By Victoria Clark
Usually, if someone tells you that they have experienced a miracle, your emotions go one of two ways. You either feel overwhelmed with awe and captured by the story, or you sit in defiance, doubting that it ever happened. I could tell you about my personal miracle and it may stop you in your tracks or you may shake your head and move on, but I’m not here to tell you to read the Bible. I’m here to show you what could happen if you want to know Jesus, not just know about Him.
One Friday night about a month ago, I experienced a personal miracle. I went to one of the small groups that my church hosts, which could be referred to as bible study, and my short life took a drastic turn. We sat in a circle and, one by one, began sharing our thoughts about this beautiful outlaw we’ve all come to know in our own ways. Across the circle from me sat a young man named John and as he spoke, I found myself frozen in my chair. He mentioned how this was his last night in our small group and that within the next few days he would be moving to San Diego, California, because that’s where the Air Force needed him to go. I felt my chest contract, an aching pain I knew all too well to be grief, and I began to wonder for the hundredth time when I would be okay enough to hear about people alive and fighting for our country now when my father was lost so many years ago.
For the nineteen years that I’ve been alive, thirteen of those years have been without my dad. One early morning in Oceanside, California, a stone’s throw from San Diego, we kissed my father goodbye and watched him walk away for the last time. Five months later there would be a knock at the door and six-year-old me would come in from playing in the backyard to answer it with as much enthusiasm as any young child today does. In the thirteen years that my dad has been dead, I hadn’t ever felt his presence again. Initially, I thought that if I befriended God I would be able to continue dancing, playing, and talking to my dad in my dreams because he would be an angel sent down from Heaven to me, but I soon realized I was thinking about God the wrong way.
As a child, I believed in God because I needed there to be a heaven where my dad could be. I believed in God in eighth grade because I had a friend who told me I was a blessing in their life, and I wanted to truly believe that I was. I believed in God my junior year of high school because the ocean called to me to be baptized in the sea. I believed in God my senior year of high school because, against all odds, I realized I never had a reason not to believe. I used to argue with God, asking why other people who have lost loved ones can see them occasionally in their dreams or feel angelic hugs, and after so many years, I still hadn’t felt a single tug from a world beyond to tell me that all was okay.
I tuned back into the conversation at hand where a circle of strangers were excitedly talking about Jesus’ presence in their lives. The room went silent as Melissa began to speak.
“Guys,” she sighed and looked around the room, searching for words to convey the unfathomable love she felt within her, “Jesus thinks I’m funny.” I sat there confused, and I wondered what God I’ve heard preached of before thought of Jesus himself as funny. Melissa shook her head, a smile stuck on her face and light in her eyes, “When I speak to Jesus, I speak to him as if He is my best friend, because He is.” The room was silent for only a moment before more thoughts were contributed.
One person stated how you can pray to Jesus wherever you are because he will always be there to listen. One person shared how she was taught the proper way to pray was to be on your knees, hands together, and eyes closed, but then she asked us if it was possible to pray and drive a car at the same time. I sat in this circle thinking of all the times that I’ve wanted to know Jesus, all the times that I’ve cried out to Him asking for help or guidance, and how, through all that time, I was looking at Jesus as a superior being who pulled on the world by its puppet strings and not as a human.
When Jesus was a child, He had to learn how to tie his sandals. The day I learned how to tie my shoes was one fateful day in kindergarten when I interrupted my teacher multiple times just to show her that I could do it. I threw tantrums as a young child if I didn’t get my way, and Jesus did too. I skipped rocks on the surface of the water and Jesus skipped them too. I get scared of the dark, I grieve for all the loved ones I’ve lost, and I go hungry, but so did Jesus. Jesus threw tantrums as a child before He grew up and changed the world. Jesus skipped rocks on the surface of the water until the day He stood up and walked on the water instead. Jesus knew that this darkness that fell every night could be defeated, He grieved for the loved ones He lost and then He turned around and raised Lazarus from the dead. He went hungry, and the aching pain in His stomach told Him to eat just like us, and then He broke apart bread to represent himself. Jesus is both God and human. Imagine that.
