Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recognizing the Divine

I have this sense that God might sometimes be showing up in my life and I am missing it. I am concerned that I may not recognize all of the ways in which God is at work. How do I recognize him and his handiwork when he shows up in my world? In the years that I have walked on this earth, I have met a few people who over-spiritualize things and see miracles in ordinary occurrences; but much more common is a tendency to under-spiritualize and miss the miracles that God has done. When God answers prayer it is easy to find other explanations that will normalize  the experience. Beyond that, it is also sometimes challenging to accept a miracle from the hand of God and admit that this time he actually did disrupt the normal sequence of cause and effect and the scientific order.

One particular incident in my life that illustrates this is an event that happened in the spring of 2007 when I was miraculously healed of a one centimeter mass on the pons of my brain. I have previously written about that experience here. Accepting this as an actual miracle requires a humble recognition that God has given me a great gift. Yet, how can I accept this gift from God when others around me have had brain tumors, have not been healed, and have died from the tumor? In many ways it would be easier to come up with other explanations: the doctors made a mistake; there was an artefact on the imaging that only looked like a tumor in my brain (of course there was the matter of the pain which disappeared at the same time as the "artefact" disappeared, so it is not that easy to say that it was just an artefact); or it was, excuse the pun, "all in my head." How can I be thankful even as I ask, "Why me?"?

What other miracles and signs of the divine might we be missing? Mary Doriah Russell uses a bit of prose to examine the issue in her book, The Sparrow. Russell allows us to listen in to the thoughts of one of her characters named Anne.
Once, long ago, she'd allowed herself to think seriously about what human beings would do, confronted directly with a sign of God's presence in their lives.  The Bible, that repository of Western wisdom, was instructive either as myth or as history, she'd decided.  God was at Sinai and within weeks, people were dancing in front of a golden calf.  God walked in Jerusalem and days later, folks nailed Him up and then went back to work.  Faced with the Divine, people took refuge in the banal, as though answering a cosmic multiple-choice question:  If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognize God?  A vanishingly small number of people would recognize God, Anne had decided years before, and most of them had simply missed a dose of Thorazine.1
The question we all must ask is, "What will we do when confronted directly with a sign of God's presence in our lives?" Will we retreat into the banal? Will we look for ways to explain it away, afraid that someone will think that we have missed a dose of Thorazine and that the miracle was just the expression of our psychosis? Or, will we embrace the presence of God for what it is and rejoice that we have been allowed the opportunity to connect with the divine?

1. Mary Doria Russell; The Sparrow, Page: 100.

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