On the bitterly cold, subzero night of December 20, 1980, a 19-year-old girl named Jean Hilliard was returning late to her parents’ home near Lengby, Minnesota, when her family car skidded off the road. Clad in her western boots, a coat and mittens, Jean began walking to her neighbor Wally Nelson’s home, two miles away, and collapsed just 15 feet from his doorstep.
The next morning at 7 o’clock, Mr. Nelson found Jean frozen “solid as a log” in his front yard, where she had lay outdoors for six full hours in 22 below Fahrenheit temperatures. He loaded her ‘diagonally’ in the back seat of his car and brought her to the hospital, where doctors could not initially give Jean intravenous feedings, as she was frozen too solid to penetrate the skin. Her pulse was about 12 beats a minute, and her temperature was 88 °F, with the normal of course being 98.6 °F. But after several hours of wrapping her in an electric heating pad, Jean Hilliard to everyone’s disbelief began to revive, and recovered with no more damage than a few blistered toes. According to Dr. George Sather, who treated the young woman, Jean’s recovery, without any loss of limb, was truly a miracle.
Hilliard became an instant celebrity. She toured local churches. Talk shows flew her to New York City to tell her story: The miracle girl from Lengby, Minnesota. She was even on the “Today Show” where Tom Brokaw interviewed her. But once the attention died down, Hilliard said the experience didn’t really change the trajectory of her life. Almost everyone she knew told her she was saved by a miracle. So, she said she kept waiting for something dramatic to happen. But her life’s been nothing but normal.
Jean got married, had kids, and moved to a mid-sized town in central Minnesota where she works at a Walmart. Things might have turned out differently Hilliard said, if she remembered the six hours she spent frozen in Nelson’s yard. If she’d seen anything dramatic. “It’s like I fell asleep and woke up in the hospital,” she said. “I didn’t see the light or anything like that. It was kind of disappointing. So many people talk about that, and I didn’t get anything.”
Unlike Jean, some people live their whole lives and never encounter the kind of miracle she experienced. I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid that Jean, like many people, has missed the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. She seems to think that God allowed her to experience a miracle, so she could live to experience a yet more dramatic, special life existence. And yet, disappointingly, that just hasn’t happened.
But perhaps she’s wrong about that.
Like the first miraculous event she slept through in her life, Jean Hilliard has unfortunately missed it again! What if living a normal life with ordinary kids in a regular town and working at Walmart is the dramatic, special life existence God has for Jean and the reason for the miracle? Maybe the miracle, the dramatic, supernatural experience/existence she further seeks is right under her nose, in her arms, in her house, in her community, on her job, all around her. And it is! And the same is true for us.
Consider Ephesians 5:15-17: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” And Philippians 4:11-13: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Perhaps the most eye-opening truth for Jean Hilliard and for all Christians to discover is that the greatest “miracle” experience in life is to live daily by the strength of and in close relationship with Jesus Christ, and to be content in all life’s circumstances, making the most of every opportunity for Him, as we strive to live wisely in the center of God’s will and love the people He brings into our paths until the day we enter His presence. Call it a miracle or not; it really doesn’t get any better this side of Heaven than that.
Think about it!
Your friend & pastor,