Usually, if someone tells you that they have experienced a miracle, your emotions go one of two ways. When I was told of a huge miracle Jesus did for such a small person, it began to hit me just how powerful He is. The little boy was about four years old, possibly five, and he walked confidently up to me as I sat on the small couch outside of the children’s ministry three years ago. I smiled at him, wondering what was happening in his little brain. His eyes searched mine, looking between them, watching for something, and then he spoke.
“I’m a miracle.”
He looked away from me and sat down on the couch by my side as if his soul was aging quicker than he ever could, and then he sighed and spoke again.
“I’m a miracle.”
“You are, are you?” He nodded, looking up to meet my eyes again. “Tell me.”
This little boy proceeded to explain that, at two years old, he had fallen off of a four-story balcony onto cement and survived. I listened to him, awestruck by his story. He told me how his family had prayed for his survival, how he wasn’t scared for his life, and that he was alive only because of Jesus. This young child came up to my side and told me that he’s a miracle, no doubt in his mind, and then as quickly as he had come up to me, he was gone. His mother took him by the hand and smiled at me, leading him away.
This was the first time I could see the light of Jesus in someone’s eyes. Tonight, at this small group, I saw the world light up.
The bible is not a rule book. It is not a strict step-by-step guide on how to live your life. It is, in fact, the opposite. For a very long time now, the predominant Christian religious establishment has been following these strict rules they claim to find in the bible instead of offering insight into who Jesus actually is. A lot of people in our world today misinterpret the words in the Bible and see in their heads a portrait of Jesus that is pristine, perfect, ghost-like, and staring into a world beyond what they can see – but that isn’t Him. What they don’t see is the Jesus who sits on our couch across from us, feet up on the coffee table, leaning forward excitedly to learn about life from our unique perspectives. What religion today lacks is the personality of Jesus.
The biggest mistake I made growing up was trying to know Jesus by learning all the rules He created and lived by instead of knowing Him for Him. I listened to the societal perceptions that were said to be true about Christians, all the stereotypes painting us as judgmental, “holier than thou,” self-righteous people who never make mistakes and only play Christians at church, but then I realized what a trap this was. Jesus’ heart is a garden, a beautiful mess of a world, and we are all blooming stories in it.
His love crashes over us daily, over my heart every second of the day. He is the reason I love the sea, He is the reason I laugh at the little moments in life, He is the reason I take off my shoes and climb any and every tree in sight. His playfulness, His humanity, and His love is what fuels my life.
As the small group came to a close, we all decided to pray for John. He pulled his chair to the middle of the circle as the rest of us stood up and stepped in, placing our hands on him and bowing our heads, offering prayer to rush over this young man. Each of his friends took turns speaking for John and praying for safe travels there and a fulfilled life once he arrives in his new home, and, on the outskirts of the circle with my hand on this stranger’s shoulder, I felt my eyes fill with tears. My chest contracted, the grief grabbing my heart and holding it tight, and I couldn’t stop thinking how this man is going to be stationed in the last place I lived with my father before he died. I could not stop thinking about how God made a full circle in this little room, a new beginning was about to start where one ended, and I prayed, tirelessly, endlessly, “God is good.” Tears ran softly down my cheeks and I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder, an overwhelming sense of calm, warmth from all the love in the room. I opened my eyes slightly to see who was offering me such a comfort, but the room was empty behind me.
A hand squeezing my shoulder.
After thirteen years, a comfort, an okay sign, something telling me that love is greater than all. My own miracle.
For the remainder of the night, I spoke with all the strangers in the room as if we had been friends since the dawn of time. I stayed in their home until a little past ten, talking to everyone. The kindness and genuine love in the room felt so surreal, overwhelming my soul. I could feel, that night, the presence of Jesus sitting back on the couch, feet up on the coffee table, smiling and watching over us as we all talked to each other with so much light in our eyes you’d forget that the sun had set for the night.
I am beautifully in over my head.