There’s No Such Thing as Ordinary Life

I witnessed — indeed, participated in — a miracle this morning.

It began with me opening my eyes. This neuromuscular feat, which required millions of years of evolution just so that I could have eyelids to open, was made possible for me by a pure gift of genetic donation from my parents, who were themselves the beneficiaries of a lot of struggle and toil from a lot of other ancestors; as well as a lot of trouble taken by God both in creating and redeeming us, not to mention holding the whole field of reality in being from nanosecond to nanosecond without so much as a thank you from us.

Anyway, I opened my eyes and something astounding happened: They worked! I saw not just light, but things! It turns out I don’t just have a photosensitive spot but actual eyes! Two of them! They are arranged on the front of my head so that I can not only see, but see in a sort of stereo that makes it easy to estimate the distance or speed of whatever I might see. What’s more, I can see color! I could see my curtains! I could see the face of the woman I love! I could see branches of an alder tree that has grown outside my window for years by means of a mysterious process involving wind, sun, and rain that nobody really understands fully. I saw water, a mysterious chemical capable of bestowing life on organic matter, falling freely from heaven! It was astounding!

Now, you might think, “That’s enough for any person to be grateful for a lifetime!” But so lavish is God’s gift to me that I haven’t even gotten to the miracle part yet (though when you think about it, just seeing is quite miraculous and not a bit “explained,” merely because some guys in lab coats have worked the names of some of the chemical processes involved). No. The miraculous part was this: I literally stuck my legs out of bed, put my toes on the floor, hoisted myself to my feet, and walked across the room.

It was actually easy, despite the immense symphony of coordination between brain, balance organs, nerves (both sensory and motor), muscles, joints, connective tissue, blood, lymph, endocrine, digestive, skeletal, excretory, and respiratory systems that had to be humming at peak capacity for me to perform this prodigy. A comprehensive miracle of quadrillions of chemical reactions had to take place within a few seconds, all in cooperation with my rational soul and a supernatural spirit. Indeed, as I was performing this prodigy, I also yawned and — get this — said, “Good morning,” a feat which almost none of earth’s inhabitants have been able to do until just a few seconds ago, if you compress the history of the earth down to a single day. Endless eons have passed, and no creature on the face of the earth — until a few moments ago, in the geologic time scale — had ever uttered those words, let alone done so while walking upright on two legs.


I’m given to reflect on these wonders because, as I write, my thoughts and the thoughts of hundreds of other people are much preoccupied with a dear young family friend named Lorna Bernhoft, who accidently fell through a skylight on October 12, sustaining head injuries and a broken back and leg. She has been greatly supported on a vast cushion of prayer as her team of doctors has labored to save her. She has had part of her skull removed to ease brain swelling. She has had a respirator and a tracheotomy and batteries of antibiotics to fight off pneumonia. She has slowly regained consciousness since then and has astonished the doctors not only with the speed of her recovery, but with the recovery of her abilities to communicate — and with the hope that, within six months, she may well be walking again.

Her family is, of course, overjoyed at the news, but they also know she’s got a long haul ahead of her before she arrives at the day where she can perform the miraculous prodigy I did this morning: walking across the room. When and if that day comes, terms like “normal” and “ordinary” will be stripped of their current meaning and acquire the almost blinding brilliance they must have had for Adam in the Garden before the fall and the griming dullness of what the devil has taught us to call “ordinary life.”

Everything — absolutely everything — is charged with the glory of God if we have the eyes to see it. Give thanks for every boring, dull, overlooked and ordinary thing in your life. As you do, say a prayer for Lorna and all those who, in the twinkling of an eye, have been robbed of the power to open their eyes, breathe, say “good morning,” or walk across the room. It’s all an astonishing gift.

Mark P. Shea


Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • Zoe

    Amen, brother. What if we could live everyday in this kind of gratitude? It would change everything.

  • Mother of Two Sons

    This is why the Angels are astounded that any of us would choose less than our highest nature…. and we have yet to discover/uncover what that truly means; though Lorna is demonstrating the extraordinary dimension of one’s mind and spirit!!
    And on this day, election day, while reading this, I had a light bulb moment. I was struck why I am so against forced take over of “social justice” by the government, it is because I still believe in the Greatness of human beings… America has proven it over and over that she will and does take care of her poor; in fact in relation to a lot of the world our poor aren’t poor….. for example, people without healthcare insurance, are not turned away for serious illness or injury… our streets are not lined with people dying…. and our cities and towns, our churches go out of their way to assist the homeless……. but this doesn’t diminish the need for continuous improvement and at times global review of Large entities serving large numbers of people… especially when a lot of complaints are filed. We already have all the regulation we need; we need to audit them and hold them accountable for the fraud and abuse they are already supposed to be handling.
    I think today we have the choice of throwing the towel in on the extraordinary nature and goodness of human beings and let the Government take over or put people in Washington that will work to design oversight committees to ensure that the highest human Leadership qualities are demanded/expected/rewarded for its creative solutions to our current economic constraints. Do a truly EXTRAORDINARY thing in complacent America, VOTE today in the Midterm elections! Exercise your gratitude for the freedoms you enjoy!

  • Steve Pable

    We’ve witnessed a miracle from a young friend who broke his neck on Pentecost of last year (5/31/09). He was underwater for an unknown period of time, and they were preparing to harvest his organs at the hospital.

    I’m so pleased to report that after LOTS of prayer, hard work and therapy he has begun WALKING without supports. It is one of the most remarkable miracles I’ve been privileged to witness, but as you rightly point out, every moment of our lives on this astounding planet ought to leave us breathless.

  • Billy Bean

    Mark: Thanks for reminding us again, in an almost Chestertonian way, of the wonder of being the creatures we are. Your work always blesses me, although sometimes I have to stretch a bit to receive the blessing.

  • priest’s wife

    This post should be taped to my forehead….gratitude….God is awesome

  • Tim J.

    Like I recently said to my son, “If you can’t be happy about the sun coming up, you’ll never be happy at all.”

  • Michael

    I am going to post a link to this on my blog. As many people as possible should see this.