What makes a miracle a miracle? Is it a miracle because it defies explanation and breaks the laws of nature?
The word “miracle” is used so often, often for such trivial events, that it has become a cliché. “It’s a miracle that I made it to the meeting on time in light of all the traffic I encountered on the road.”
It’s probably true that we can explain away many events, even “miraculous” ones. A good mind, after all, can explain away anything.
For some there are no such things as miracles. For others a miracle is simply an unexpected event or a wonderful surprise. For still others what makes an act a miracle is its infrequency. It may be explainable to the laws of nature, but it’s a pretty rare occurrence.
Regardless, the point of a miracle is not the miracle; it’s the feeling that God has intervened supernaturally into your life. That God has been revealed in human events. That God has proven once again to be all powerful and able to bend even nature to God’s will.
All of life is a miracle when you think about it. Birth. Death. Sleep. Gravity. Love. The change of seasons. The sun. The moon. The stars.
Take airplanes and flying, for example.
Perhaps it’s because I’m on and off of planes a lot. But the sight of US Airways flight 1549 landing there on the Hudson River in New York back on January 15th, with crew and passengers safe and all accounted for — that image will forever be emblazoned in my memory. It was a miracle. A “Miracle on the Hudson” is how New York Governor David Paterson described it.
I know. The story is a month old now. We’ve all but forgotten it. Since then there’s been another airplane crash, this time in Buffalo, where the crew and passengers were not so lucky. My prayers are with the families of that tragic crash. But I can’t get out of my mind the wondrous sight of Flight 1549 floating there on the Hudson with crew and passengers standing out on the wings waiting to be rescued.
It’s a miracle. Not because it can’t be explained. Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was a veteran pilot with years of experience. After both engines failed and concluding that landing
in on the Hudson River was their best chance of survival, the pilot had the wits about him to know to close off all the plane’s compartment doors (including the landing gear doors) in order to keep water from rushing in, thereby insuring the plane’s chances of remaining above water long enough for all to get out and be rescued. So, I guess you can say that the plane’s landing on water can be explained according to all the laws of thermal dynamics. But that doesn’t make what happened on the Hudson back on January 15, 2009 any less of a miracle.
It was a miracle not because it defied explanation. It was a miracle because people experienced it as a miracle. It was a miracle not because it was unheard of. It was a miracle because nothing like it had ever happened before to the people who witnessed and experienced it.
It was a miracle not because nothing like it has ever happened before. It was a miracle because it happened when something extraordinary was most needed.
Finally, I wanted to include this blogpiece with a video clip of one of the ferry rescues from that day. It ran many times on CNN for few days after the crash landing. But I haven’t been able to find the video on the Internet. I found a photo of the woman on the video, but I can’t find the video of her reaction after being rescued. It’s precious.
After being rescued by one of the local ferrys, a group of passengers from flight 1549 are standing upright on a ferry with various looks of shock, pain, and relief etched understandably on their faces. The woman below is standing at the end of the line of passengers. And for one brief second the camera catches her as she closes her eyes, bends over, grabs a rail by the hand, and lets her head bob up and down.
Wolf Blitzer and the rest of CNN didn’t catch it. But I did.
You gotta be churched to know what was going on. It’s called “shouting.” In church it would have been a pew, but the woman in the photo reached for the rail of a Hudson ferry instead. And she let it rip. The full weight of what had just happened probably hit her. She probably thought about the fact that she’d just survived a crash landing in water. She probably thought about what could have happened. She grabbed that ferry rail, bent over, and danced a holy dance. Sister girl went in, as we say in church vernacular. Praising God.
At least shouting is what it looked to me like she was doing. It’s certainly what I would have been doing on that ferry.
Afterall, there’s only response to a miracle, or whatever you wanna call it. And that is a shout. A praise dance. Let others figure out what just happened and why it happened. For now: Halleluiah!! Praise the Lord!!! Thank you Lord!!! Speaking in tongues.
Makes you understand what prompted the prophet Miriam to take out her tambourine after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (or was that a mighty wind that had just blown through?). You can understand why she shook the other women to their senses by insisting they join her in shouting and praising God for doing what only God could have done at the moment that God did it there at the Red Sea:
“Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)