Where do I find God in this world of tragedy and pain?

This is a world of tragedy and pain. It is also a world of joy and fulfillment. It is my conviction that God is present to us in both worlds.

We Could All Use a Miracle

Like the one that happened on 38th Avenue

Written By Renée Miller

You probably think I’ve got it wrong. It’s not “Miracle on 38th Ave.”  It’s Miracle on 34th Street. We all remember that classic Christmas movie about the man who was thought to be crazy because he believed himself to be the real Santa Claus.  But, I’ve not got it wrong, because this is not about the movie Miracle on 34th Street. I want to tell you about another miracle— the one on 38th Ave.

I was in New York City this past week, measuring people for suits and shirts.  I had taken a black friend of mine from Memphis who is my sales manager. On Saturday, he and I went with the bishop I worked for in California to St. George’s Church in Flushing, New York, where the bishop serves as Interim Rector. St. George’s is a multilingual, intercultural parish that represents more than twenty different nations of origin, the main ones being Black Caribbean, Central American, White, and Chinese. St. George’s Church is on 38th Ave.— the place of miracle.

So, here’s what happened. I was in the office with the bishop when I noticed my salesman friend standing in the hall near the door. A young Chinese family had come down the hall and their daughter, who was probably around 8 years old, was looking at my friend, tapping him, smiling at him, teasing him, and he was responding in kind. Then it happened. The little Chinese girl reached up her arms as if she were grasping for heaven, and when she reached high enough for my friend’s neck, she grabbed on and pulled herself up into his arms for a huge hug. He held her as her parents stood by waiting. When she was ready, the little girl got back down, smiled at him, and left with her parents. 

No words were ever spoken—after all, he was black and spoke English, she was Asian and spoke Chinese. But the language of love was unmistakably the same. There was no distinction, no distrust, no fear between the two.  Heart met heart.  Soul met soul. It was a miracle—there on 38th Ave.

It got me thinking.  If I were to gather a bunch of people together and ask them what a miracle is I think I would get answers like these: “A miracle is a strange occurrence … something that happens that is supernatural … something you couldn’t make happen on your own … something magical… something unique and unexpected … something beyond natural understanding … an act of power.

A Theological Word Book of the Bible says that a miracle is “an event which happens in a manner contrary to the regularly observed processes of nature.” Yet, as I watched that little Chinese girl climb into the arms of my black friend, I realized that miracles are not about strange, magical, supernatural experiences that happen to us unexpectedly. They are not the turning of water into wine, or the feeding of five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, or being told by our doctor that the cancer that threatened to steal our life away has completely disappeared, or even the coming of God in a baby Jesus at Christmas. These may be miraculous happenings, but in truth, we are in the midst of a life of miracle. We are always on 38th Ave. if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Just open up your eyes to see,
Unstop your ears to hear.
The rustle of a miracle,
The grace of God so near.
On 38th Avenue
Is where God’s presence shines on you.
Wake up to a miracle,
Open your eyes,
Let your heart be gaping wide.

Hymn 114: Twas in the moon of wintertime
Words by Renee Miller

So why aren’t we poised to live that life of miracle—every moment of every day? Why don’t we notice that we’re on 38th Ave.? It’s simply because we aren’t listening to the deep need of our heart. If there’s anything that makes us aware of a miracle it is our deep need. Only those who know their need are able to see the miracles that are around them every moment of every day. 

You see, when everything is going wonderfully in our lives, or when we’re satisfied with the direction of our lives, or when we’re able to take care of the issues in our lives, we don’t need miracles, and so we don’t see them. But, when our heart is broken, or our body is diseased, or we’ve lost someone we love, or we’re afraid for our lives, or we are empty of heart, or depressed of spirit, then—we’re looking for a miracle. We are poised—we are ready— we are expectant for something to occur that will change our circumstance. When it does we are in awe, we are astonished, we are grateful, and we see the power of 38th Ave.    

Over two millenniums ago, when God became incarnate—when God became man—when Jesus was born in a barn in Bethlehem, the world was in deep need, and heaven met that need.  “Ah,” you might be wondering to yourself, “Why did Christmas happen then?  W hy was that the moment for Christ to be born?  Look at our world now. Surely, the world is in deeper need now than it was then.” And, I say to you, that Christmas is always happening, Christ is always being born, Christ is always coming into our lives.  It didn’t just occur there in the barn in Bethlehem. It occurs every time we walk the streets of 38th Ave. We will know the miracle of Christ’s coming only when we recognize our deep need, only when we are expectant and hopeful that our need will be met  by the heart of heaven.

Just recognize your deepest need,
The need that holds your heart.
Trust that the loving touch of heav’n,
Will grace on you impart.
On 38th Avenue,
Is where God’s presence sits on you.
Wake up to a miracle,
Open your eyes,
Let your heart be gaping wide.
Hymn 114: Twas in the moon of wintertime
Words by Renee Miller

You might be surprised at the word miracle. It actually comes from the Latin word mirus meaning wonderful, and smei meaning to smile. Miracle means to smile with wonder. To laugh with wonder. So, here are two things that can be put together. When we take the time and effort to identify our deep need, and open ourselves to the power of God in our lives we are proclaiming that we are relying and depending on divine providence rather than our own clever ideas and plans. When we are that open, that vulnerable, that aware of our own inability to meet our own need, God steps in and meets us at the very place where we have stopped on 38th Ave.

In the moment that we meet God—in any way that we meet God—whether it be in the hug of the one who is a stranger to us, or the lifting of a depression that has held us too long in its grasp, or the freshly picked orange that squirts in our face and tickles our tongue, or the light that shines when we greet a new day, or the smell of chocolate baking, or the favorable report we receive from our doctor, or the ability to see after we have been blind, or the hope that returns after our heart has been broken, or the sudden clarity that settles our confusion, or the taste of fresh cool water when our thirst has consumed us, we are dwelling in the life of miracle and we will smile with wonder.

Where is your deepest need? Can you wait expectantly, hopefully for Christ to come, for the miracle to occur?  You are on 38th Ave. In fact, you never leave 38th Ave. — the place where life is miracle and Christ is always coming. The question is merely this:  Do you believe it?

Copyright ©2008 Renee Miller