While taking my son to school this morning I notice the low gas signal illuminate on my car dashboard. Extremely low on funds, I become concerned as I pull into the gas station. My son had to get to school, after all. I get gas, and drop him off. Upon my return home I begin to think about my financial situation. Concern begins to shift into anxiety. I don’t do well with anxiety. I better let it go, I decide. Less than a minute later I check my mailbox – guess what’s in there? Never mind, I’ll tell you; a gas gift card. I had won it from a local gas station. Right?!
This is not the first time something akin to a miracle has happened to me.
In 2006 I completed my Bachelor’s degree. I had waited over six years to complete the final three courses necessary for this degree. I re-enrolled to finish my final three courses – all was good. On one particular morning, having misjudged the day’s weather forecast, I neglect to bring a sweater. This is a common mishap in sunny California.
Between classes I become extremely cold, so cold I was tempted to ditch the rest of the day’s courses, and go home. It felt like a justifiable excuse to do so. I head toward the bus station to act on that decision. A discouraging feeling, verging on apathy, creeps up. Was I really cold, or looking for yet one more excuse to sabotage my educational goal?
Deciding to stay on campus, I turn around and head back. Every vertebra in me shivered as I thought to myself, hell yeah! it’s cold. One thing I don’t like is being very cold. But I had to stay. I just had to.
Before there was a Nike slogan, my older brothers use to say, “just do it!” whenever I consumed playtime by chickening out of something. The key to this directive was to leave thinking out of it, and proceed as if. That’s what I did; I continued to make my way toward class with the intent of working through my day.
In less than 30 seconds I hear my name being called. I walk toward the voice and see folks standing around a table. When I ask the person with the bullhorn why she called my name, she replies, as she hands me a hooded sweatshirt, “oh, you won a school sweatshirt.” To this day I don’t remember entering a raffle. As cold as I was, it came to be known as the miracle sweater. Ha! I’m even wearing it right now.
Several months later, in one phone call, I’m informed my unemployment payments are being reduced, and my rent increased. What was I going to do! I walk for less than two blocks after ending that call, my concern escalating into devastation. I don’t like feeling devastated or hopeless. I approach a cross walk and decide I can’t do it, I can’t submit to despair. So I just did it, I let it go. I decided not to worry about my financial situation.
As I begin crossing the street I already feel relief. No more than a few steps from the opposite street corner, money falls from the sky. Literally. As I pick up a ten-dollar bill, I scan my surroundings to establish its source. No tall buildings for it to have fallen from, and no rich person throwing money in the air. Aha, first the sweatshirt, and now a ten dollar bill. Then this morning’s gas money.
Even though I often use terms like believing and surrendering – whatever actually occurs in these moments is so instantaneous it’s too difficult to characterize its quality and reduce it to just one word. It’s more like believing and knowing all at once. It’s not quite faith either. Faith, for me, is a tightrope act, or the holding of a tension between what you don’t want, and what you do want. It’s more like the miracle happens first, offering the grace necessary for me to release my concerns.
Perhaps I am not doing justice to these instances – but if you have even the slightest idea of what I’m talking about, then you know how challenging it can be to convey it so someone else. What I know, is, it’s a beautiful thing. It tends to happen sparingly; keeping it precious and never taken for granted.
It right-sizes me, reminding me things will happen as they will, and if ever I’m in need of a miracle, I know one will happen when I least expect it – and be right on time.
Amen for that!