Spying her from across the room at least half a dozen times in recent months, for some reason the connection was short-circuited each time. Either she was heading toward some other business or I was, or one of us was engrossed in conversation with some other confidant.
She’d been on my mind and in my prayers, this beautiful mother of six who is currently engaged in a fierce battle against breast cancer. I merely wanted to check in on her, but the timing made it difficult.
As Providence would have it, we finally attended the same retreat. The first sighting of her lifted my spirits higher, hoping we’d end up sharing the same table so I might get a bit of time to hear her sweet, gentle voice and soak in her wise reflections during the round table discussion. But once again the union was circumvented when she sat at the table on the opposite side of the room.
Oh well, I thought. My prayers are enough for her (and for me).
The retreat, on the seven last words of Jesus, began and my attention was diverted from the failed opportunity. Listening to the speaker, I recognized this day was far more than a social event, it was a chance for a personal encounter with Christ. Having never given much thought to Jesus’ last statements or the trouble it caused Him to make them, I was undeniably intrigued.
My focus was drawn to the speaker’s guided direction and to her explanations. As she recounted several anecdotal stories from her own life, the theme of miracles kept emerging for me. Miracles fascinate me as they seem to abound everywhere, but rarely do we take an inventory of them. Since the retreat subject wasn’t really about the miraculous, it seemed rather curious that I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering back to the idea.
The day ended with a self-serve, delicious lunch allowing women to circulate within the adjacent rooms, but I was tethered to my chair by a sleeping baby (trying to feed myself one-armed without dropping soup in my lap). That’s when she found me alone and the long-awaited connection fused. My dear friend sat beside me. We played a little catch-up and then she shared an intimate experience.
She and her children had attended a Eucharistic retreat for youth a few months prior. My husband was the food coordinator and our sons had participated, so she assumed I’d been there, too (just that the forces keeping us apart were at play that weekend as well). Apparently, during that event there was a period in which all of the attendees were seated in a large circle and Christ Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament, was processed carefully and reverently around the room. She’d been seated beside my husband, positioned in a corner seat.
Just as the monstrance was rounding the corner, she said, it stopped directly in front of her and paused. She noted that the monstrance had been on the move prior to this specific moment when it stopped before her (the tiny hairs on my neck stood on end). That flush of excitement and awe overcame me as I envisioned Jesus walking straight up to my lovely friend, radiating His glory directly upon her fair countenance. Had He physical arms, I imagine they’d have been outstretched with His pierced hands cupping her tender cheeks while their eyes locked in communion. Chills tingled down my spine.
But then my friend did it (what we all do too often), she shrugged her shoulders and attempted to write this miracle off as mere coincidence or her own misinterpretation. Perhaps, the monstrance just seemed to pause by her because she was sitting in that corner spot. Maybe, it hadn’t really hung around any longer for her than anyone else, she reasoned. Now that theme, which had been entertaining my attention all morning long, seemed all the more relevant and reinforced.
Of course, not, I told her with all confidence. Of course, Jesus Christ had paused for her. Of course, He, knowing her heroic battle and obedient heart, wanted her to feel His very real Presence, to encounter Him in a tangible way. Yes, He was Present for everyone at that Eucharist retreat, but the miracle was for her just as the woman with the hemorrhage received a personal healing in the midst of the crowd. His power was not randomly seeping out to all those followers who were pressing in on Him No, it rushed out to one woman who dared to touch the tassel on His cloak and believe that would be enough.
My friend looked me in the eye and smiled, explaining that she hadn’t told anyone else about this encounter. She’d been pondering it all in her heart. It would seem, she said, that we were supposed to talk on this day precisely. All those missed opportunities to unite prior to this conversation were part of a bigger plan. God needed to prepare me before hearing her story so that I would recognize the miracle; and she needed to hold onto her private encounter until she could release her doubts and accept the full merit of the gift she’d been given.
Another talented friend, Suzanne Temple, is an avid photographer and a picture she snapped seems the ideal depiction of miracles in our world today. Through her camera lens, Suzanne reveals the hidden wonders which our naked eyes overlook. How many times I’d seen a dandelion puff ball, but never before had I witnessed the delicate interplay of its parts. Her photograph unveiled another layer of nature that I’d taken for granted.
|photo can be purchased at istockphoto.com
Miracles are like that seed bearing helicopter. We generally miss them when we are focusing through the wide angle. And then we are habitually accustomed to dismissing them as insignificant and random, as though that which is difficult to see is simply not worth looking for. However, like that seed bearer, a miracle is a wonder capable to sprouting good things if it reaches fertile ground. True, miracles can effect our circumstances without recognition, but how much more awesome our world becomes when we look for God’s handiwork and find it all around us.