In her book, Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton writes, “When your miracle doesn’t happen the way you planned, it becomes important to look for peripheral miracles. Peripheral miracles are those that aren’t directly in front of you. They’re not the one on which you’ve been so damned focused. You have to turn your head to see peripheral miracles.”
I held a self-pity fiesta the other night and invited my husband, Bush. Read this with a tearful, pathetic voice, Me -“I feel disappointed that God hasn’t….” whatever. My actual fill-in-the-blank doesn’t matter, you’ve been there.
After some off-the-ledge-talking, Bush said he didn’t think God has disappointed me at all. He thinks my efforts toward a goal are going just fine. “What isn’t?” he asked, convinced I misread God. “You just don’t have this one thing you think you should have to move forward. So what? Apparently you don’t need that one thing. Look at all the open doors and opportunities you’ve had to make this project happen.” His message basically was to have courage, notice God doing things His way and dare I say, just keep going? Me – “Hmm.” Point seen.
When our son, Ted was lost from us and spiraling downward, I assumed that God would turn him around with a word, a thought, a comment from some youth pastor, a good-influence friend, or a Bible verse in a sermon. I thought he needed those things. I pictured that’s how it would happen. Turns out it didn’t have to happen that way — and it didn’t.
In a series of small miracles so cool that you don’t have time to hear them all, Ted began to recover. The light didn’t really appear until 45 days into treatment and then slowly and steadily through a half-way house, 12-step meetings, and collegiate recovery at Augsburg College StepUP Program, the bud of life without substances opened wider and wider. Instead of the rocket ship miracle I pictured, the peripheral miracles were a series of hot air balloons softly but strongly ascending in different times and places of his life. I know that’s a lot of metaphors, but the hot air balloon is my favorite.
I watched the miracles drift up around me like an awestruck observer and at some point wondered about my old assumption that our son would be transformed with a flash of light. “Sarah darling,” it seemed like God said, “I didn’t do it your way. Is it okay with you if I use individuals trained in the field of addiction? I have people who have a passion and skill to untangle this mess. It makes sense to me to use them.” Me — “Sure, God.” “And is it all right if I design a support system for Ted including others in long term recovery who can relate to him in a way you can’t? You can still be the mom but you’re not in charge.” Oh, okay God.
“And Sarah darling,” God again speaking in the voice of unfolding opportunities, “Is it okay if we start to work on you now? You lost a lot during this stretch, and there’s some unfinished business from your years with a drinking dad. I have people and programs who can help with that too.” Oh, okay God.” I didn’t expect that healing. It’s one of the balloons in my periphery.
“Keep an open mind to an uncontrollable God, who almost never does things the way we imagine.” — anonymous