This post is about Easter.
But first, I want to start with a couple of preliminary thoughts, before I write the substantive content.
First, about religion. I am a Christian, though not always a good one. I am a fairly active member of a local Methodist church. Having said that, my religious philosophy can best be described as a “many paths” approach. Unlike much of the religious right, with whom I largely disagree, I do not believe that one religion is better than another. And I do not believe that there is only one path to heaven or a heaven-equivalent. I believe there are many. Many paths. Many maps. But paths and maps that have far more similarities than differences, and paths and maps that lead to substantially the same destination.
Second, about miracles. My personal definition of a miracle is something good and very important that happens in the face of a set of circumstances that make it highly unlikely that a good result will occur.
For those who celebrate it, of course, Easter is about miracles.
I have personally witnessed two miracles that I know of. Neither involved me or my family. Both involved friends and specifically children of friends.
The first occurred 3-4 years ago. A friend of mine’s son was in a horrible automobile accident. He was in a coma for weeks and at one time the prognosis was not good (to put it mildly). During his long stay in the hospital, I stopped by on my way home from work several times a week. I saw his parents in a state of complete anguish. I and many others prayed for this young man. A lot.
My friend’s son woke up. Got better. A weak ankle is about all that remains from that horrible event. It was a miracle. How do I know? Because I believe it to be so, based on my definitions and my meditations.
The second one occurred this week. Easter week 2006. Some other friends of ours have a little girl about Cassidy’s age. They live in different states, but they know each other and are friends. This little girl got sick a month or so ago. Very sick. Initially, the prognosis was very dire. Again, people prayed. Family, friends and strangers. Through a web site the family started to keep friends updated so they could focus on medical care, people all over the world came to know and care about this little girl.
Earlier this week brought a diagnosis of a treatable disease. I was overcome with joy (literally) when I read the good news. Because this little girl is going to be OK. And because I knew, again using my personal definition, that I had witnessed another miracle.
Miracles are complicated, however. There is no recipe for them and they are often withheld, even in the face of sustained and widespread prayer.
For that reason, I cannot and do not attribute prayer as the reason for miracles. It is simply not possible to do so. Otherwise, prayers would have brought upon miracles in other situations where they were needed just as much. Prayers would have protected Dear Elena (for whom I still mourn even though I didn’t know her personally). Sadly, there are many more examples of miracles withheld than there are of miracles occurring.
Thus, when we celebrate a miracle that did happen, we simultaneously mourn the ones that didn’t.
Miracles are not a mathematical equation- which is difficult for someone like me who sees almost everything as math. Miracles are about faith. Faith not that they will happen, because too often they don’t.
Faith only that they can happen. Faith to recognize it when one does happen.
Miracles cannot be predicted. They can only be hoped for. For many, that hope and the recognition that miracles sometimes do occur is the basis of prayer for those in need.
Prayer is the celebration of the possibility of a miracle.
That doesn’t make it any easier for me to think about the miracles that didn’t happen. But it does allow me to reconcile, at least to an extent, the pure joy and gratitude I feel when I think about our friends’ daughter getting well with the sorrow I feel when I think about miracles withheld.
It’s the possibility of miracles that I am grateful for on this Easter.