We doubt and fear

Even incredibly practical and physical sets of miracles, over several decades, and subsequent millenniums of continually recorded miracles, still has not convinced a rational global population that we can all rely upon an unbroken history of a loving God.

We each require an individual awakening with indisputable evidence in order to make the shift to believe in miracles. We innately desire to be trusting, honest, humble, courageous, prayerful, compassionate, and fruitful disciples of a loving God. We know these define a correct understanding of our being, and offer a beautiful vision for our lives. And, yet, we doubt. We fear. We sink into ourselves.

Ready for the Quails?

Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15
Matthew 13:1-9

When do we step over the line of doubt and decide to believe in miracles? 

A two-pronged premise underlines the sentence above. First, we all approach claims of miracles with an initial defense of doubt. That doubt factor has built up over time. We begin our lives easily convinced in the miraculous because we trust in the information provided to us. A trusting child eventually, and only, turns to doubt when their beliefs in miracles are crushed. The crushing begins quickly and ends in tears.

Secondly, after all our soul-crushing and doubt infesting experiences, we demand an evidentiary based analysis before we will ever affirm a sincere belief in anything that appears miraculous.

As an important aside, the word “premise” is a plural word. Premise stands for an entire host of things, not just one thing. On the contrary, what seems to be the plural word for premise, “premises,” is actually a single thing, a piece of property. There is no plural word for a single piece of property. A premises “is.” And, to the contrary, the full extent of a premise “are.” Premise is plural and premises is singular. 

I believe the conflagration and oddity of premise and premises helps explain the complication of our spiritual makeup and formation. Trust, noted above, is essential in allowing for the miraculous intervention of a loving God. Trust, however, is only one subset of our total spiritual wellbeing. Spiritual health may be one thing, but it is full of tons of stuff. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, considers trust just one of the many compliments toward a full and healthy spiritual person. We also require honesty, humility, courage, prayer, compassion, and discipleship. 

Miracles get at the root of an adult spiritual life by challenging all of the conflicts in our childhood and early upbringing that eventually add up and prevent us from experiencing the miraculous. When we believe in miracles we are so much closer to God, because we allow for his intervention and love. Children eagerly accept the presence and existence of a loving God. 

As an adult, we often find that we have been led to doubt rather than trust; deceived rather than honestly approached. We become self-promoting rather than humble; fearful rather than courageous; angry rather than prayerful; and avoidant rather than compassionate. A successfully formed adult is seen as a savvy individualist rather than a fruitful disciple. As a result, God no longer seems so close because we don’t allow for his intervention.

Miracles, though, are not just for children. Not by any definition. We adults may need them in more abundance. And yet, miracles necessarily stop existing for adults because our innocence, which allows for miracles, has been shattered. Parents struggle to convince their teenage children that the miraculous fills their day. Children eventually, and tragically, find out that magic is just sleight of hand, and Santa Claus (along with his buddies, the bunny and fairy) is merely fantasy. With the passing of these honorable characters, God also can disappear. 

We might want to forever believe in the transcendent world of the child, exemplified in the flight of delightful winged beings, and the amazing concoctions of ice cream, chocolate marshmallows, and bubble gum. The magic of such things filled our young dreams and gathered us together in ecstasy. Fireflies, however, turn out to be lusty bugs; ice cream is only a logical conclusion of stirred chilly cream; chocolate marshmallows are a clever and unhealthy combination of melted and ballooned sugar; and bubble gum bubbles are simply a careful trick of the tongue and the windpipe. 

Shattered dreams also exterminate our heroes. We might insist upon the love and frivolity of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. The heroic characters in such fables, tales and myths, however, are ethereal. Even if loosely based upon any true human, these characters have taken up totally fake existences. In addition, while a very wise man or woman can write a proverb or aphorism and subsequently influence societies and entire nations for eons, the truth behind the philosophy, no matter how inspirational, cannot cure disease, halt violence, or eradicate death. 

