The Jewel In The Heart Of The LotusI am 67 and I haven't been inside a church in 50 years. I have no use for religion and even less for people who think that there is some kind of omnipotent God who actually would intervene in our lives. I don't mind what others believe if it gets them through the night, but the idea of deciding that there is an all powerful God and that we can influence him with our prayers is no different to me than the tooth fairy. You pray if you want, but for me, I'll just gut it out. Or at least that is what I thought I believed.
Faith has always seemed to me to be an immoral act. Integrity demanded that I take the world as it is. It doesn't allow me to decide that there is a God, just so i don't have to face the world alone. I am telling you this so you will understand what I experienced and what it meant to me.
For 14 years, I drove a 1970 Lotus Europa. If you are not familiar with the car, google it so you can see how small it is. It is a mid-engined car with the transmission and engine behind the driver and the radiator in the front. Between the driver and the passenger is a console that contains the gear linkage and two tubes bringing water to and from the radiator. If you have to replace the gear shifter, you have to put your arm into a hole in the console and do everything by touch. Reaching as far forward as you can, you can just barely touch the four nuts that have to be removed to replace the shifter. Which is exactly what I was in the process of doing one afternoon about 20 years ago. I remember holding the nut as I moved the bolt and thinking, this would be a horrible time to drop the nut. And that is exactly what happened. I heard a distinct ping as it bounced off one of the tubes and then nothing. I was screwed. Trying to find the nut by feel would have been difficult without the linkage and tubes, but with them, it was clearly impossible. Without any visual feedback, i would have to try to systematically contort my arm to reach around the tubes. There was no way I could reach every nook and cranny. For some reason, instead of just going to buy a replacement, I decided to find it.
It took about 3 minutes to explore every possible place I could reach, then another three to do it again. For some reason, I decided to see how much patience I had. I was not going to give up, I would just keep trying. 10 minutes went by, then 20, then 30. Over and over, I forced my fingers to explore every possible place I could reach. Somewhere in the 30 minutes, something in me said, "Why don't you pray for it? What do you have to lose?" And a part of me answered, "Are you crazy? First of all there is nothing to pray to. Second, even if there was, why would would the prayer be answered? And third and most important, if it really works, do you want to waste it on something as trivial as a nut???" So I kept looking. And the voice kept saying, "Yea, but why not try?"
I don't know why I finally decided to pray, but I remember taking it really seriously. If I was going to compromise my integrity over this, it wasn't going to be with some wimpy-*** prayer that I tossed off casually. If I was going to do it, I wanted it to come from that deepest part of me. With my hand still exploring the same area I had felt countless times, I summoned a prayer from the truest part of me and hurled it into the void. "PLEASE GOD, LET ME FIND THE N........" and it was in my hand. It was in my hand. I felt it and chills ran down my back. Tears filled my eyes. It was instantaneous, irrefutable proof. This wasn't like praying for something and then a week later something happens. This was right in the middle of the prayer!!!.
This is not a story that is easy to tell. Despite the longing that we have for confirmation of the divine, a part of us does not want the mystery to end. When we are tested, faith puts a burden on us to believe. Bearing the burden lets us earn God's grace. Knowledge removes that burden but it also removes the opportunity to earn our salvation by demonstrating our faith. I don't need faith to believe. Now, to deny Him would be the hard part, because I would have to come up with some other explanation. I remember thinking, "It is going to be very hard to convince myself that this is a coincidence". But even with this inescapable evidence, I turned away and pretended it didn't happen. I just wasn't ready to accept it. By the time I had replaced the second nut, I was almost back to normal, still somewhat amazed by the timing, but comfortable that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. And then I dropped the third nut.
Now, try to imagine my situation. Having been through what I went through, having seen what happened, having faced and faced down the proof of God's presence, would you pray again? Could you? I could not do it. I didn't care how long it took, I had made my decision and prayer was not an option. Well, for the first hour it wasn't. Then slowly, I allowed myself to consider it, terrified that it would work. But I did it, just like before. And just like before, in the middle of the prayer, I found the nut.
There was no where to run and no place to hide. No rationalizations. No yes,buts. I asked, something answered. Twice. Instantaneously.
I surrendered. Who wouldn't? Since that day, I have been trying to find out what He wants. Whatever it is, I'll do it, but I just can't get a clear read on it. Maybe it was to write this story.