by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Managing Editor
So they all ate and were filled. Mark 6:42
The title of my devotional today strikes me as oxymoronic. Miracles, after all, are defined as acts of God, amazing and marvelous events, and "seals of a divine mission" (Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary). Generally speaking, there's nothing small about them.
What I'm talking about, then, are instances of heavenly intervention in the lives of believers that impact what we would consider "minor" areas of our existence, the things that cause us to make statements like: "It showed me that God cares about even the small things in our lives," always as if that's a profoundly shocking proclamation. Nobody ever responds by saying, "Well, duh…"
I think that's because it never stops being a mind-blowing concept - the Creator of the universe, who hears the prayers and praises of billions simultaneously and loves each one the same, provided, perhaps, just the right amount of money for a struggling single mom to buy her child a pair of shoes. It's not the parting of the Red Sea to preserve for Himself a people, or the resurrection of His son to purchase the redemption of humanity. It's, for lack of a better term, a mini-miracle.
I remember one time in our Adult Bible Fellowship class my friend Karen stepped in to teach our continuing series in Mark's gospel. We were in Chapter Six, focusing primarily on the Feeding of the 5,000. As she began her lesson, Karen admitted that she'd never quite been able to visualize this scene, or understand exactly what the miracle was meant to show. I mean, there is the lesson of provision, but the human body can go without food for quite some time. Jesus Himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-4). So it's not like life and death were hanging in the balance if the people who had followed Him to this "desolate place" went without dinner that night.
It could be, Karen suggested, that Jesus just didn't want the people to go away; He had just suffered the death of His cousin John the Baptist, and recently endured the "amazing unbelief" (Mark 6:6) of those from His hometown of Nazareth. It could be Jesus took immense delight in this multitude foregoing their bodily needs to attend to His Word. It very well could be our Lord simply wanted to do something "just for them."
Maybe, Karen said, that's why she always tended to overlook this miracle a little bit. "You know how sometimes when God does something that you know was 'just for you,' and you tell someone else about it, and they're like, 'That's cool and all,' but it just doesn't carry the same meaning for them?"
I knew exactly what that was like, and I liked where she was going. I could see an even greater personalization in mini-miracles, in God drawing delight from blessing our socks off in ways that speak to our individual hearts. The idea also gave me greater permission to attribute to the Lord all sorts of transpirings that I had chalked up to my own efforts, happenstance, or even worse, had gone without noticing.
If, for instance, I told you about the time we thought we'd lost my wife's keys - including several costly ones - only to find them sitting precariously on a single steel beam of the auto transport behind our moving van, maybe you'd respond the way my friend Scott did: "You got lucky, dude." Yeah, well, I guess that's why Karen says sometimes these events are "just for us." I saw those keys, I knew the bumpy route and wet weather we had traveled, I was astounded, I was humbled. I decided that giving credit to the Lord for things that bless you is never wrong, as suggested by James 1:17.
I just don't do it enough.
I wonder how many mini-miracles I've missed out on by being impatient, angry, or inattentive. In his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller imagines Moses telling those worshipping the golden calf, "Your problem is not that God is not fulfilling, your problem is that you are spoiled" (92). Romans 1:20 would seem to indicate that the Lord's hand is evident everywhere - "people can clearly see His invisible qualities." I like that verse very much, because I like to think of myself as on the lookout for God.
But that brings me to the other ways to miss miracles - by not accepting them or expecting them, by resenting them or wanting to earn them. I quote from Blue Like Jazz again, where Miller admits, "I love to give to charity, but I don't want to be charity. This is why I have so much trouble with grace" (84).
Can we get past the affront of accepting a free gift? If we can, we might see the Lord trying to say through the Feeding of the 5,000 and even today, "Here I Am, stay here, spend more time, no need to go away, please accept this, put yourself in My hands, keep your eyes open, I love you."
After all, says Matthew 7:11, "If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?" Mini-miracles are the treats God brings home to His kids, those who seek him with childlike faith, those who consider themselves "the little things in life." Well, duh…
Intersecting Faith & Life: Try bringing something small home to a loved one today to remind yourself of how much joy the Lord gets from giving.