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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Caleb Miracle

by LJ (bio)

Miracles always make me think about this section in the novel Peace like a River by Leif Enger:

For too long [the word "miracle"] has been used to characterize things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal. Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week -- a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards. I'm sorry, but nope. Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word.

Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave -- now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of earth.

There's a middle class of miracles, somewhere between greeting cards and Lazarus that is spelled out beautifully in this post by LDS author Louise Plummer, where she tells the story of teaching a class of Primary kids about how sometimes miracles just happen when we ask. One kid named Caleb said his miracle of choice would be a DS, and Louise made plans to send him one anonymously a few months later, reasoning his family couldn't afford one. 

By the next Sunday, Caleb had already gotten a DS from his grandmother, who brought it home from the school lost-and-found. ("The universe works without my manipulation?" Louise asks, aghast.)  

Let's call these middle-class miracles "the Caleb miracles." Caleb receiving a DS wasn't dramatic like a manna-shakedown, nor was it a normal and expected gift, like socks. 

I believe in Caleb miracles. I believe that when you speak your righteous goals and desires out loud, write them down, and work toward them every day, you can have them. Too many opportunities for greatness or even small successes are squandered by our own fear and self-loathing. Many of us don't even start one foot down the path because we think we can see so clearly the end from the beginning.

I had a chance to interview a Paralympic sprinter named Tony Volpentest for an assignment for the Arizona Republic. He is a guy who once ran a 100-meter-dash in something just over 10 seconds and who went on to medal in the Paralympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. He also has no hands or feet and runs on prosthetics that look like an upside-down question mark.

"Life happens," he said to me. "You have to understand that there's greatness in you, in all of us. You just have to push past your own perceived limitations."

Having that said to me by a man with no full appendages was humbling. I know we live in a fallen world and there are no guaranteed successes, even for the stout-hearted. Marriages fail, health trickles away, children turn on you, your car won't start. But we also live in a world where people everywhere rise above their circumstances to triumph in the most breathtaking ways. 

I have a Caleb miracle in the wings that is so ludicrous that when I tell it to people, they cock their heads to the side and say, "Huh," because they're too polite to straight-up laugh at me. I want to use this as my public declaration that I'm going to finish my first hurdle by Christmas of this year. (I use the word "hurdle" figuratively here. We can't all be track magicians.) 

So, dear MMM readers, I have a challenge for you. I want you, all of you, to go out there and take a step toward your first Caleb miracle. Speak it aloud. Write it down. Work on it every day, and see what happens. 

Should you choose to participate in the Caleb Miracle Challenge, I want to hear about it. Send me an e-mail to modernmormonmen at gmail dot com with "Caleb Miracle Challenge" in the subject line sometime before December 31st, 2012 and I'll re-post a few of the most inspiring by January 5, 2013. 

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