In my living room stands a concrete goose. She used to sit on my husband’s grandmother’s porch, dressed for every holiday and every season. When Grandma passed away, we inherited her goose—and three boxes of outfits.
One of these outfits has been on her goose recently: an old and faded Cubs t-shirt. It is a legacy of love from Grandma and hope that maybe this year, finally, would be our year.
Growing up in Cubs territory, I learned a lot about hope and optimism when I was young.
Every year, I had relatives who headed to Florida for spring training. I attended the season opener in 1984. Although I wasn’t quite a die-hard Cubs fan, I loved many people who were.
We always hoped we would win; we never anticipated it. We’d become accustomed to loss, so that was what we expected. We blamed it on a goat in 1945. On a team that started out great in the 1969 season and then crashed in the fall of that year. On a fan who interfered with a ball in 2003.
I had many friends who, upon losing a grandfather, would say in their grief, “I only wish he’d been able to see the Cubs win the World Series, just once.”
It was the great dream, the miracle we never thought would really happen.
Every spring we hoped. And every fall we said to each other, “Next year. Next year will be our year.”
And now the Cubs have won the World Series. Finally. After 108 years.
This year has become “next year.”
We are finally experiencing what we always hoped for. According to the many posts on my social media feeds (including one posting of Revelation 21:1), it was a miracle.
A miracle is an event “not explainable solely by natural processes but which require the direct causal agency of a supernatural being, usually God” (Bible Study Tools).
God’s hand may be involved (and He certainly established the principles that direct natural processes), but we reserve the word “miracle” for those things that are possible only because of God’s new intercession in those processes. Natural processes would include things like, oh, say, practice, hard work, and perseverance.
The Cubs didn’t slack off all season without any effort. They didn’t just hang out waiting for God to perform a miracle and give them the World Series.
No, they worked for it. They practiced, training their minds and bodies to respond quickly and with strength. They showed up—to practice, to games, and to game reviews that helped them build and refine their skills. They listened as coaches guided them toward improvement. They paid attention to their teammates so they could act in unity rather than as separate individuals occupying the same field.
The natural process of working toward something explains a lot about the Cubs’ success this year. God may have put certain things in place, but the Cubs did the work and earned their title.
A World Series win by the Cubs certainly feels like a miracle, but I don’t think it actually was one.
When people are heartbroken in their marriages, they sometimes say it would take a miracle to make a change happen.
These folks look back at years of heartache when they wondered if it would ever be their time to experience intimacy and contentment in their marriages. They are accustomed to not having the relationship they really want. They are separate individuals, occupying the same house.
They look at things that happened ages ago that seem to have laid a curse on intimacy (“her mom taught her that sex was dirty” and “he learned that it wasn’t okay to express emotions”). They think back to seasons when things seemed to be going great but then crashed. They look at how others have interfered in their marriage.
When thinking ahead to their deaths, they grieve: “I just want to experience true intimacy with my spouse, just once—but I’m so sure I’m going to feel so alone when I die.”
Intimacy is the great dream, and they think it would take a miracle to make that happen.
At each anniversary, they hope, saying, “This is the year things turn around.” And as the next anniversary approaches, they whisper, “Next year. Next year will be our year.”
And they head into the next year, continuing to wait for their miracle.
I used to wait around for a miracle.
While my husband was hoping for a miracle so I would reach out to him sexually to experience intimacy, I was hoping for one that would make him intimately reach out to me emotionally.
God has been essential in our marriage transformation. He changed our hearts. He showed us what we needed to see. If there was a miracle in our marriage, it was in His work on our hearts.
The heart change made the transformation possible, but what made the transformation actually come about was the natural processes in which we engaged.
We stopped hanging out, waiting for God to perform a miracle and give us the marriage we desired.
We worked for it.
I practiced, training my mind and body to respond to my husband in new ways. I showed up in my interactions with my husband instead of mentally checking out. I practiced strategies for managing my responses to my husband’s sexual efforts, I fully participated in sex, and I reviewed our encounters afterward to help me build and refine my efforts. I paid attention to others who offered good advice about how I could make changes. I learned to pay attention to Big Guy so we could act as a team and not just separate individuals in the same house.
Although our efforts didn’t all happen at the same time, Big Guy has made similar efforts in intimately connecting with me. He seeks ways to open up to me emotionally. He has developed new responses to my expressions of emotion. He tries to learn from others how he can grow as a husband to me.
We stopped slacking off in our marriage and began to strive for a goal of intimacy, as a team.
For years, we were both so lonely, with little hope that anything would actually change. For years, we would think, Next year. Next year will be our year.
We finally began to work hard at our marriage, and suddenly we realized a few years ago that it had become next year. We were finally experiencing what we had always hoped for.
The transformation in our marriage has certainly felt like a miracle many times.
God put some things in place by changing our hearts, but we put in a lot of work to get to where we are.
Have you been hoping for change in your marriage? Do you think it would take a miracle to turn your marriage into one of true intimacy and unity?
God can and does perform miracles in marriages, and it is good to believe in that.
Part of our response to God’s presence is, perhaps, to be sure to do our share of the work. God can transform our marriages miraculously–but He has also given us the processes of work and perseverance to participate in that transformation ourselves.
Instead of waiting around for a miracle, consider how you can practice, work, and persevere. How can you work for the marriage you want?
What can you do to make next year be your year?
Note to Cleveland fans: If you had been playing any team but the Cubs, I would have been rooting for you. I want next year to be your year.