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Mirages or miracles? If we want to see miracles, we must look closely and wait patiently.

I anticipate the arrival of spring in Montreal more and more each year. Perhaps it is my age and finding the winters harder and longer. Even though this cyclical event is certain, spring is always a miracle to me.

After long months of cold, grey, snowbound thoughts, the sun appears. Warm breezes fight with the last arctic winds for the right to blow. Children venture out on bicycles and rollerblades. The number of people outside increases daily. Tulips burst through the clods of earth, adding pinks and purples and yellows to the varied shades of green.

Last year, my impatience to relive the miracle of spring resulted in a feeling that maybe it was all a mirage. I watched for weeks for the leaves to fill out on the trees. Most of the trees were bare--no leaves budding, clothing the branches in green. It didn't seem right. The sunshine was there, and we had had plenty of rain. Everything seemed right and perfect for the trees to bring forth green beauty. There should have been leaves. If I stood there long enough, surely I would witness the leaves bursting out before my eyes. But it didn't happen fast enough. And I grew tired of waiting.

Upon reflection, I realized how similar my reaction to a slow arrival of spring is to God's response to my prayers. There is no doubt God hears our prayers and his answers are as certain as spring. However, the winter-time of life so often covers the evidence of his presence.

Most of us have at least one prayer we have wanted answered for years. For many, hope deferred makes our hearts sick. Is it possible to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of rejection, in a land of bondage and slavery, of racism and injustice, in a world of lies and, often, unbearable pain? In a land of tears, is it possible to hear God crying with us? In a world of misunderstanding and blindness, does God really see? In the land of solitude and loneliness, of confusion and despair, does God really care? In the land of the dying, will there ever be life? In the land of mirages, do miracles happen?

Our faith is often greatly tested while waiting for answers to prayer. When miracles do not occur within our time frame, we become anxious. Anticipation can produce disillusionment, and we only see mirages of hope deferred. Rather than persevering in prayer, we ask despairing, impatient questions: "Where are the leaves?" "Where is my answer?" "Are you even there?"

I found myself observing the trees differently last year. For a couple weeks, I looked at the trees from a distance. If I relied solely on my sense of vision to determine the season, it could have been autumn. But I realized, if we want to see miracles, we cannot look from a distance. There are miracles in process but, in order to see them, we must learn to look closely.

There is life seething in those apparently dead branches. It becomes evident when one sees the miniscule green. Little green pinheads on the branches of trees and bushes appear in the morning. By afternoon, they are nubs pushing through the wood. The next day, they've grown into miniature leaves. All the while, there is a feeling in the air -- a feeling that something big is going to happen any minute now, something that will change us and our lives forever.

Is this not the way it is in our prayers? We demand answers, relief, provision -- envisioning the miracle in our own fashion -- and then complain that all we get are mirages. All the while, God is processing miracles for our full benefit. If we want to see God's miracles, we must change the way we wait for his answers. We must learn to see anew with the eyes of faith, assured of things not yet seen and confident of having been heard. How we choose to wait for answers to our prayers determines if we see mirages or miracles.

Laura Cornett attends The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal.
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Author:Cornett, Laura
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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