“But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” — Mark 6:49-50
In a modest single-family home in the heart of a Chicago suburb called Elmwood Park, a miracle has been occurring. For over two decades now, in a small room, tucked away in this three-bedroom home located in a typical middle-class neighborhood, a picture of the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus has been dripping oil day after day after day.
I was 16-years old when I first walked into that room. There was an undeniable omnipotent presence there. It was one of the most powerful and memorable experiences of my life and also the first time I had witnessed a miracle firsthand. It couldn’t be explained away by rhyme or reason, and so I stood there in sheer awe of what was occurring.
The truth is that I had always been a firm believer in the Lord and harbored a deep-rooted faith. Thanks to the religious morals, values and beliefs instilled into me by my parents, I had always walked with God, even if I would stray momentarily here and there. But I was young and malleable with a short attention span.
But seeing this reverberated powerfully in my life. Never had I needed empirical evidence to support my religious beliefs. Never had I needed real-world proof to know that God exists and to know that, not only is He in my heart, but that He walks with me, step by step, every single moment of my life. But seeing this, I have to say, changed me in a way that I struggle to describe to this very day.
I suppose that’s also been a part of my reluctance to share this experience. How can I do it justice? How could you possibly ever do an experience like this justice? With so much negativity looming in the world and so much skepticism, it would be hard for the average person to wrap their minds around an event like this.
However, miracles, in the true essence of their form, are transformative. They shift your thinking, altering your ideology, and amending your beliefs. As human beings, we often only believe what we can see or prove, unaware of the invisible ether and the miraculous energy that binds us all.
Yet, I know what you’re thinking. The naysayers are casting their stones with revocable hearts. But I know what I saw. In 1996, it was a photo on a piece of glass suspended over a dish to catch the oil. We stood in circles and in complete awe of what was transpiring.
The oil slowly descended down the sides of the picture, bubbling up ever so slowly and methodically, gravitating slowly toward the edges. The drop would round the corner and remain suspended at the bottom-center, lingering there, before dripped down into the tray below. With each drip, a gasp from the entire room.
Priests stood with the groups praying as we all looked on in wonder. It was something so miraculous and so utterly unexplainable that it defied the senses. Stories circulated about how the Virgin Mary appeared on the roof many times to the neighbor across the street who would look out occasionally, and that the oil was used to bless those and cure diseases and afflictions. I never witnessed those things specifically but I know in my heart for them to be true.
If you’ve never witnessed a miracle firsthand, it’s difficult to describe the emotions that are occurring. At first, it’s incredulous at best. We try to reason it with logic. We attempt to make sense of it and wrap our minds around what’s happening. But miracles don’t work that way. They fail logic and attempts at reason or reconciliation with the physical laws of the world.
How to Walk with God
Okay, so let me backtrack just a little bit to give you some more of a backstory before continuing. Before witnessing this miracle, I had been involved in a terrible car accident about a half-a-year before. I was walking across the street when I got hit by a car. Blindsided and without memory, I woke up in the middle of the road, apparently having been catapulted 30 feet after the initial impact.
I had no recollection of the accident itself. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by a crowd of people who were looking down. A woman with short blonde hair who told me that she was a registered nurse said, “honey, you’ve had a little accident.” Little accident? I thought. But I still distinctly remember her voice and how soothing it was.
After that moment, I slipped out of consciousness, only to wake up later in an ambulance. I could have easily died right there. But I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong because it was really bad. Metal implants were surgically placed in my leg, only later to be surgically removed again.
After months spent recovering from the accident and the surgeries, the experience left me both physically bruised, and mentally and emotionally depleted. Yet, it was a turning point in my life. At the time, I was in high school and running with the wrong crowd. The year before, I was a straight-A student, until I started hanging out with the wrong friends.
After missing a majority of the school year that year due to the accident, I made the suggestion to my mother that we move to Los Angeles for my Junior Year. It was where my grandparents had been living and I wanted a fresh start, to get away from all the negativity and poorly-selected friends that I had surrounded myself with.
And you know what? As upsetting as it was at the time with how much my life had been turned upside down, I dug deep and relied on my faith. I walked with God. I looked to my Higher Power to help me through one of the most difficult situations in my life. Winding up at that house in Chicago only reaffirmed to me that there’s a reason why I’m here.
I feel like I was put here for a reason, to convey my experiences and share what I’ve learned with a big audience. Not many people get to do that. And not many people that do have a big audience, get the opportunity to help them. I feel like I was definitely saved from that accident and saw that miracle because I walked with God, and I will continue to walk with him every single day of my life.
5 Ways to Walk With God
I know a lot of people wonder what it’s like to walk with God. They ask themselves how they can do it every single day. But what most people don’t realize is that whether the know it or not, He is there, always by your side. All you have to do is choose to acknowledge Him. Because the kingdom of God is within you and it is all around you because he is everywhere all the time.
In a physical world filled with laws and rules, we often fail to pay homage to the everyday miracles that are occurring all around us. Not just the type of miracle that I experienced in Chicago. I’m talking about the miracle of the beauty of life and all the things around it. We fail to notice those things when we’re so immersed in our fears, pain and struggle.
