You need a miracle — But are you ready for one?
I needed a miracle. Desperately. My husband, my grown kids and I wanted to take a summer trip together, but there was a problem. I was the problem. I have a phobia around travel that stems from childhood trauma. I was pretty sure, based on other stuff I was going through at the time that if we solidified our plans, what lay in store for me would be a week of gritted teeth, high anxiety, poor sleep. Worst of all would be a terrible feeling of separation from the people I love most in the world during one of the rare times we’re all together in one place.
It was probably going to be a week of, at best, Mom pretending to be fine. I have a very good relationship with both my children, but I was putting huge pressure on myself to protect them from the realities of what I’d been going through.
Later, I did open up to them, but that’s a story for another day.
Struggling with this decision, I was on a Zoom call with some of my 12-step recovery friends, and I asked for prayer. “I need a miracle,” I said, after sharing my dilemma.
There was a pause. Then my friend M. said something I will never forget: “Are you ready for a miracle?”
That stopped me cold. Immediately, I knew what he meant. By asking for a miracle, something completely outside my own power to implement, I’d be relinquishing control over whatever shape that miracle would take. I might get exactly what I wanted; it might be my worst-case scenario (enduring a very hard trip); it might be something completely unexpected, welcome or unwelcome.
Shaky, I replied that Yes, I was ready. My Higher Power is trustworthy and safe, and I’d been learning, slowly, how to rely on her. Looking at me quietly, M. responded, “I can see it and hear it in your voice, that you’re ready.” He promised me he would pray for me.
Now the situation was out of my hands. In truth, it always had been. I cannot make myself unphobic. (Believe me, I’ve tried!) After this conversation, I was able to go on with my life and not obsess about the outcome. Which, come to think of it, was a mini miracle in itself!
The upshot was that in the end, we were not able to make our trip happen due to circumstances beyond the control of anyone in my family.
I was hugely relieved to be spared a trip I knew in my heart I wasn’t ready for. I was also incredibly grateful that I had been spared from letting everyone down— I had already torpedoed a similar trip the previous year, because of my anxiety. Everyone was really understanding at that time, but I still believed I had to shield my adult children from my inner reality. I feared I might damage them somehow.
Later, I opened up, but again, that’s another story.
So now I was off the hook. Letting go of the illusion that I’m in control of my life has been a huge part of my spiritual growth and recovery. By asking for a miracle, and by dipping my hand into the net of spiritual interconnection by asking friends to pray for one, I acknowledged the karmic interplay of forces far bigger than any one of us.
Receiving a miracle means asking for Divine intervention, then getting out of the way.
If I hadn’t asked for a miracle, if I had decided on my own that once again I simply couldn’t make the trip, I would not only have experienced shame. I would have missed out on some profound lessons:
- My Higher Power is trustworthy.
2. Spiritual friends are essential companions on any spiritual journey.
3. The antidote to shame is vulnerable honesty with trustworthy friends. I’d always tried to hide my phobia from others, but it actually felt good to share this problem.
4. Releasing my grip on control actually is a better, happier way to live than acting on my addiction to the illusion of control. Grasping gives me the immediate payback of feeling in charge, but in the end, it only leads to more fear.
5. Navigating the insecure feelings that result from ceding familiar ground to my Higher Power brings me into a state of new, tender growth. While trusting my HP can feel warm and nurturing inside, the larger scope of that trust widens out to embrace life itself. This trust calls me to trust the unfolding process of life within and around me. And yes, very little of it is subject to my control.