Note: I spent about 12 years of my life ignoring God, but then something happened that I couldn't ignore: the birth of my son. I view that event as the beginning of my journey back to God. I wrote the piece below about two months after his birth, over twenty years ago. That germ of the miraculous infected my soul until I "came down" with belief. Anyway, I thought someone might enjoy an old snapshot of a prodigal as he takes his first tentative steps toward home.
There is the belief among most humans that true miracles are scarce. However, I believe everyone and everything pulsates with miracles; the scarcity lies in our ability to perceive and appreciate them. One recent event opened my eyes, at least temporarily, to this fact: the birth of my son.
To most, I am a fairly reserved and private person, a person who would rather watch a movie at home with his wife than go to a party - a calm, rational person. Yet my son's birth was anything but calm or rational. There was no privacy, no reservation, and it was precisely those facts that burned the moment into my mind. Imagine a spiritual EKG of my life for the past few years. All lines would be running smoothly, barely a wobble; then at my son's birth, all lines immediately shard into one another. They tangle and cross and scribble like some bizarre stock market report. And now, after some time, the lines have finally begun to flatten out, and I am able to step back and examine what happened to me.
I believe it was the most spiritual experience of my life, shot through with the paradox of horrible suffering and piercing joy that marks anything associated with God. In my soul was an explosive calm. It was as if some outside force spiritually incised me, and all I could do was stand helplessly as great globs of love spurted onto my wife and son. It was that violent, yet that wonderful. My legs felt weak and my entire body shook inside as my tears fell from what I could only describe as a painful joy. There was an element of manhandling, as if some spiritual loanshark were calling in a debt. “You will give them your love! ALL of it! NOW!” It felt as if my love, even love hidden from my awareness, was shunted out of my soul and into my wife and son. Yet through all that spiritual and emotional upheaval was a sort of governing feeling that this painful joy, this rasping spiritual caress was normal, was right, that it was even necessary for my own good and for the good of my family.
I think there can be no more stabbing spiritual insight than witnessing the birth of your own child. It was as if my soul had been swathed in bandages for many years, and some force ripped them from me, leaving me open and sensitized to the slightest spiritual touch for a few days until my own prejudice and cynicism scabbed me over and life “got back to normal”. Yet in those few days, there was an aura of spiritual wonderment and vibrance in everything. People, even people I didn't particularly like, shone with it, and all of nature exuded the bouquet of it. I was awed by the miracle of the world, the miracle of myself, but especially the miracle of my son. My mind would say, “Get hold of yourself! You're getting sappy, acting like a giddy school girl.”
“Ah, but look...” my soul would say as I gazed at the snow, or the clouds, or my wife, or my son, and then the calculating cynic would die within me, and I would feel a cozy, at-home, out-of-this-world feeling, a feeling that seemed to say “Here's what you've been missing all your life, and there's more! Oh, so much more than you can imagine!”
So often and in so many ways, we become hard and cold. The world pounds us with corruption, molds us with complacency, then fires us into inflexibility in the kiln of everyday living. That is me.
But every once in a while, an event cracks our hard, heavy shells and penetrates into the airy lightness of what we are and shows us our deepest wants and needs, and the miracles that were there all along. Then we get a refreshing taste not of what we are, but what we ought to be.
My shell has been cracked. Here lies before me a tiny, helpless, cooing child, yet I feel my heart crushed and wrung by him, or perhaps by the power that made him. Here lies a stranger I've known only a short time, yet I feel I would die for him. Here lies my son.
I believe in miracles.