I was birthed into this world a miracle.
My mom loved to tell the story of how she and my dad had trouble conceiving and once she bought a pair of snow skis after rounds of Clomid she found out she was pregnant with me. Her discovery was made only after she had submitted herself to x-rays for a minor injury and several doctors advised her to abort her fetus as it would likely have “irreparable disfigurements” from the radiation necessary to assess the damage to her bones. Her decision not to abort solidified her status in the anti-abortion camp, a position she still clings to as righteous and used as teaching tool for me and my two sisters as we grew up. “See, Doctors don’t know everything. You’re a miracle. They happen all the time.” So from the beginning of my life the idea of mystical occurrences and supernatural involvement with humanity and my life in particular was my primary life lesson.
Then, when I was seven my dad was in a small commuter plane crash just outside of our hometown.
He was co-piloting the aircraft when something in the inner workings of the plane iced over preventing proper navigation and the small plane, along with the four men inside plummeted to the earth and broke in half on impact. The story is, my dad was the only one who regained consciousness and managed to crawl his way, with a broken spine, chipped skull, and exploded spleen to a nearby gas station, lay his wallet open on the counter to identify himself, and get the attendant to call my mom who immediately told him to call 911 and get him to the hospital. My dad and all three of the other men survived. Miracle.
My mom’s miracle gave me life. My dad’s miracle gave me faith.
I held tightly to these miracles as proof of a living God specifically invested in my well-being and happiness. God had granted me life, when other mothers made worse decisions. God had spared my dad from death so I could have a father. Right on, God. These are great decisions for me.
I lived most of my life believing I was God’s golden child in many ways. I didn’t think about the privilege of safety, health care, and insurance that allowed my mom to keep a child who may or may not have required 24 hour care for the rest of their life. At eight years old, I didn’t wonder why my parents could suddenly afford to build a nice new house in the country after my dad’s plane crash. I never thought about other kids whose parents did die in plane wrecks, car accidents, and of cancer. My complete view of God was built on the idea that if we loved “him” well enough and behaved good enough we would receive the things we needed. I dedicated my life to this God and purposed myself to serve “him” for the rest of my life.
It wasn’t until I had already given 5 years of my adult life to full-time ministry that I realized I might not understand what I really believed.
At age 25 I experienced a miscarriage at 12 weeks. My ministry job had been a placeholder for motherhood and the miscarriage devastated me. Moreover, the baby wouldn’t pass from my body on its own so I had to submit myself to a procedure that I had been told was the “abortion” procedure, a DNC. I was overcome. I begged God for a miracle and when the doctor came back on the day to start my IV I implored her with teary eyes to look one more time. She lovingly put her hand on my leg and looked me straight in the face and said, “I’m sorry, but there is just no way there will be a heartbeat.” I had to leave my spouse in the waiting area and walk into the surgery room alone. I remember looking at the steel table and then at the lights begging God to do something. Then I woke up in the recovery room and it was done. I was empty of so much more than my child. My faith had started to crack.
The subsequent responses from the community that was supposed to hold me were further salt in the wound of my newly formed doubt. Platitudes of “God has a plan” and “God must have needed her more than we did” filled the air. The nail in the coffin on this particular issue for me, however, was when I asked the pastor who oversaw my department at the church I worked for and had attended since I was a young girl if he thought my baby was in heaven. He looked at me with pity and said, “There’s just no way for us to know that.” I came unglued. For many other reasons, but this one foremost I left that church and set off on a journey of mourning that I now realize was for so much more than my baby.
While I had left this church I had not left The Church or ministry work. That continued as I wrestled with a deconstruction I had no words for, and a simultaneous restructuring of my faith based not on works, but on love. During that process I had three children within four years and my spouse and I decided to adopt. We brought home a three year old boy from China who had Cerebral Palsy. Still believing that even if miracles didn’t happen, love can cure all things.
