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Incredible! Awesome! Wonderful! Amazing! Wow! How often have we said, or heard, those words used to describe what we can scarcely believe? We use them to chronicle our view of a spectacular sunrise or sunset, to relate the first stirrings of life in a woman’s womb, to comment on the many experiences for which words seem inadequate.
I heard those very words repeated in our house recently. Hubby Dear invested some Christmas gift money in the acquisition of a Kindle and exclaimed, “Wow! Guess what! I ordered a Bible and, within minutes, it was there in my Kindle. Can you imagine that? All of it...in minutes! Wow! It’s just incredible.”
He continued to state, “Why is it that people cannot believe in God and have a hard time accepting the divinity we are when they can so easily take on the incredibility of a machine that miraculously downloads books?” I listened intently and let the words soak into my own being.
They reminded me of Mary’s words, in the Gospel according to Luke, words offered in response to the angel who came announcing her impending pregnancy. “How can this be, for I am a virgin,” Mary asked. Her honest question gave birth to a profound trust contained in her belief in the unbelievable. That belief intensified as she went to visit her relative Elizabeth, pregnant although she was beyond the age when conception would be possible.
It’s a Christmas story that extends beyond the traditional season. It penetrates each new day of each new year. It calls us to pay attention to all the incredibly credible, all the wondrous moments of our life. It asks us to be aware of the presents we have been given so that we can be an amazing presence in return.
Life happens, not only when we are making other plans, but also in the midst of the “wow” times, both joyous and sorrowful, enticing and trying. I have been told, many times, the reason I survived the trauma of the past year or more is that God has plans for me.
Although I never responded with a “Wow,” I certainly continue to ponder the marvel of it all. I look for signs of those plans. I listen for the message as it is delivered by the prophets that cross my path. Crystal-clear details do not emerge. I need to read between the lines, find the communiqué behind or beneath the words. Sometimes, I need to wait to see. I need to ask the sender to leave a voice mail, an oral communication that I can retrieve and contemplate before responding. Whatever happens, it means listening for God and believing in the unbelievable.
An example of this reality occurred when my granddaughter applied to two colleges for an early action decision. She did so with the blind hope and trust that her grades and extracurricular activities plus her part-time job would be incentives for acceptance. Her hopes were dashed when the first response came. Although the letter bearing news that she was not accepted also stated that her name would be submitted to the pool of later entries, she felt only rejection. Whatever belief she maintained in the face of the unbelievable was crushed. She was crushed. Negativity took hold, as she now believed no other college would accept her. Life became unutterably stressful. More than that, it narrowed to a belief that only the visible, the credible, was possible. She grieved and I grieved with her.
Words were no longer arenas of consolation, only places of desolation. Spoken or silent, “Why bother?” became her mantra. Why bother believing in the unbelievable. Why maintain trust that the incredible is indeed credible. The future seemed gloomy, if not grim. Her experience was not unique. Other seniors, including my grandson, were finding similar episodes emerging in their lives.
Then, as swiftly as the Kindle filled with Hubby Dear’s purchase of a Bible, she received one more letter. This one came from another, equally appealing college. This time it was a moment of glee, a time of triumph. She phoned us with the news. “I’ve been accepted. I’m so happy!” The negativity disappeared into a cloud of joy. The key word was acceptance.
Being accepted as she was. SAT scores and academic standing, jobs and extracurricular activities, all the visible data translated into newfound belief in the unbelievable. The fear factor that plagued her adolescent days was transformed into trust. She regained confidence in the unseeable, conviction regarding her own abilities, credence in the reliability that she was good enough to enter college. She saw her goodness, once invisible, become material. It became really visible to others and, therefore, truly tangible for her.
Whatever happens from this point forward will be more readily viewed as an unmerited favor of God. Belief will be underscored with hope and seen as a venture into the incredible unknown. Faith will truly be blind, blinded by trust in the invisible, all that is unseen yet present.
We come full circle to the wonder of the technological miracles made real in our world, from e-readers to phones that do everything but prepare a meal. More surprises await us as we wander through the unexpected moments of life. With increased awareness, the “Wow” factor intensifies. All is gift.
We awaken to the unbelievable, the astonishing grandeur of each day. The world becomes a topsy-turvy place of grace. Loss becomes gain; sorrow becomes joy. Disappointment becomes the stage for renewal. All that is dim becomes bright with a vibrancy that stirs the soul and sparks the spirit.
Now we know who we are. Now we make real for ourselves and others, seen and unseen, the fact that belief in the unbelievable is a testimony of trust; trust that God is God; trust that we are God’s people.
We can sleep through the process, make it an intellectual endeavor or we can awaken to the challenge that comes with traveling the trail of trust. The choice is ours. The time is now. Wow, it’s incredible!
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in Theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Novant Medical Center, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. She can be reached at email@example.com.