“Our world is no less a miracle if it took a long time to build.”
– Dr. Jeffrey Greenberg
When I reflect on places of wonder, I am reminded of the power of slow miracles. Glacier National Park, the Redwoods, and the Grand Canyon – these are all places of agonizing, sweet slowness. Glaciers inching towards Montana valleys, the quiet year-to-year growth of saplings along the Pacific, the gentle trickle of water across dusty sandstone – all of these eventually lead to awe-inspiring vistas. Eventually, even a glorious, sun-swept beach comes to be through the endless crashing of waves against stones over thousands of years. And each of these is rightly considered powerful images of God’s work in the world.
It can be incredibly difficult to see this in the day-to-day. Who can imagine, looking at a tiny runnel of water, that it will eventually become a great lake? Who imagines that the smallest step towards love could be the catalyst for great change?
Faith for me has been and remains a slow miracle of doubt and belief. I never had one particular moment of conversion, no pivotal plot twist of my narrative that led to God and Jesus. I grew up in evangelical churches and I steeped like good sun tea in all its language, conventions, glories, and hypocrisies. At times, I envy those who can point to some miraculous sign, some powerful prayer, or multiple, intense moments of divine grace.
That moment was not for me. My faith (on my best days) has been a matter of rivers slowly carving through rock and small saplings breaking through the snow. I try to treasure the small things of faith – the holy conversation between soul friends; the quiet stillness after an inspired challenge, and the raucous laughter of inspired stories told over drinks. I am trying to hear the gentle echo of the lives of the saints rather than riding an emotional wave of powerful holy fervor: and (caveat) that is on my best days.
I know what you’re thinking – that’s all very nice – but what does that have to do the Loaves and Fishes process at LaSalle Street Church?
It relates, because I think that we’re in the midst of slow miracle. We have taken long months of discussion to seek out the right decision for our big $1.4 million gift. Committees have been launched and numerous great ideas have surfaced. Our forums and meeting groups have expressed some of our deepest needs, desires, and passions.
Through all of this, I think that the temptation is now to look for a big transformation – our big “ah-hah” moment. It’s the same temptation that sucks me in when I become envious of those who have experienced “big moments” of faith. It is enticing to think one big decision will transform the church and fully inspire us for years to come. But, as I look at my life and the lives of the saints and sinners who have gone before us, it seems to me that the allure of quick transformations gives short shrift to the slow, gritty, everyday miracle of faith in our lives.
Because of this, I propose a different solution – what if we humbly say that LaSalle is a slow miracle in the making? What if we don’t have one big solution? What if we can make a big change that will fuel all of these little sparks and sprouts of faith?
The fact of the matter is this: we are in debt. A debt of over a million dollars hangs over our heads and limits our ability to fully fund both everyday projects and big ideas that allow us to love God and love our neighbors.
Is it any less a miracle to pay off this debt and use the savings to fund smaller projects, than to give the money in one large chunk to a new venture? Is it possible we miss the divine because we are so busy looking for the flashy signs of instantaneous miracles and miss the miracle of chipping away at a rock, day after day, until it is smooth…?
Imagine a yearly amount ($25,000? $50,000? $100,000?!) that we commit from our new debt-free abundance funding little sprouts of faith that emerge from our holy conversations: This could be a rooftop garden; this could be a new staff member for NNUP to fully commit to a neighborhood empowerment zone; it could be funding the living expenses of some members who deeply feel called to live and minister in tough neighborhoods in Chicago, this could be committing more deeply to new immigrants to Chicago; this could be something as simple as a few more fresh socks to give out at Breaking Bread.
We do not know what the future holds. We do not know the myriad ways LaSalle’s turf will change with the new Atrium Village. We do not know what new challenges will arise for our church, but we do know the power of slow miracles.
Why not invest in them for years to come?
Member of the Pufferfish Prayer School