Several years ago I ran across a prayer for Easter Sunday that I have since lost and forgotten except for one phrase in the prayer, a reference to “slow-ripening miracles.” An interesting phrase for the particular Sunday when in a mere three days an incredible miracle had unfolded, I remember being intrigued by the counterintuitive reference to a miracle that comes slowly at a time when a quick miracle was being celebrated.
I think we tend to associate speed with the miraculous, as though some of what goes into the making of a miraculous event is bound up with how fast it happens. Not only is a miracle an event which flies in the face of our usual expectations of how things work with its seeming denial of facts and natural processes, it also shows up suddenly and does its work in record time. So a miracle is a surprise–and part of the surprise is speed. That association of rapidity with something miraculous makes sense in terms of our cultural norms: we are impatient people, we want what we want when we want it, and often expect instant gratification. That a miracle might come our way but unfold slowly seems not right given that having things now is always better and more satisfying.
I suspect that if I could incorporate slowness in my understanding of the miraculous I would see more miracles around me. More often than not, the best experiences of my life, the ones that ultimately have come to bring lasting meaning and happiness to me, have been experiences that were indeed slow ripening: they unfolded over time, they grew into my awareness gradually so that my defensiveness never blocked them, they became incorporated into how I understood myself and the people I loved. By being slow-ripening, they may not have seemed extraordinary in the beginning–but ultimately I could look back and recognize them as miraculous because they were so unexpected and usually undeserved. People and places that I loved, work that I accomplished against all odds, ways I have changed for the better, insights that presented themselves to help me when I most needed help: all miracles that ripened slowly as I watched and struggled and opened my mind and heart to them.
We are surrounded now by summer, a time when much in nature is slowly ripening. May this season of slow ripening teach us to look closely and wait for the ever-present miracle to come to full beauty and fruition.