Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Story

One atheist challenged me to prove that my encounter with God wasn’t an hallucination:

My wife and I had been living organically on a hill farm at the end of a dead-end road. One day, when she was off to town, I was using my chainsaw before any chainsaw guards had been installed. In my clumsiness, the chain saw bucked back at me and struck me in the head. In terror, I had lifted my hands to my skull to see if it was still in one piece, or if I would have to push the brains back into my head. When I lifted my hands, I saw that one of my hands was hanging half off with the blood squirting out like a torrential flood.

I was laying in a pool of blood, thinking that any moment would be my last, having lost so much blood, when suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I knew that God was with me, and I was filled with intense feelings of love, joy and peace. I knew that God loved me and that He’d protect me. I felt perfectly safe, knowing that even if I died, I would still be there with Him forever. After a miraculous salvation, this experience prompted me to search for Him, whoever He might be. I had been interested in God, but He had to conform to my specifications. Now I was willing to encounter Him on His own terms.

Against this assessment, my skeptical associate suggested that this “encounter” was just the product of loosing much blood in the midst of a NDE. Frankly, I would probably have agreed with him had I not had this almost identical experience twice before. Ten years earlier, while I was studying for my finals in my freshman year at UC Berkeley, I put my exhausted head down in my hands and closed my eyes. Some minutes later, when I lifted my head, it seemed that everything was different. I was filled with a magical sense of love, joy and peace, which beckoned me to leave my arduous studies in favor of a walk in the night. I cried as I passed the passers-by. I loved each one of them. I even loved myself. Each road-sign seemed that it belonged just where it was positioned. It seemed as if everything was connected, sparkling with purpose.

As hard as I tried to hold on to this ecstasy, I couldn’t. I was entirely puzzled. I had been intensely interested in the occult, mind-over-matter. But the occult was clearly about learning techniques and applying rituals in order to plug-in. However, I had done absolutely nothing to bring about this experience! It was a complete mystery. It came from nowhere, and it didn’t seem to lead anywhere. It just left me with a profound sense that there was something out there far greater than the occult, something that made the occult look like a bag of dirty tricks. I therefore lost all interest in the occult but had no clue where I could now reinvest my quest.

Four years later, I was on a train, traveling from the north – Nahariya – to Tel Aviv. I was reading a story in the Jerusalem Post about a Californian who had an encounter with God. In response, he built a boat and brought his entire family to Israel. They had just arrived in the port town of Haifa that day, after a two year voyage. However, he had entered illegally and was being held in the Coast Guard area until a determination could be made about his entering Israel.

Meanwhile, I was passing through Haifa and decided that I had to meet this man and find out how he could be so certain that his God had called him to Israel to spread his Jesus dribble. Initially, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to see Mr. Harrison (I don’t remember his name.) because the Coast Guard area was off-limits to civilians. However, I found the station-master and explained to him that I needed to see this man. He then called the Coast Guard and got approval from both them and Mr. Harrison for my unusual request.

I spend the afternoon with him on his boat, as his wife and five little blond-haired children walked the wharf. I asked him a series of question, mainly concerning how he could be sure about God and His will. However, he would merely answer me with Scripture. I complained, “You’re wasting time quoting Scripture. I don’t believe it, and therefore it’s meaningless to me,” but it seemed that that was all he was able to do.

After it got dark, I arose to leave. He asked if he could pray with me. I acquiesced. He had kindly spent hours fielding my critical questions. This was the least I could do. Afterwards, I walked off into Haifa’s night, not knowing where I’d spend the night, but I soon realized it didn’t matter. I was once again – after four years – overwhelmed by my strange caller. Love, joy and peace wrestled away any concerns I might have had about eating and sleeping. Each stranger’s face became an object of intense love, so much so that I had to lower my head, lest the passers-by would see my tears of love. Ever flower had a message, every street a story to tell. Everything pulsated with life, and I was in ecstasy!

What had happened to me? Well, it seemed that it had something to do with my meeting Mr. Harrison. Perhaps his enthusiasm had gotten to me? Perhaps if I could learn to simulate that same kind of enthusiasm, I could always have this experience? However, never once did I connect what had overtaken me to the prayer he had made to his God. It just wasn’t in my radar. I had thought that I was a truth-seeker, but evidently, my field of truth had been very circumscribed.

Six years later, perhaps to the day, I was once again overtaken with the same experience, but this time there is one significant difference. I was left with no doubts about its Source. I knew that it was about a God, who had been mysteriously wooing me for years, but I had not been aware of it.

Why did He wait so long to reveal Himself? Why does the fisherman allow his catch to tire itself before reeling it in? Perhaps I first had to exhaust every other possibility and to spend all of my reserves on false hopes? Perhaps only in a prostrate position would I accept what I had always regarded as abhorrent?

I must confess, that this was the last such encounter. It was as if my Benefactor had deposited me with the intended custodian, the church, without ever abandoning His oversight. Yes, I long to be taken up once again by His embrace, but I am told that there is an approaching time for this, and it will last for all eternity.

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