I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him...
- Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven
One of the difficulties of life is it can only be properly understood in retrospect, but it must be lived in prospect.”
- Soren Kierkegaard
After over two decades of marriage, I found myself divorced. This was not, in of itself, particularly noteworthy. Almost half of first marriages end in dissolution. But the stress - emotional, financial, and other - is personal and intense. I came to realize the truth of writer Pat Conroy’s likening divorce to the death of a little civilization. And felt more than a little guilt in not being able to sustain the nuclear family that my children had known and likely thought would last indefinitely. I moved from a house on a hill into a townhouse in a complex some miles away, continued working, as I knew I would have to do for the foreseeable future, and licked my wounds.
About six months later I met someone. Our relationship blossomed rapidly. Although raised Christian, she had gravitated to a different spiritual preference. Being open-minded, she attended Seventh-day Adventist churches with me on more than one occasion. In a spirit of reciprocity, I attended with her, first, a local ashram, and then, a socially active Protestant church.
I was struck by the contrasting greater warmth and acceptance we encountered at both the ashram (which celebrated the deities of numerous religions, including but not limited to monotheistic ones) and the Protestant church, as compared with the Adventist churches we had visited. I had no good explanation for this. It did cause me to ponder, however. The result was that, while I didn’t find spiritual fulfillment in either the ashram or the Protestant church, I was not motivated to continue attending an Adventist church.
I failed to find solace in organized religion, and I quit attending church. I reasoned that, given so many Christian (not to mention world) religions, most claiming to have, if not ultimate truth, at least some truth, how could one know which was right? They couldn’t all be correct; did that mean all were wrong? Or did some have fragments of truth and it was up to me to, as working with pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, put them together to make a cohesive whole? I had been raised to believe that Adventism, like ancient Israel, carried the banner of truth. Now I wasn’t so sure.
I continued to believe in the concepts of God, prayer and tithing, but was not a practicing Adventist. If I wanted to have a libation at a restaurant, and the minister of a local church was sitting at an adjacent table, I need not feel uncomfortable or hypocritical. So life proceeded, without my having an intimate relationship with divinity.
Fast forward more than a decade. While driving home one afternoon, without warning, I fell asleep. I was awakened by the sound of scratching, as bushes along the shoulder of the freeway brushed the passenger side of my car. Much shaken, I exited. Later, I would estimate, based on the audio book I was listening to when I fell asleep, that I may have been asleep for as long as six minutes.
Months later (I’m a slow learner), I had an epiphany of sorts. My life had been spared (not once, but twice, the first time decades earlier under somewhat similar circumstances). Albert Einstein opined that there are two ways of viewing life. One is that there are no miracles. The other is that everything is a miracle. I believe miracles do happen.
I determined to try to discern God’s purpose in sparing me. I had known others who had been less fortunate after the driver fell asleep at the wheel. Decades earlier, college students en route home from an Adventist college hit a tree. All were killed. My life was not necessarily worth more than theirs. So why was I not killed or seriously injured?
Since then, when I pondered mightily, I have sought a closer walk with the Almighty. This has taken the form of daily devotional time, more regular and fervent prayer, and reading not only Holy Writ and E. G. White, but the writings of others, including Philip Yancey, C. S. Lewis and K. P. Yohannan.
I accept the logic of Pascal’s wager. I have come to believe that the unseen world is as real as the seen world, and that there is a parallel universe extant that we access only by faith. I still have some difficulty with organized religion, and feel the Almighty may be grieved by the squabbles in Adventism over various issues that loom large to some but which, at the end of time as we know it, will likely be quite inconsequential.
I derive comfort from Christ’s condensation of the way of Life as being love - for God and for one’s fellow human being. I believe that one of the principal reasons I am here is to help others, and that, in my dealings with them, mercy should trump justice. In times past I have questioned the motives of people asking for money on the street. Now I just give. I’ve concluded their motives are not my business.
Christ’s words are never far from consciousness: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). One could do worse than follow John Wesley’s rule for Christian living:
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5861