Saturday, April 28, 2007

Miracles, Or Maybe Just Me

I've been thinking about miracles lately.

The other night during our small church group meeting, we got on the subject of miracles and some members talked about how they had witnessed a true miracle, while other folks...okay maybe just me, mentioned seeing miracles in almost everything.

I suppose it depends on your definition of miracle.

For example, last week I was having a long overdue lunch with my friend Gordon spending most of the time catching up on each other's families, but also some time talking about where we both were with God and church.

Since Amy and I are attending a "campus" of what is essentially a mega-church, I was explaining how I've changed some of my attitudes about huge churches, while still being wary of the potential for a loss of intimacy. I was starting to cite some specific examples of what I consider really horrifying mega-churches, when Gordon pointed out several people were being seated right next to us. Among them was the Pastor of perhaps the largest mega-church in San Antonio, who was certainly about to come up in our conversation.

It wasn't like we were eating at the most popular place in town, it was a Mexican restaurant I had never heard of, pretty much off the beaten path. The odds that this Pastor would be eating there at the exact time Gordon and I were, and while I was spouting off about churches like his...well, it was hard to chalk it up to coincidence. I didn't dwell on it, but I think it might have prompted me to lower my voice and shove some extra chips and salsa in my mouth.

Anyway, I've been sort of kicking around this idea of how we define miracles and I'm sure much to your amazement you'll be startled to realize I haven't come to any profound universal conclusions.

I do wonder though if perhaps we are guilty of overlooking an awful lot of miracles because we're sort of conditioned to equate the term "miracle" with big "gee whiz" kind of stuff. You know, parting the Red Sea, raising Lazarus from the dead, the cable guy showing up when promised...

I personally believe we miss an abundance of miracles every day as a result.

For example, I recently stumbled across a mention in something I was reading about the ductus arteriosus.

Yeah, I know that sounds like some type of painful disorder the details of which you hope anyone who suffers from will keep to themselves...but actually it's not an ailment at's a body part, which disappears.

Yes, that's also something I believe most of us hope doesn't happen. I'm with you on that one, I'd like to think I'll hang onto as many of my body parts as possible for as long as possible, but for almost all of us our "ductus arteriosus" ceases to function within hours or days of our being born.

No, it's not cut off by baby doctors or as part of any religious goes away naturally.

I'm not an expert by any means but essentially the ductus arteriosus is a little flap or bypass vessel in unborn babies. Its sole purpose, to my understanding, is to block blood from the baby's mother from going to her unborn child's lungs. Unborn children's lungs are already filled with fluid and they get their oxygen from their mom while they're in the womb.

When a baby is born, the dynamic obviously changes. Now the kid must start to use its lungs to get oxygen into the blood.

With me so far?

For almost all of us that little ductus arteriosus starts to shrink when we take our first breath. There are all sorts of things at play in this process, you can go all Wikipedia on me if you want a more precise explanation, but the gist as I glean it is that with that first breath, your ductus arteriosus gets whapped by another muscle that stops it from doing the one job it has been doing for the past nine months or so. Not only does your ductus arteriosus begin to seal itself off, but that one little muscle whose apparent only job is to slap your ductus arteriosus into going into hiding, disintegrates. Your body absorbs it..its purpose in your life is fulfilled.

Again, I was lucky to pass high school biology and I'm not certain to this day I have all the basics of anatomy figured out, so this is way over simplified I'm sure.

Still, that's pretty amazing right?

I'm not alone in thinking how that process is precisely perfect am I?

I mean if that one little action of ductus ateriosus interruptus (okay, I made that up) didn't occur none of us would be able to survive for very long after birth without surgical intervention.

Sometimes that does happen - you learn that when you Google ductus arteriosus - but for almost all of us no doctor has to get involved beyond perhaps giving us a slap on our newborn fannies.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. I mean the whole birth thing is a miracle from start to finish in my book, so looking for miracles within miracles might be sort of like staring into a fire for too long...

Still, whether it's a mega-church Pastor sitting down next to you while you're about to start ranting about mega-churches -which has only happened once in my lifetime, or some little thing that happens every day, thousands of times all over the world in almost everyone's lifetime...I wonder if I'm not guilty of too often trying to see the "holy" and overlooking the "humble."

Image from "The God Interviews" by Natalie d'Arbeloff