How Have You Experienced the Reality of God?
Hello again! This is my first post in more than a month; I've been pretty busy writing other things besides my blog posts. But it occurred to me earlier this week; one reason I think so many people don't acknowledge the existence of God, is because for whatever reason, they've never paid enough attention to the reality around them. Maybe it is sort of on the part of many of us believers... maybe we haven't helped them pay attention to how REAL God is. I don't know. I've also admitted many times over the years, I don't have all the answers. But I know God does. I thought I would take a moment and reflect on all the ways God has shown Himself how real He is, to me.
In my short memoir, The Brothers from Kim Street, I mentioned that my middle brother almost drowned. While a lifeguard performed chest compressions on 'Little Daniel's' chest, I will never forget my mom, kneeling down next to me and whispering short prayers to God, to not take our precious little Daniel away. I was about to be a sixth grader in middle school, and when my mom whispered that prayer, and moments later I saw my kid brother come to life - yeah, one could say God suddenly became very real to me. Many people will call that coincidence. I could write a whole blog post on 'coincidence' alone, but I digress. That moment, on the little lake shore of the manmade lake at Bonclarken, I witnessed how real God is. It would only be a short year later, that the reality of God shook me enough to my core to help me accept Jesus as my Savior, on a youth conference at Bonclarken.
But it doesn't stop there. Like I said, I believe that many people just haven't paid enough attention to the reality around them. Maybe it's not always the physical world around them that counts, either.
My next brush with the reality of God, was during a time in my life where I thought I had figured out who I was, only to discover through hard reflection and events in my Christian walk, I was still so immature. I was about to start my freshman year in college, and I worked as a camp counselor at Camp Joy. At Camp Joy, counselors are paired up with individual campers who have special needs; mostly physical, sometimes mental exceptions make life different and unique for these campers. But at this camp, the focus was all about introducing those campers to Jesus through God's Word. I remember one of the sessions in particular, where I had a camper who couldn't do much for himself physically, and I helped him with the small seemingly medial task of putting tooth paste on his tooth brush. This sounds like such a minor thing, but the look of appreciation, and the sincere, gentle mustached smile the camper named Mark gave me, struck me to the heart. It humbled me. It created a strange emotional response deep inside that made me want to cry, but at that moment I didn't. I held it in and smiled back. I had to be the strong one, I told myself, because I was serving Mark. I helped him from his wheelchair to his bed and told him goodnight. Without telling anyone where I was going immediately after that, I made my way to the chapel on the campus at Bonclarken. It was sometime after 10 p.m. The counselors had a window of time before our 'lights out,' and my roommate was in the room. Hallway monitors were assigned to come and take our place on the hall while counselors went to a late night devotion, but we still had time before the gathering - that's when I headed to the chapel.
I walked to the front of the pews. It was dark, and I left it that way, but the large cross at the back of the stage behind the pulpit was still illuminated. I got down on my knees at the foot of the stage, staring up at the cross. The strange emotions that I tucked away after my lesson in humility with my camper surged forward, and I cried. Here I was, a seventeen year old, known for having the occasional hothead-temper, trying to become a man soon - and I cried like a baby to God. It was almost as if God humbled me right then and there, somehow letting me know I was His and He was there, because it occurred to me that night how good I'd had it all my life, and how I'd taken it for granted. There my camper, Mark, was in my mind's eye, all drawn up and small in his wheelchair before bed, but smiling at me and telling me 'thank you' in the funny way he did, with more sincerity than anyone had ever thanked me for anything! Whenever I think back on that moment of vulnerability in that dark, lonely sanctuary of the chapel, I think of all those inexplicable tears I cried, and it always made me think of being baptized in tears. In that moment, all by myself, God was very, very real.
Later on, in the middle of my freshman year at Erskine College, I went on a trip to Israel for our winter term class. The thing about it for me was, it was my first time flying in an airplane, ever! I will never forget the takeoff, and how fun I thought it was. It was better than any roller coaster. But once we settled in at 30,000 feet, I looked out my window seat. There before me, spread out across the whole world it seemed, was a blanket of clouds. The clouds stretched out as far as my eyes could see. This might have been old news to most frequent fliers. But to me, it was like seeing beauty and majesty for the first time. I'd never fathomed of being able to see so much of the world at one time. I remember thinking at that very moment, How can anyone, anywhere, see a view like this, and know all of that out there - IS there, and still not believe in a God who created it all? I really did think those thoughts, and I remember making a mental note to always remember that moment. Not only was God very real to me in that moment, but He helped me realize, this world and everything in it is way too big and wondrous to just be some cosmic accident. No way; no how!
Or there was the time when I stayed up most of the night in my wife's hospital room; we'd just discovered that my wife lost one of our twins during pregnancy, but there was still a baby boy inside her, fighting for his life. I remember praying so fervently, after friends and family had left and it was just me, and my wife, and the baby inside her in the hospital room. I listened to the thrumming of the electrical pulse the strange machine made, that they had hooked up to my wife to somehow detect all my surviving son's heartbeat. I asked God to please give me comfort, to give my wife comfort, and to keep that little heart pounding. Once it was just us in the room, and my wife had even drifted off to sleep, I remember still praying, over and over, the same way my mom had when Daniel almost drowned. God gave me enough peace and comfort to finally drift off to sleep myself that night. When I woke up in the morning, there it was; the answer to my prayer as my son's heartbeat filled the room, beating as strong as ever! God showed me that answered prayers were very real that morning... God, was already very REAL in the life of my son.
And speaking of my son, I will never forget the day he arrived. When Jay was born, and the nurse placed his tiny little frame in my large arms (I mean, I was a beast in my mid 20s, haha), and I stared down into his little whimpering face, taking in God's air for the first time - God never felt more real. There I was, standing there as a new father, holding God's creation in my own hands. Once again, the thought entered my head, similar to my first airplane ride: How can anyone who has had their own children, hold their own child, and not believe in a God above?
Those are just some brief examples. If you read my experiences, maybe you are one of those that chalks little things like that up to emotions and coincidence. That is between you and God. But wouldn't you want to think about these things now; observe all of the special things in and around you in your life now, and discover God's reality - rather than taking a chance on waiting until the Good Lord calls you home... only, you were never there to answer, because hey - you didn't think God was real?
Food for thought on this February Wednesday. Happy late New Year everyone, and maybe I will post again soon.
God bless -