...we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.It is absolutely astonishing to see what God can do.
(2 Peter 1:16b, NIV)
[We] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (from "How It Works," in Alcoholics Anonymous, chapter 5)
I mean, fall foliage is wonderful. A baby is God's testimony that the human race should go on. Bumblebees flying defy all we know about aerodynamics. The Grand Canyon is, from what I've been told, grand. But sometimes, God's majesty and transforming power shows up in far more powerful ways.
Like in a diner in Hyde Park, where a friend of mine made the point-blank declaration that he was beginning to believe that there was Something out there that wanted something good for him.
Now, to many folks who have studied deeply the intricacies of Judeo-Christian practices, this may not seem like much. But to see this person, so broken and damaged a few months ago, so bound by intellectual pride and rational determinism and the like, make these kinds of admissions was like seeing Plato wake up and say, "Wow! I can still HAVE a V-8!"
It started simple. "Try believing that there is Something or Someone who wanted you to get sober more than you wanted to kill yourself drinking." "Well, OK, I guess I can believe that." Sometimes the steps were itty-bitty baby steps; sometimes they were quantum leaps of faith...like today. My friend had been struggling - on a number of fronts - physical and emotional challenges.
And it suddenly came to him - "Any one of these problems would have sent me screaming to the bottle four short months ago! And yet, here I am dealing with several of them, and doing it dead sober! There just has to be Something Else that is doing this - because left to my own devices, I'd be loaded, for sure!"
I've been talking to this fellow about my own understanding of God - as a loving, caring, accepting, forgiving, very personal presence. And at the start, my buddy would say, "It's hard to believe that you aren't completely around the bend on this religious crap about God." But he kept showing up, and kept listening. And all I could do was show how this God was working in my life - sometimes against my better judgement.
Just like I was, nearly 15 years ago, he is starting to believe that there is a God - one that is concerned, loving, caring, accepting and forgiving. And in his looks of astonishment, of wonder, and of relief, I can see my own experience echoed and mirrored for me.
In the depths of my despair at having to leave the seminary, several people suggested that there were "other reasons" that I'd been drawn to Chicago: other experiences to have, other people to meet, other spiritual encounters and lessons. But in the last week, I've seen ever more clearly the truths of those promises.
Fifteen years ago, on October 8, 1990, I was fired from my job and escorted from my then-employer's offices. That dismal failure was the blasting cap that started the implosion of my old life, and the beginning of my new life out of the rubble of the old. In the days and weeks following that devastation, I could have never predicted this evening's events. Nor could I have imagined it nearly two years ago, when I was told that ordained ministry had no room for me.
It will be interesting to see what this weekend looks like a year from now...