Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Moments and Miracles

I've had moments -- watching movies, watching live performances, listening to certain songs, looking out over a beautiful sunset from on top of a mountain -- where I feel my skin go all tingly, goose bumps rushing over me ... that feeling of being moved. Where you know at some intrinsic, deeper down than conscious level that something you just witnessed something signficant, where you felt like you were touched by God somehow.

I listened to this "feel-o-meter" for quite a long time in my life, and thought it had great significance. Until I saw a Disney show at California Adventure park, and when Aladdin hit this really big crescendo, I unwillingly had that same feeling sweep over my body. I felt dirty - like Aladdin had somehow manipulated me. Ugh - to feel something so significant at a Disney show! I was embarrassed to even think about it!

And then I had to step back and wonder - how many other times had I felt this way, and it really was just a certain chord, or sound, or feeling, and nothing really spiritual at all? I had to re-examine a lot of my earlier "spiritual" experiences, and look at them with a new perspective. It's good to question things -- and of course, good to find answers. But sometimes we are just stuck with questions, and that is the fine line between doubt and faith, where we choose what we are going to make of whatever the world has handed us.

So maybe when God dips His finger into reality and does something, it happens very quietly, and without all of the fanfaire we come to expect in church. I've witnessed several things that I think may have been miracles (although it's difficult to be sure) -- and at every single one, there wasn't a goose bump in sight.

Jenna and I were in Latvia several years back, playing some concerts and helping out with some summer camps. She woke up at 5am one morning with an incredibly sore throat. She hoarsly croaked out (waking me up) "Nathan, my throat hurts!" -- we were supposed to sing that day, and she was worried she wouldn't be able to sing. So I rolled over, and tiredly mumbled "Jesus, please heal her throat", and started falling back to sleep. I felt no goose bumps, I heard no trumpets in the sky. But Jenna suddenly shook me awake and said, in her very normal, musical voice "Oh my gosh - my throat just expanded, it was so weird, everything is back to normal!" She said she was afraid in that moment -- I guess that's a reasonable experience in the face of something supernatural. God doesn't show up very often when we pray for a miracle, so when He does, it's scary to face that reality.

During that same trip to Latvia, I stabbed my finger accidently with a guitar string at the end of a concert. It was a pretty deep wound, and bled a bit. I didn't think about it much more, I just kept soaking up the blood until it stopped bleeding and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I stumbled into the dining hall, starting eating breakfast, and belately realized that I had hurt my finger the night before. I looked down at my hands, and couldn't even figure out which finger had been hurt. There wasn't a single mark on them. I asked if anyone had prayed for me, and two of the pastors who were with us on that trip said they had prayed for my healing that night. There wasn't a chance of a psycho-somatic healing event on that one, since I wasn't even thinking about healing. Sure, there is a possibility that the puncture wound entry area healed rapidly, and all of the blood under my fingernail dissapeared because I sucked on my finger at night or something, but it was still more than a little unusual.

Yesterday I had another strange event. I was helping a friend fix up his yard in Vallejo, Ca, and we spent hours trimming hedges, digging up weeds, picking up trash, doing all we could to help make the house look presentable so he could rent it out. He bought a new pickax to help with the work, and I used it to dig trenches so we could put in some ground cloth to keep the weeds down. I went to use it to dig up some tougher roots, and swung pretty hard as I orbited around the root, digging up the dirt around it. Suddenly the pickax bucked in my hands and banged into my leg. I looked down, and glad I hadn't cut myself open - and then looked at the pickax, only to find that it was bent 90 degrees downward. I'm no superman - so I know my shin didn't bend that ax, and on the same note, I'm not a big strapping lumberjack, so I don't think I generated a lot of force to bend the pickax. So I was left with a question. No goose bumps. No signs in the sky ... just a bent pickax and a question -- did God save me just in time, or was it just pure coincidence?

I posted a picture of the pickax to Facebook, and it was fun to see my facebook-friends debate whether or not it was a miracle, or just an accident. It was interesting to see the various comments -- some people instantly praising God, others more skeptical, saying they didn't even see dirt on the pickax, so the whole thing was a little suspicious to them. I guess that's a lot like how people viewed Jesus when he walked this earth. I doubt everyone who saw him had goose bumps -- he was probably a pretty rough looking carpenter guy. He didn't have a huge band accompanying him, playing all the right chords at the right time. But he did some things that were genuinely out of the ordinary, and left us to wrestle with the question -- was that a miracle, or is there some other explanation?

Not a goose bump in sight to give us guidance -- and that's probably a good thing. Answering that question isn't easy - and the answer we choose really impacts just about everything else in life.

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