The blending or interweave of dimensions––threads of creation in my view––whether it’s physical (length, breadth and depth), cosmological (time, matter and space), human (physical, mental, spiritual), or experiential (real, imagined or mystical) has always been a source of fascination for me.
However, it’s the mystical aspects of our experience––the realm of miracles––that I find so intriguing. Especially when one enters this realm and a life’s trajectory changes as a result.
First, my definition of miracles. I characterize subtle miracles as the wonders that filter through happenstance––only understood when connected retrospectively. Something that is beyond circumstance and clearly demonstrates God’s touch. The mind-blowing, heaven-rending miracles are for Moses, Padre Pio or the Fatima visionaries. As grand and faith affirming as those are, I’m going to tell you about a subtle miracle. Mine.
Due to a strange compulsion to pick up a book, I never would have begun the necessary introspection to discover and accept the grace of God. Because of one incredible woman’s courage, I did not jump into the void. By virtue of God’s introduction––His mystical hand––I began to turn away from self and look to Him as the source and summit of life.
Inspiration is multi-faceted. It can apply to a muse, to creativity or even blinding revelation. In those dark, God-denying days, as I was falling into terrible hopelessness, God chose a person of faith to inspire me.
I was meandering through a bookstore in 2009––during a dangerously low period––and happened upon an extraordinary work, Left to Tell, the riveting story of Immaculée Ilibagiza. In normal, self-absorbed times, I never would have picked up that book. I was on my way to browse the business section and it caught my eye. Well, in short order, I bought it, devoured it through the night and day and almost immediately, sitting at my computer, I began to dissect my life with words.
Before I even wrote my first sentence, I remember wondering if I would be able to confront my situation with the same grace and faith as Immaculée exemplified. Her circumstances were exponentially more horrific than mine, but I sensed my life was similarly at risk.
One year later, the first draft of my book was complete. It became a chronicle of my misguided life. It explored my struggles and questions and ultimately led me to the discovery of God, Truth and purpose. It was a subtle miracle of incalculable grace.
Let me tell you a little about Immaculée (from her website).
“A living example of faith put into action. Immaculée’s life was transformed dramatically during the 1994 Rwandan genocide where she and seven other women spent ninety-one days huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house. Immaculée entered the bathroom a vibrant, 115-pound university student with a loving family; she emerged weighing just sixty-five pounds to find her entire family had been brutally murdered (with the exception of one brother who had been studying out of the country).
“Immaculée credits her salvage mostly to prayer and to a set of rosary beads given to her by her devout Catholic father prior to going into hiding. Anger and resentment about her situation were literally eating her alive and destroying her faith, but rather than succumbing to the rage that she felt, Immaculée instead turned to prayer. She began to pray the rosary as a way of drowning out the negativity that was building up inside her. Immaculée found solace and peace in prayer and began to pray from the time she opened her eyes in the morning to the time she closed her eyes at night. Through prayer, she eventually found it possible, and in fact imperative, to forgive her tormentors and her family’s murderers.”
There is one passage from Immaculée’s book that grabbed me like no other. I would like to share it with you.
Imagine the scene. Hutu killers were outside the bathroom door looking for Immaculée. The door was hidden by a wardrobe. It was only a matter of time before the hideously confined bathroom sanctuary would be discovered.
“I put the Bible in my mouth and clenched it tightly between my teeth. I wanted to swallow God’s words, to gulp them down into my soul. I wanted to find His strength again, but the negative spirit that had haunted me for so long was planting horrid images in my mind. I saw what the killers would do to me when they found us: I saw the torture, the humiliation, the murder. Oh, God, please! I screamed silently. Why do you want me to go through this? Why? What else can I do to show you my love? I want to believe that you will save us, God. How can I have more faith? I’m praying so hard, God, so hard . . . but they’re so close, and I’m so tired! Oh, God . . . I’m so tired. I felt faint—consciousness slipped away from me until the killers’ thundering voices were only a soft, distant rumble. Then I was sleeping . . . and dreaming a sweet dream of Jesus.
“I looked up and saw Jesus hovering above me in a pool of golden light, and his arms were reaching toward me. I smiled, and the constant aches and pains that had become part of my body after weeks of crouching disappeared. There was no hunger, no thirst, and no fear—I was so peaceful . . . so happy. Then Jesus spoke: ‘Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculée, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone. Trust in me, and know that I will never leave you. Trust in me, and have no more fear. Trust in me, and I will save you. I shall put my cross upon this door, and they will not reach you. Trust in me, and you shall live.’
“Suddenly I was back on the floor again with the others. Their eyes were still closed, but mine were wide open, staring at a giant cross of brilliant white light stretching from wall to wall in front of the bathroom door. As I looked, radiant energy brushed my face, warming my skin like the sun. I knew instinctively that a kind of Divine force was emanating from the cross, which would repel the killers. I knew that we were protected and safe, so I jumped to my feet, feeling like I had the strength of a lioness. I thanked God for touching me with His love once again, and then I looked down at the others. For the first and last time while I was in the bathroom, I shouted at my companions: “We’re safe! Trust me . . . everything is going to be okay!”
They were safe, they were okay, and eventually they would walk out of the bathroom to safety.
The Rwandan genocide was life changing for Immaculée. Reading her book was life changing for me. Such is the nature of God’s active participation in our lives. If we’re open to Him, if we surrender and trust, He’ll lead us to safety. We will be okay.