Lenten Devotional: March 24, 2021

by David Stanley

“Miracles leave no trace.  He had decided, hearing his father preach on the subject, that they happened once as a sort of commentary on the blandness and inadequacy of the reality they break in on, and then vanish, leaving a world behind that refutes the very idea that such a thing could have happened.”
–Marilynne Robinson in Jack (2020)

It’s easy for us to refute the abnormal.  We call it foolish.  A fluke.  Coincidence.  “Nice of her to do that,” we smile to ourselves.  Describing something neighborly as a one-time act of an individual, not a miraculous moment to increase our faith.  No.  We wouldn’t want to be hyperbolic, sealing the fate “miracle” alongside that of “awesome” or “unprecedented.”  Overused and misapplied, its deep meaning wrested away… 

Yet… couldn’t we use a few more miracles?  Perhaps that fluke, that coincidence was life-giving in another’s eyes.  And what about our increased awareness and healthy discomfort?  During the last year, afforded a long pause from the refuting world, we’ve been moved to action.  Black lives, income inequality, the environment, criminal justice reform.  Many things have jarred us awake and interrupted the “blandness and inadequacy” of our reality.  It is obviously overdue.  Is it miraculous?   

I’m not sure we ought to go around shouting about it.  There is some elegant delight in the elusive miracles Robinson describes.  Miracle should still mean something.  Maybe though, we could be a bit more foolish in our faith.  Give it away more freely.  Easter is coming again.  We keep proclaiming our belief in its arrival—even if it is twice masked and distanced.  There are probably a few more miracles breaking in on us as we speak.  May we find the courage to seek them in the unfamiliar places.

Prayer: For all your gifts, Lord, we are truly thankful.  Today we pray not for miracles, but that you would help us see the ones you have already given.  Comment on our inadequacy and blandness.  Free us for foolish faith.  Help us make a world that refutes less and believes more.  Amen.