(published in the February 28th, 2011 issue of Christian Courier)
Tim Stafford’s blog is one of my favourites. Have you ever seen a miracle? focuses on the muddled thinking about miracles in the media and even among Christians. He resists defining miracles too rigidly, but adds: “Yet ambiguity has its problems. Perhaps the most basic: we get fuzzy thinking about God. He’s everywhere and he’s nowhere. He does miracles every day, which means that what he does is nothing special. We hardly see the difference between God’s revelatory acts (his incarnation and atonement, for instance) and the little encouraging details of life. He miraculously finds us parking places. He helps us through a difficult crisis at work. For the fuzzy thinker, these become more prominent than salvation history. And God becomes fuzzy.”
I share Stafford’s dislike for sacralising the trivial. I don’t want a fuzzy God. Still, the Heidelberg Catechism proclaims his “almighty and ever present power.” The reformed view of providence grants us the confidence to trust in a sovereign God who hears our prayers and is able to answer those prayers in surprising ways. When we observe God working in our lives, we aren’t being fuzzy if we say so. We’re being prophetic. Our testimonies are altars of faith, marking significant moments of deliverance by a contemporary God who is still on the job. As “living stones” commanded to make disciples of all nations, we’re called to highlight God’s wondrous works, even in our own faulty lives. But, with a nod to Stafford’s caution, we should do so humbly, tentatively. We testify within a circumference ringed by the communion of the saints and an admission of mutual fallibility. No arrogance allowed.
I have more than a few prayer stories that I find miraculous. Here’s one.
When my twin brothers graduated from Grade 8, my parents wanted to send them to Lambton Christian High. However, because they lived on a farm far away, no bussing was available. Nor was it feasible for my mom to drive them to Sarnia every day. Various solutions were proposed; nothing fell into place. Finally, with an earnest prayer that somehow the Lord would intervene, my parents just registered them anyway.
Meanwhile, although my parents were unaware of this, the Board decided that should enrolment increase beyond 30 students in Grade 9, they would hire another teacher. The late registration of my brothers brought enrolment to 32. It was the end of June. Most teacher education grads from Christian colleges had already been hired. The Board was going to have a hard time finding the right candidate for the position, particularly because Latin was listed as one of the subjects to be taught.
I had just graduated from Althouse Teachers’ College. When my mom read the LCHS ad in The Calvinist Contact, she urged me to apply. I had indeed studied Latin in university, a preferred option over math! I vacillated. I wasn’t a Christian college grad. And, although I was stumbling back toward the faith, I’d gone through a rather public period of disenchantment with the church. I didn’t think the Board would consider me. I applied reluctantly.
Maybe you can tell where this story is going: I was hired. Mark and I then bought a home in Wyoming, the midway point between the farm and the school. That September, my mom drove my brothers to my house every day and I drove them to school the rest of the way. The only drawback, in my brothers’ estimation, was that their sister had to teach them Grade 9 history!
Lambton Christian High School was a spiritually enriching place for my brothers and for me, the rookie teacher. The meshing of so many unrelated factors – a set of twins, parents stepping forward in faith, a teacher without a job in June who could teach Latin, of all things, – created an answer to prayer. It was a providential synchronicity that led to many future blessings.
“Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me,” says David in Psalm 86:17. To me, this true story is a sign, a stone pillar representing God’s palpable intervention in a family’s history for good. Not everyone will believe that. As the old saying goes, for those who don’t believe, no proof is possible. For those who do believe, no proof is necessary. It may even be a miracle.