Do you believe in miracles?

April 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Your theology defines what becomes possible in your life.

To give an example, one that I tell my undergraduates when I am teaching: If you believe in miracles, then miracles can happen in your life. And if you do not, then they do not.

I do not intend that my comments here should be taken as a form of magical thinking; rather, I mean that your decision as to whether or not miracles are possible defines whether or not events will qualify or not qualify as miracles in your life.

So the question arises: what kind of world, and what kind of life would you want?

In the Torah narrative, for example, Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. He is falsely accused and imprisoned. His early life is a series of tribulations, most of which arise on account of jealousy and ill feelings regarding his capabilities and his virtues.

But he is not one to despair, and he is able to rise up to a high position though his wits and foresight. When his brothers arrive in Egypt, he is second only to Pharaoh. He could have them killed, of course, or imprisoned. Instead, he decides to test them, to determine whether they have any regret for their earlier actions. After a couple of ruses, he is satisfied that they would not leave his youngest brother behind, and he reveals himself to them, weeping. They reunite.

But there is still a current of mistrust: Later, after their father has died, the brothers beg for their lives. They make up a story, convinced that he has been waiting for this moment to exact his revenge.

What is Joseph’s reaction?

He tells them: What you had intended for evil was transformed by God into good. The jealousy that led you to sell me into slavery ultimately became the catalyst for saving a population from starvation.

And on this basis, he forgives them.

Notice that he does not argue that things had to happen this way. Notice also that he does not pretend that they had good motives, or that their actions were any less destructive than they actually were.

Rather, he has created a theology that allows him to heal and forgive, by assuming that God has transformed all the negatives into something positive. Even in the darkest depths it is possible to remake the situation into a lasting good.

I retell this story to make a point: a person’s theology defines what is possible. Joseph’s theology allows him to forgive his brothers and to overcome the tragedies in his life.

What does your theology allow you to do? What does it make possible?

And, in turn: What does your theology demand of you?

Mo’adim l’simchah.

Copyright 2012 Kari Hofmaister Tuling

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