One of my signal revelations this week. Not a new or novel one. But a signal one.
And it hits me.
Disturbances and distractions are the setting for most miracles.
I, of course, type these words while wearing noise-canceling headphones.
If there had been no stalling-storm on the sea, there would have been no occasion for witnessing Jesus walking on the water.
If no pesky crowd gathering unannounced during what was to be a quiet retreat, there would have been no occasion for the one miracle recorded in all four gospels in the feeding of the 5,000.
And if in the midst of a crowd of thronging, grasping distractions on his way to heal a dying girl the Healer had not allowed himself to be distracted by an anonymous touch from behind that brings the whole procession to a screeching halt with his insistent question, “Who touched me?,” we would have no story of a woman who had spent twelve years in shame and isolation – not to mention all of her income in search of a cure that would not come – who found that healing in one bold, go for broke, anonymous touch.
I understand the need for public order in our public gatherings. I do.
But perhaps, whether in public gathering or private muse, we usher distractions out of our presence a bit too soon.
What miracle stories might be wrapped up in the disturbances we are too fearful or impatient to embrace?
What might we discover if, overcoming fear and our desire for predictability, we stopped, watched, and listened to the disturbance with the curiosity of the Master, asking it, “Who touched me?” and then waited until it fell at our feet, telling all?
What if we developed the sensitivity to detect that touch in the midst of so much else grasping at our attention?
Which reminds me of a Kushner story:
I once knew a man who was in psychoanalysis. His doctor’s office was across the street from an old, red-brick, inner-city psychiatric hospital. One day as he had regularly done for a few years, my friend walked down the street to his car in front of the hospital. Suddenly he heard a blood-chilling scream from the top floor that seemed to sound the deepest pain a soul could possibly feel. This unforgettable noise etched itself into his soul. The following day, back on the couch, he told his doctor of the scream from the top floor. To his astonishment, his therapist was surprised that he should mention it at all.
“You mean you just now heard it?” asked the doctor. “After all these years? On the top floor across the street, that’s where they put all the screamers.”
And from that day on, my friend said, he was able to hear the screams on the top floor almost every time. “The screams are all around us,” he later mused, “waiting for our ears and eyes and hands.”
Okay. Noise-canceling headphones.