Aslan in Asia: Miracles in the Ordinary
I was broke. I was trying to prod people into rescuing aboriginal girls who had been forced into prostitution. But a year of ministry with Youth With a Mission, and the amazing stories I heard about God’s provision, made me hope He would provide for my needs, too, without asking. This didn’t always seem to work, unfortunately. So now I found myself out of cash, out of food aside from a little peanut butter, even out of soap and toilet paper. My parents had sent me a check, which seemed like an answer to prayer. But when I took it to the bank, they said, “Come back on Monday.”
Saturday morning, I spent some of my last coins to take a train to Taipei and buy munchies for breakfast. I walked to New Park a few blocks from the station, and paced back and forth under a leaden sky. “Lord! Why don’t you provide for my needs! I’m here to do Your will!” No reply. “I don’t even have money to buy a hamburger!” Still nothing. “I love that song, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness,’ but how can I sing it now?” I even tried threats. “If you won’t provide for me, I’ll go home! Who needs this?”
A Chance Encounter — ?
Tired of talking (it seemed) to an empty sky, I headed towards the north entrance of the park, where I noticed a pretty girl reading an English-language newspaper. I struck up a conversation. She asked what I was doing in Taiwan, and I grudgingly explained I had come to tell people about God. As I stood up to leave, she asked my name.
“Ma Dewei.” (My name in Chinese, the language we were speaking there.)
“Ma Dewei! You’re Ma Dewei! Really?”
A few years before, this girl had lost her purse at National Taiwan University, several miles away. She went to Lost and Found, and there it was! She opened the purse and found her money, along with a note in crude Chinese: “God loves you. Ma Dewei.”)
She remembered that name (and miracle of miracles, could read it!), then years later, “accidentally” ran into the American who had found her purse: me.
To say “thanks,” she took me to a nearby McDonalds for lunch. Partway into the meal, I remembered my complaint that I was too broke to buy a hamburger. (I had ordered a cheeseburger.)
That evening, two Chinese friends invited me home for dinner, the only time they had done so. I rarely had western food, and I enjoyed their delicious stew. I left early to speak to a small gathering near my apartment, and was unexpectedly given a little money. The woman leading the meeting suggested that we close by singing, “Great is Thy Faithfulness!” On Monday I arrived at the bank with a coin or so in my pocket, a full stomach, and the awareness — or at least the feeling — that I had been gently schooled.
What is a Miracle, Really?
Was that series of events a “miracle?” Not by the skeptical Scottish philosopher David Hume’s definition. He said a miracle was a “violation of the laws of Nature.” Meeting a stranger and eating a burger violated no laws of genetics, nutrition, or even polite behavior.
Yet like a sign, it pointed me in a certain direction, making that path more rational to follow.
Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff suggested that the Bible itself is like that message on the stones of the ruined city in Narnia. The Bible, he argued, may sometimes be “appropriated discourse.” He meant that it often borrowed language from one context in a way that gives meaning in another. C. S. Lewis agreed. In Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis said the Bible may involve “the taking up of a literature to be a vehicle of God’s word.”
For instance, consider the words of Isaiah the composer George Handel set in his Hallelujah Chorus we sing so gustily now in this season of the supreme miracle, Christmas:
“And His Name shall be called Wonderful! Counselor! Almighty God! The Prince of Peace!”
Sometimes the Miracle Is in the Meaning
In a way, it doesn’t matter whether Isaiah had a clear vision of all the truth his words pointed to, any more than it mattered that the cook at MacDonalds grasped the full context of one cheeseburger she grilled that day, or the king who wrote “Under Me” in The Silver Chair understood all that would come of his self-complimentary memento. Aslan knew.
The miracle lays not necessarily in breaking the laws of science, nor even in clear foreknowledge. The miracle consists of how God uses events to assure us of His reality, to care for our practical needs, and to show us “the way we should go, to walk in it.”
Last time in this series, we saw how Puddleglum in The Silver Chair recognized God’s hand at work in events that started out seeming just ordinary. His insight helps us to see that whether or not the authors of Old Testament books had a clear vision of Jesus Christ in mind, what they wrote may still miraculously point to him.
David Marshall, an educator and writer, has a doctoral degree in Christian thought and Chinese tradition. This article and the rest of this series are adapted from his most recent book, The Case for Aslan: Evidence for Jesus in the Land of Narnia.