In a nominally Christian country, we grow up with tales of the miracles of Jesus. Most religions and all mythologies tell of miraculous happenings. And they can seem so far removed from ordinary life that we have to suspend logic and accept… or not… on faith alone.
There are many ways to define a miracle. Theologians attribute them to divine intervention, scientists speak of natural laws, though often only to describe and document rather than to explain. This is not a reactionary perspective, for I have never felt that science and faith should be mutually exclusive. But run a search on the definition of ‘life’ and you will see what I mean.
One of the best definitions of a miracle I have heard calls it ‘an extraordinary event which beholders can reduce to no law with which they are acquainted’. In those terms, we live in an incredible world where miracles abound and brush through our daily lives largely unnoticed.
Definitions, however, can only attempt to describe in words something we experience through emotion. Many of us will be reminded, out of the blue at some point, of the incredible organisation of Nature. The beauty of the intertwined chains of dependency shared by all life on the planet. .. an intricacy science can detail for us, but cannot, ultimately, adequately explain.
Our lives are held in a matrix of miracles so familiar that we are seldom consciously aware of them.
There are miracles everywhere, quiet ones that slip through the cracks in our lives and fill a grey day with sunshine. These are the miracles, large and small, of the human spirit.
Few parents will have held their newborn child for the first time without that word and that wonder creeping across a dazed and awestruck mind. It matters not at all in that moment that we know the science of reproduction… we simply gaze at the perfection we hold in a mixture of love, surprise, and incredulity and experience the touch of the miraculous.
What of the random act of kindness that comes from nowhere when most needed? It may be that something as simple as an unexpected smile can change a whole day.
Then there are the unlooked for meetings where two hearts come together and meld in love or friendship, unlikely pairings that leave lives that so touch complete and fulfilled. Have you ever considered the odds against that on a planet with a population of over seven billion people and all the permutations that brings?
We all know of the unobtrusive examples of courage and determination that show what heights the human spirit can attain, yet do so silently, simply by Being who they are. “That’s how it’s done. Quietly and unassumingly,” wrote a friend with whom I was discussing this point today, “leading others to make their own discoveries and achievements.”
These people, who address the challenges in life with a simple grace and dignity, these are the ones who inspire and encourage us. These are the people we respect and admire, though we may not even consciously notice that as they slip through our lives. They can be so close and so familiar we just accept them as they are, never stopping to recognise the way their living influences our own. We become so used to the beauty of their spirit that we forget to see it.
Sometimes, just sometimes, we are lucky enough to see them for what they are. For me last night was one of those moments as I looked at a photograph posted on Facebook and was reminded that the human spirit is capable of facing unrealistic odds and achieving the impossible.
These are the people we can meet every day and who, quietly and without fuss, can change your world, bringing hope and encouraging us to wake up and be alive in the fullest sense. For me, the beauty of the human spirit is a true miracle.