The response to having a child outside of the typical is enormous and overwhelming, especially one with attachment disorders and obvious physical disabilities. There were no shortages of prayers for our son immediately upon our return to the states. It was like an avalanche of expectation of miracles. Our church community, our friends, our parents, everyone was expectantly waiting for the day when our son would walk. All we were after was the day our son wouldn’t actively hate us and didn’t rage for 45 minutes of every hour, but the rest of our world didn’t see that. They saw a poor orphan boy who couldn’t walk that they could channel their energies into.
We would be walking in the mall and strangers would approach asking if they could pray for our son. Some didn’t even bother asking.
The more people prayed for his healing the less and less I trusted this religious idea of healing and the more I felt alone and betrayed. Everyone wanted a miracle, no one wanted to actually do the work.
Then we found an amazing team of doctors and physical therapists and counselors. We watched as they worked with our son, drawing out of him what was necessary for his healing. They assessed what his body was capable of and worked within those parameters. They weren’t asking him to be something beyond himself, they were asking him to be fully himself. They taught both him and me to respect the body he was in and honor it by realizing that just because it was outside of typical it wasn’t broken or bad.
My son didn’t need miraculous healing, he needed people to tell him he was good exactly as he is.
Healing, for me, wasn’t about my son’s physicality or emotional state, it was about how I saw him. This was the reality of love that made sense to me. Not wishing for some far off miracle, but understanding the miracle of what was unfolding right before my eyes.
This was not the only miracle that I would begin to see in my life once this realization hit. A few years after our son came home and we had another child, that’s five for those keeping track, my spouse and I were both in leadership in our church. I was preaching regularly and bringing these realizations back to our community that was actively looking for healing in miraculous ways. It was during this time that my spouse came out as a Transgender Woman. Everything that I had learned about miracles and healing informed the way I approached her coming out. I waited, I listened, and I let her be exactly who she was. It wasn’t easy at first to put aside my expectations and not make her journey about me, but because of my past experiences, I knew that my healing would come through her expression of her true self.
I began extensive therapy at this point in my life, in part because of my wife’s coming out, but also because of the secondary trauma of bringing home our son. I started EMDR therapy hoping for a quick fix to the cortisol levels that were destroying my body, but what I received was a three year journey into the fucked up realities of the faith I had dedicated my life to.
The ways in which I had been manipulated by the system to believe I was less than and evil.
The work unraveled the idea of a deity saving me from the destruction “he” “himself” was causing. And as the inner miracles of deep soul work were taking place in my heart, my outer world was crumbling.
The community that was so longing for healing was divided on the acceptance of my wife’s coming out. Some were vehemently opposed, accusing me of “duping” them into accepting homosexual lifestyles (since we were not separating and are still happily married, making us a lesbian couple). Many were accepting and loving. Unfortunately our leadership was confused and untrained in how to guide themselves and their congregation through such a drastic change. Instead of listening and learning the church imploded on itself and closed 6 months after my wife’s coming out.
My first sermon I preached at our church that is now closed, was one on symbiotic healing. This, I would say, is the real miracle in the world.
We want to say that miracles are individual, splashy, loud, and unexplainable. That’s just simply not true. Miracles require truth and acceptance. Real miracles are happening everyday, we are overlooking them because we want something that seems inexplicable to us. Really those inexplicable things are usually just random chance. If not, I have to ask, why was I born healthy and my son was born with brain damage? Why was my dad spared but another’s mom killed? Why?
When miracles are broken down like this they are more sad than anything else. When we ascribe meaning to things that happen by chance or by science or by design even, we are saying, in effect that God loves some people more than others, or worse, God needs some people to learn harder lessons than others. How sadistic does a God have to be to kill babies and maim children and allow murder in the streets to get “his” point across. The flip side of a supernatural miracle is a villainous monster.
I can’t bring myself to believe in supernatural miracles performed by a deity beyond us anymore. The true miracles I have experienced in my life have always been an interplay between individuals. When people truly see each other, they heal each other. When people truly see themselves they heal. Our world doesn’t need perfectly typical people, which is what so many miracle seekers are looking for. Our world needs people who live outside of the typical, who’ve experienced trauma, who have been hurt, scared, maimed, and wounded and come out the other side into love.
My son is a miracle.
My wife is a miracle.
I am a miracle.
So are you.