We’re all guilty of looking for the cause and effects to things that occur in our lives. We try to explain them away. But we fail to notice that invisible ether that binds us all and that put us here on this earth for a purpose. These words you’re reading right now, it’s not by chance. You were meant to read them. They were meant to help influence and affect your thoughts and emotions and behavior in some way, shape or form.
#1 — Notice His Presence
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” — Genesis 28:15
God is there, right next to us. We might be thinking about something else, worried about how we’re going to do something that we’re downright fearful of, but He’s still there. We simply fail to notice Him. God is always walking with us whether we realize it or not. When you stop to notice His presence, that’s when the real magic starts to happen.
If you’ve ever gotten goosebumps all across your body because you thought of something for a flash, that was Him. He’s in every step, every breath, every bird’s chirp, every raindrop that falls from the sky and every kiss and loving thought. He surrounds you in all the beauty and simple miracles that are occurring in every moment all around.
Think about how it feels when you walk next to a friend and you’re engaged in conversation and feel their presence around you. Walking with God is exactly like that. He’s there. You can speak to him. He might not respond back to you. But that doesn’t mean He isn’t there watching over you and protecting you.
#2 — Let Go Of Negativity
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:31-32
Negativity cuts us off from God. Although he’s still there, the power of negative emotions disrupts our ability to communicate with him. We’re so immersed in things like fear and hate and resentment and guilt that we forget to realize that He’s by our side. For whatever reason, that negativity consumes us.
Negative emotions are far more powerful than positive emotions. They take much more energy. To hate someone is much harder than to love them. Loving them, releases all that negativity into thin air and removes the burden that it brings to your life. No matter what’s happened around you, let go of it, as hard as it might seem.
There’s a reason for the pain you’re experiencing today or that you experienced in the past. You might not realize it in this very moment, but it’s meant to shape you and shift you. It’s meant to alter the trajectory of your life. Whether you failed at something or someone wronged you in some major way, let go of it. Release it into thin air.
There’s a cathartic cleansing that occurs when you let go of negativity. It’s like bathing in God’s light. It washes you and absolves you of all the disruptions that help to interfere with both talking to and walking with God on a daily basis. It’s not worth it. Negativity is a terrible state to live in. Be positive, no matter what. There is a reason for everything no matter how hard it is to deal with right now.
#3 — Forgiveness is Key
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ — Matthew 18: 21-22
Bad things happen to all of us. People wrong us and hurt us. And because of it, we hold grudges. Even though we might be cordial with everyone else out there and be positive in general, we can’t seem to forgive this one person in our lives for this one action. And we hold a grudge that lasts years and even decades.
The thing about holding grudges is that we all make mistakes. We all sin. There’s not a single person who’s error-free in this world. Not a single person. As humans, it’s our nature to be fallible. But that’s also the source of how we learn about life, love, people and the world around us.
Mistakes and failures are at the heart of not only our civilization, but also our pedigree. Our genetic makeup is the result of countless failures, one after another. With each failure, our DNA has improved, getting better and better along the way. How come we can’t seem to get past another person’s failures against us?
We’re not bigger than the whole. We’re the sum of all of our parts. Every human being is part of this wide network and array of individuals on this planet that are emotional and sensitive beings. No matter what happened, learn to forgive. You don’t have to forget. But if you want to walk with God, forgive someone, right now, in this very moment. Release it and let is go forever.
#4 — Contribute To Others
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” — Luke 6:38
There are people that are truly struggling in life. I’m not just talking about financial struggle. I’m talking about people who don’t have food to eat or a roof over their heads. I’m talking about people that are living in the depths of poverty, famine, despair, oppression and violence.
This isn’t just happening thousands of miles away, this is happening right around the corner. This is happening in every neighborhood. People need your help. Contribute to them. Seek them out. Find a way that you give something to them and help them because they might be on their last hope and wish.
It’s not just the right thing to do; it feels good to do it. To welcome someone with a hug who might have been crying desperately for days or thinking that they’ve lost all hope in their life, is a powerful feeling. Give them a plate of food. Give them a coat to keep them warm. Smile at them. Make them feel loved.
We forget about others because we’re so busy living our lives. We forget to contribute something of ourselves because we’re simply immersed in selfish survival. But don’t forget. Give. If you have no money, give your time. If you don’t have time, make some time. Skip your favorite tv show or dinner with friends. You have the time if you want to find it.
#5 — Love Conquers All
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16
If you sincerely want to walk with God, then emanate love. Love conquers all. Love is what binds us together. It’s invisible, but it exists. You can feel it at times, while you can ignore it at others, but it’s always there. Because God is love, and all life is the result of God’s love, it exists everywhere we turn as long as we choose to acknowledge it.
When you can accept love, no matter what’s been happening in your life, then you can accept God and walk with Him every step you take. No matter what’s happened to you, you have to realize that it’s happened to others in the past and it will continue to happen to others in the future.
The situation isn’t unique. What’s unique is your response to the situation. How you choose to process all the inputs, has very much to do with your state of mind and the state of your life. As long as you let love shine from your heart, God will be there with you, walking step by step no matter what happens.
Use that love as a crutch. Lean on Him and He will support you and lift you up. I’ll leave you with this powerful and moving poem, which has shaped me throughout my years. You’ve likely read “Footprints in the Sand Prayer” by Margaret Fishback Powers before, but here it is again:
One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”
– Margaret Fishback Powers