I have just seen a miracle.

Our friend — the woman I wrote of in an earlier entry, who was so devastated in an auto accident — one day fought her way through the physical devastation, and by an act of will and spiritual force, came back to the world of the living. Medical technology had done its job of holding her physical self together so that her spirit would have a place to dwell. And, lo, one day she was aware, functional, and foward-looking. She began walking, talking, acting like a person who was on the mend. Many surgeries and reconstructions later, she is home with her husband and two small children.

But that is not the miracle.

The miracle is the woman I saw today for the first time since I had sat by her bedside holding the hand of a wheezing, limp, mulitated form who for all the world looked she could not survive for more than a few days. This woman I saw today was someone I had never known before. Yes, she is physically disfigured, but nowhere near as badly as her condition a month ago would have led one to expect. But that is not the difference. The difference is something spiritual. She is alive with a joy that makes her far more beautiful in her physically scarred state than she ever was when she was whole and fresh and in the state in which God made her.

I can’t explain it. It would be simple to say that she has gained a newfound wisdom or appreciation of life. But that is too simple. This is something deeper, something that she herself is not even able to comprehend. In the twinkling of an eye, she has been changed. Many of you, I’m sure, have seen such things, and know of what I speak.

Now, I’ve always been a proponent of the slow nickel rather than the quick dollar, both financially and spiritually. Conversion, like winning the lottery, has seemed to me to be a fine fantasy, best indulged in by those who want easy answers to tough challenges. But our friend’s new spiritual presence gives me pause. I sat in her presence as if in a pool of sunshine.

I am not yet ready to give myself over to the endless bright-eyed proselytizers who wish to tell me how they have been changed, and how they wish to provide the same opportunity for me. If conversion exists, it is, I believe, a private thing. And it in no way mitigates or minimizes the long, slow, spiritual journey that most of us must take. But my friend reminds me that there are truths in this universe that we don’t understand, and that cynicism and easy judgment are as much ways to shut ourselves off from possibility as they are a way of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Our friend gives me pause, and she gives me hope. Most of all, she gives me faith. Whatever has happened to her is deep and profound and, at heart, spiritual. And it is born from suffering, yet it issued forth in joy. It is something that is beyond understanding; something from the realm of faith and belief.

I hope no other people I know have to experience what she has experienced. I would rather see us all slog along on our respective uphill climbs. But I now know that there is another way, and that it can arise from the darkest, most hopeless moments. The price she paid is great, but the gift she received is priceless. The rest of us are still climbing. She is standing at the top of the mountain, and I can tell from the joy in her scarred and wounded face that the view is glorious.

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