“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”
A rabbi once questioned his students, “How can you tell if you have been in the presence of God?”
One student replied, “It just feels good!”
The rabbi then asked, “How do you know that it isn’t that pizza you just ate that is making you feel good?”
OK. Yeah, it is rather low-quality Zen, but the point is that feelings are not evidence of the presence of God. Over the years I have witnessed many ‘miracles’, mostly inevitabilities that were unexplainably altered, such as car crashes etc. And they have all reinforced my belief. Indeed, we are encouraged to recall those times when faith wavers. But the true evidence is that we were we changed by the event. One does not stand in the presence of God and remain unchanged.
Those times have been rare in my life, but they have occurred. The major one, of course, was the event where I moved from belief in an insane god to a sane one. In the aftermath of my beatnik – hippie – brujo’s apprentice – child of the universe days, I was left mentally unstable to put it mildly. The potent combination of bad chemicals and bad philosophy had left its toll, and I stood on the precipice of suicide.
As I teetered near the edge mustering up the courage to leap, I had an encounter with God. I don’t often tell others precisely what happened. It was one of those things that you would have had to have been there to understand. But it really was a Pauline sort of road-to-Damascus moment, and I was changed forever by the experience. My path changed even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I was far to confused to see the subtle changes in my life.
It still was half a decade later before I finally truly broke free. I often tell people my After story was worse than my Before story. Many teachers came and went. An advertising account executive. A professional janitor. A huge Irish slob and a scrapper. An ex-jock used-truck salesman who was sleeping in the trucks he sold. Each one parting in time, leaving their unique gift of wisdom.
Then another one occurred at middle age, during a health crisis. I was again fully prepared to step across the abyss when God again intervened, and I was once again changed and set on a new path. That time it also took a bit of time before wisdom won the day. It was a good thing, because in many ways that second meeting was more critical than the first one.
And now I am sitting here changed and was wondering why it was necessary. It isn’t like I am going out to light the world on fire again. That time has passed, and I am now an old man moldering in his reveries. Then the reason became apparent when an old vice reared its head again, and I saw it for its empty promise.
No thanks. I’ve taken that bus before, and really didn’t like the itinerary.
So I sit and molder some more, and watch an increasingly insane world go by. I touch it lightly. I am just a traveler taking in the sights as I pass through.