Testimonies, Miracles, and Green Pastures

07_31_1_webSometimes guest speakers came to my church–missionaries who lived and worked in other countries. They showed slides of themselves in exotic settings among dark-skinned people and told many wonderful stories of living by faith. They spoke of miracles: instant healing in response to a prayer; an exact amount of money that arrived soon after a prayer for that amount; an urge to go to a specific place where they found someone waiting to hear what they had to say. I wanted to be like them, but the people I prayed for died anyway, I had to work for the money that I needed, and what I thought were divine appointments sometimes ended awkwardly.

Reportable miracles are the material of “testimonies,” a staple of old-fashioned Southern Baptist culture, but they seem incoherent in the narrative of a life that doesn’t report steady progress heavenward: twice-divorced, vain, intermittently unchurched, often confused. I have fewer answers to the really big questions than I did when I was nineteen.

I’ve experienced a few reportable miracles: doors opened to a university that seemed out of my reach; a life partner with faith greater than mine; material goods to supply specific material needs; an unexpected intervention from a person of power to solve a problem, but these reportable miracles recede against the backdrop of larger miracles: an invisible hand and a still, small voice of a shepherd much larger than I who has guided me, not skipping joyfully from sunny hilltop to sunny hilltop, but trudging through valleys of shadows of death and evil; the incredible journey of the earth around the sun every twenty-four hours; the exquisitely-formed human beings who grew inside me and who have survived to middle age and produced their own exquisitely-formed beings; sunlight and shade; water and food; trees and flowers; work and provision; family, friends, pets, and love.

I am not blessed because I have special spoiled-child status with the Almighty, but because I have been willed into existence and consciousness by a power that I cannot possibly understand. I am blessed when I stop insisting on comprehension and start to accept and experience the wonder and the terror of the Universe and its Creator.

My wishes to be a missionary or a pastor’s wife or the leader of some great ministry have not been granted. My life is not a running report of dramatic miracles and unmitigated progress toward heaven.

I sleep. I get up. I drink coffee. I eat. Most days, I read a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New Testament, and, more often than not, far from being instantly inspired and filled with wisdom, I find myself wondering what THAT was about. I worry about car accidents and climate change and epidemics and the economy and politics. I wonder if my life makes any difference. I wonder if I should do more and, if so, what I should do. But sometimes I think of a lamb, trembling as she walks through the shadows, trusting in a shepherd whose ways she cannot know, comforted by rod and staff and food and green pastures. ~Mary Ann Lesh

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About Mary Ann Lesh

I grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas, attended Midwestern University, received a bachelor's degree in English, education, and journalism from Baylor University. I have a master of education degree and doctoral studies in Spanish literature from Texas Tech, with additional studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, Boston University, and the University of Texas at Dallas. I have been a teacher, university administrator, translator, interpreter, and secretary in Texas, Massachusetts, and Mexico. I am the mother of three, grandmother of seven. I am now retired in Torreón, Coahuila, México.
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