Shamelessly and sometimes vigorously, though, the adolescent remains nostalgically wired to believe in the superheroes of comics, the awesomeness of professional wrestling, and the rock star status of celebrities. They reflect the human need for transcendence and supernatural power. Adolescents cannot help but believe in the transcendent and the unrelenting capability of heroism and the miraculous power of good over evil.

The second prong of the premise behind the miracle question at the beginning of this reflection assumes that a slowly ingrained and formed anti-spiritual doubt only turns into belief in miracles upon an evidentiary shift in reality. We cannot simply decide to believe something in order to erase doubt. Something specific and revolutionary has to take place that removes our doubt. Only then can we decide to believe in the the truth of miracles.

As a child, a sparkly tree full of presents overnight presents proof. So does an Easter basket found inside the clothes dryer. And, certainly, a fifty-cent piece under a pillow where a tooth was placed the night before affirms the existence of a fairy who treasures baby teeth. To the child, what further evidence is required? This kind of evidence, however, changes as we become adults. If miracles are made of this stuff, miracles are just lies. Trickery detracts from trust in miracles.

As an adult, following many innocent years of miracles and magic which eventually turned into mere fantasy our hearts are hardened. We don’t ever want to be fooled again. A higher bar of evidence takes the place of gifts appearing overnight. We ask for documentation, witnesses, and substantiated proof. The more we run into scams, cheats, and marketing gimmicks the higher our bar goes. Skepticism armors our brain and titanium protects our heart.

How far will God go to overcome your doubt? Well, when manna arrived every morning for the Jewish living in a dry and desolate desert, and then quail flew into the camp easy enough to grasp out of the sky, the Hebrew bar had been reached. God kept that up for several decades. Each miraculous act, from plaguing the Egyptians to parting the Sea, God superseded expectations. God continually blew the lid off the recurring doubt of a skeptical people. A cloud protected them from attack during the day, and a fire gathered them together at night. 

Yet, even as these incredibly practical and physical sets of unbelievable miracles continued, followed by subsequent millennia’s of recorded miracles all over the earth, still God has not convinced a rational, technologically advanced, and scientific global population that miracles abound. We are not convinced that we can all rely upon an unbroken history of a loving intervening God.

God knows this, certainly. That’s why he became one of us. He promises life after death, his kingdom at the reach of our arms, and his in-biding Spirit.

We each require an individual awakening with indisputable evidence in order to make the shift. We deeply desire to be trusting, honest, humble, courageous, prayerful, compassionate, and fruitful disciples of a loving God. We know these define a correct understanding of our being, and offer a beautiful vision for our lives. And, yet, we doubt. We fear. We sink into ourselves.

When the quail begin entering our camp on a daily basis, practically landing in our cooking pot, will we trust in God? When we can gather bread outside our homes every morning, which lightly sits on the dew, ready for our preparation, will we be humbled by God’s unending generosity?

How about when a horrifying accident leaves us unharmed? Or, when a serious disease is discovered just in time? Maybe it’s the coincidental appearance of a friend when depression seems ready to overtake us; or something we felt urged to say and the words out of our mouth were exactly what needed to be said. Do we see the miracle or only the disaster?

Miracles defy doubt’s defense and change everything. The generous, grace-filled acts of a miracle silence the skeptic, and insist upon honest witness. Courage seems to fill the hearts of everyone in the presence of miraculous events; especially in the immediate outpouring of prayers of thanks. The miraculous draws us in, expecting the spread of compassionate example. 

Finally, miracles bow our heads. We recognize the presence of holiness, of “our” God, not “my” small, insignificant, and unreliable god. My god, who supports my personal plans and approves of my every deed. 

The premise of God, our Father, whom Jesus rejoined in heaven, and who sent the Holy Spirit to live within each of us, is a singular one who responds to everyone. God is plural, and yet one. And further, God comes to our premises, the homes and hearts of each one of us.

Once we’ve been convinced of that miraculous reality, which can only be accomplished by God to a trusting, humble, and courageous heart, then the miraculous world appears as it really is. Rather than doubt and fear on the rise, they recede. Rather than our needs, we look to our brother and sister. Rather than fantasies we experience the real living God.

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