Years ago I was talking to my friend Mary from Louisville. She happened to slip the phrase “Lazarus key” into a sentence and I stopped her with “wait, what?” I knew she wasn’t talking about islands off the coast of Florida.
“Lazarus,” she said. She was referring to the Christian story where Jesus called forth Lazarus from the cave where his (presumably) dead body had been prepared for eternal rest. Lazarus heard Jesus and came out of the cave looking none the worse for wear but probably quite hungry. Christians have longed called this raising of Lazarus from death one of the miracles of Jesus.
Mary explained that a Lazarus key in your life was something that brought you back, got you unstuck, made you alive again. A Lazarus key was a catalyst miracle – small or otherwise – that moved you along, usually in some kind of personal quantum leap.
Have you ever experienced that moment in time when you felt your world pivot and transform itself? That’s a Lazarus key. Some piece of information, some action, some connection that triggered a movement within akin to transformation.
Or maybe you finally reached the top of a mountain you’d been climbing or the road you’d been running and felt the physical realization that you were changed forever. You found a Lazarus key: you could see with new eyes; your body felt new; you felt wholly and completely alive.
Perhaps it was simple: the touch of a kitten’s paw, the gurgle of a baby’s laugh. Maybe it was the first time you read Thoreau or experienced the wonder of your favorite music. It could have been the moment you realized you didn’t have to ever go back from where you came. Possibly it was the moment when you awoke from a coma or you crossed that marathon finish line.
Some call these moments of catalytic life-change, these Lazarus keys, miracles.
How would you define a miracle? Is it possible for an atheist or agnostic to celebrate miracles? Can something be a miracle if it is not related to religion? Have you ever experienced something that you would call a miracle?