Below is my response, printed this week in the Glendale Sun, La Canada Valley News Press and Burbank Leader, to the question: What is, in your opinion, the definition of a miracle? What does your religion teach about miracles? And have you ever been witness to one?
As creatures prone to examine, to try to make sense of, and even to direct the events of our lives, stories of miracles can carry a particular appeal.
In times of distress, when we feel that the reach of our own influence has been exhausted, it can be comforting to lift up the possibility of a Divinely-inspired, personally beneficial “happy ending”. That possibility can help us feel less vulnerable, to hang in there, and maybe even tap into creativity or courage we didn’t know we still had within us!
When we feel our own lives touched by experiences we describe as miraculous (regardless of others’ thoughts on the matter), it is not uncommon to feel humbled and inspired with awe and gratitude – to integrate that experience into renewed commitments towards lives of integrity, generosity and kindness.
Miracle stories can enrich and empower our lives with hope. And, when we feel ourselves the beneficiaries of the “miraculous”, we are encouraged with a sense of our own deep worth. For many people that kind of affirmation, in a society known to value individuals primarily for purchasing power or good looks, is the only thing that gives them the strength to go on.
The flipside of some of those miracle stories is that they can lead to the divisive idea that some individuals or groups are more worthy than others; that we can know and count on Divine will, or at least bargain with it.
As for me, I am content to call miraculous the annual greening of our hillsides!
I call miraculous the courage and patience mustered up by those who care for their children and their aging elders, while facing their own uncertain future. I call miraculous the willingness of so many to take a stand on behalf of human equity, worth and dignity; to say no to poverty, racism, homophobia and other debilitating manifestations of fear. I call miraculous the ability to see preciousness within one another no matter our differences. And, to trust our ability to heal one another’s wounds.
These are the miracles to which I have been witness, and which give me hope.
The Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale
Unitarian Universalist Church of Verdugo Hills, La Crescenta, CA