Much has been said recently of the role of faith and God in the crash of a US Airways flight in the Hudson River. In today’s Washington Post religion section is a story of the survivors of Flight 1549 who attribute the fact that they are alive to Divine Intervention.
In the days following the crash, I turned the question of miracles over and over in my mind. Are they real? What makes one person (or plane load of people) miracle-worthy? And don’t other people deserve them? I have to think about the passengers of American Airlines Flight 77, including a group of D.C. school children on a field trip, who needed the same type of miracle before hijackers crashed that plane into the Pentagon.
It seems the distribution of these miracles is terribly unfair, and perhaps even unjust.
As part of my own journey, I have come to accept that no one is responsible for my personal “here and now” except for me. While the individual backstories of how I arrived at this very moment in time are intricate and complicated, they are, for better or worse, mine. Period.
I am the first to admit that one of the toughest parts of my spiritual journey over the last six years has been letting go of the security blanket that comes from being able to silently (or publicly) plead one’s case with an omnipotent, all-powerful supreme being. The disillusionment that accompanies years and years of prayers for Middle Eastern peace – or decades of begging God, Jesus, the Holy Mother and St. Martin of Tours to help your mother kick her drug and alcohol habits – can be sharp enough that it forces you to ask some really difficult questions about life, including the issue of miracles.
As a child, I held a strong belief in miracles, because that’s what the world teaches a small boy. When my puppy Cheeto was run over the day we brought him home, my dad and I prayed that he would somehow be OK. We prayed for a miracle that never came.
But as an adult, when the person I loved most lay in a hospice bed, I didn’t pray for a miracle; instead, I asked the universe and all the holy things within it to envelop her in love and comfort so that she might have a smooth, quick journey out of this life. And for once, my “prayers” were thankfully answered.
I don’t pretend to understand how this world works, other than the fact that I am solely responsible for me. I know that the impact of my actions in each individual moment creates ripples that move in all directions, and my ability to spread love or hate today will dictate the path that I walk tomorrow, in this life or the next.
That’s not to say that the people who survived Flight 1549 were all incredibly nice people, or that people who do not get the miracle du jour are all mean and unfriendly. There are mysteries about our existence that none of will ever understand, and just as I got in my car last night, drove home, and walked through my front door, the 155 passengers of Flight 1549 boarded a plane bound for Charlotte, though they left the plane a little earlier than expected.
That’s not a miracle. That’s simply life. Thank goodness it had a happy ending, this time around.