutters limply, as it dangles from what is left of its torn bark skin, though cosmos, asters, daisies, and fragile iris nod their assurances from the corner of sight. Then, a tear comes to my eye to think that life-giving roots need not be buried deeply in concrete to hang on.

Miracles happen to those who believe. A pessimist looks at the neighbor's flower garden and frowns in disgust at the weeds. An optimist pauses at the same garden gate and sees miracles in full bloom. Some lives are engulfed by miracles. Others sulk, and wait. They're all in the eyes of the beholder...miracles.

For instance, there may even be a hidden miracle in taking especially good care of your feet all of your life. An old African proverb explains, "We do not stop dancing because we grow old...we grow old because we stopped dancing." Ah, there's no fool like an old fool!

"When confronted by a human being who impresses us as truly great, should we not be moved rather than chilled by the knowledge that he might have attained his greatness only through his failures?" - Lu Andreas-Salome

Replacing "he" for "she" in the above statement, it reminds me of a religious education workshop I attended years back. One speaker, a charming, middle-aged nun, confessed to her attentive audience something she had been guilty of, something she had obviously assumed, at the time, was inexcusable.

With anguish flooding her face, she told that, when she finally got the nerve to go to her Superior and tell her story, she felt that her services as a nun would be terminated. She told how the Superior took her trembling hand and said, "How could you not trust me enough to come to me and unburden your conscience and free your heart?"

The miracle was that the repentant woman had grasped humility through her own imperfection, forgiven herself, and allowed the experience to shape her into a more compassionate and understanding mentor for the troubled teens she counseled. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Tao-Te-Ching: "He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened." I guess the question is, am I that pessimist who sees only the weeds in the flower garden? Do I use my sore feet as an excuse not to go dancing? Have I grown stronger for the storms I've endured, or do I cower in the shadows feeling sorry for myself?

Miracles can lie in incidental things. It's the "Oh, look!" experience of discovery, that perfect tiger lily, there among the Queen Anne's Lace, as I looked down and spotted the soft orange of its flesh in my path - the only one in sight. It's the "Oh, see, Grandma!" as my grandson Sam bends to admire the Monarch butterfly clinging to a clover.

"Mother" used to scold every spring, as she unfurled the windows, hung heavy quilts on the clothesline, and shook dust-stiff rugs, "Don't get into that mud now, kids!"

"Mommy," from the lighthearted side of her brain, also teased, "Last one to the playground is a rotten egg!" Miracles, we realize, are the glimpses of heaven we encounter on our earthly journeys. Enjoy.

Happy trails! 


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