Miracles and the Familiar

I had a "Science and Religion" class where we discussed miracles: what constitutes a true miracle. My teacher said many religions believe that if you are able to explain something, it isn't a miracle: something's miraculousness lies in its very inexplicability. Thus, satellite TV, airplanes, meteor showers, sunsets, etc., aren't miracles [because someone can explain them---not me, necessarily]; the immaculate conception and the Virgin Mary's image appearing in a tree, are.

The trouble with this view is that the more you learn---the more familiarity the world acquires for you---the less miraculous your world becomes. Which to me seems exactly backwards.

[I've been thinking about this because of that "On Angels" poem I posted about yesterday. Sometimes I love poems/stories that are startling or unexpected or foreign to me. But often the reason I love what someone writes is because it's so familiar: because it makes me think, "YES! Exactly. I have had that same thought." I don't know why that recognition is so pleasing (okay, so, we had the same thought, who cares?) but for some reason it just is. Maybe I read enough things I don't connect with (Really? You wanted this . . . for your wedding . . . ?) that it makes the other things stand out even more?]

Anyway, what I've observed is that sometimes the familiar becomes the most miraculous of all. This is nowhere more noticeable to me than with my kids. I figured after we went through the first one---birth, first steps, first words, and so on---that the next ones wouldn't be quite as exciting. I mean, I knew I'd still like them and think they were cute, but I didn't think they'd seem as miraculous to me, because I'd be more informed/used to motherhood/prepared for what was coming/etc.

But in a lot of ways, babyhood only gets more amazing with each baby. Maybe I'm not as surprised when I find pen drawings on the wall or hear Ky attempting to say "fluffball" or make buffalo siren noises. But I'm still just as astounded that that little baby---the one that used to be a blueberry or a mulberry or whatever that cluster of cells is---is actually doing each new thing. And that he could have come from ME: Those cheeks! And those blue eyes! And his fat, biteable feet! I just can't get over it. I can't get used to it.

And I find myself being more and more amazed at each successive stage in my older boys as well. As I get to know them better, know more of who they are and what interesting thoughts are inside their heads, they become more and more miraculous to me. Which is good, because they also have moments (sometimes the same moments) where they completely baffle me and I have no idea what to do with them or how to figure them out. And I'm sure that such helplessness will only increase as time goes on. *sigh* But I'm happy that I at least get to watch the miracle of them growing up ("Creation going on before our very eyes," as I think C.S. Lewis said).


  1. Okay, the un-dead wedding cakes? Sick.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree! In fact, I think I was rather naive with my first pregnancy -- not realizing what a huge miracle and blessing children were. In an abstract sense I knew, yet I didn't fully appreciate it until after Jayce was born. And now that I'm pregnant with #3, I'm more overwhelmed (in a good way) of what's to come. It's all just amazing and humbling!!

  3. Your boys are unusually beautiful. I need to bribe Ky into liking me so I can cuddle him

  4. Just Sunday, I was trying to express my wonder at the fact of my life - in testimony. But I couldn't find the words that meant - that I am. That there is a me in my head, discrete and unique and full of dreams and thoughts and wonder. That you can create in your body another body, and that that little body comes equipped with a self? How can that not be a miracle? But it is, of course, because it is a total mystery. No one can explain the selfness of us, the complete set of feelings and perspectives and temperament that each child is. How the self joins the body? A mystery. Everything, to me, is a mystery.

  5. I agree with you completely. I think that it's when we're familiar with something that we can fully comprehend the miracle. And I think the real miracles of our lives are in the small things. If something like a new person learning and growing can possibly count as slow.
    And like an earlier commenter said, when we're young and naive we can take a lot of things for granted. It just takes some struggling in life to realize how much we're blessed when things go normally/well.

    Thanks for making me think :)

  6. This is a great post Marilyn. It reminded me of a few quotes I had written down.

    "That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood all your life, but in a new way." --Doris Lessing.


    "When something new is revealed about the human genome, I experience a feeling of awe at the realization that humanity knows something only God knew before."
    --Francis Collins

    I like your thoughts on the relationship between miracles and familiarity. The most miraculous things in my life have all come about in very common sorts of ways.


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