I had a spiritual experience on Saturday. Don't worry--I didn't act on it.
You see, sometime Saturday morning my car was broken into. The rear passenger window was shattered and my two backpacks were stolen. A laptop with priceless ideas and documents yet to be backed up, an iPod with years of collected music, books, and my wallet with every credit card, identification, and penny I had were all taken.
Coming from New York, I was in Atlanta, Georgia ending a brief visit with an old friend, on my way to Kerrville, Texas. I found a stash of $30 hidden away in the trunk. That, and what gas I had in the tank was all I had to get me where I needed to go. I was stranded.
Then my friend lent me $20--the only money she had. Another friend in Dallas, Texas left $40 hidden along his driveway. That meant making it on $50 and half a tank from Atlanta to Dallas. I had not eaten since the early afternoon the previous day. Ditto sleep. There was a very good chance I would not make it.
Six o' clock in the morning I se out, starving, tired, my phone essentially useless, hopped up on caffeine and emotion, and unsure if I'd end up a Yankee stranded in the Deep South.
Somewhere between Alabama and Mississippi, a very foreign sensation filled me and set in my mind the strongest desire to pray.
More alone than I've ever been in my life, scared and depressed, I suddenly felt my heart open to God. I tried to rationalize it: "It couldn't hurt. What if? I have nothing else." I wanted the help so bad. Even in my days as a full and quasi-believer, I can't imagine that I'd ever felt the urge to cry out to the Lord as strongly as I did on Saturday.
I almost prayed. Almost. I gathered the words in my head and prepared to address the almighty. But I stopped. I looked at myself in the (rearview) mirror and chastised myself for such absurdity--such weakness of character, heart, and mind. What would I achieve through beseeching the nonexistent? Did I not already have help and concern and love? Did I not still have my wits about me? I put the idea of prayer from out of my mind and took instead to substantial thought: how could I help myself? How could I, with virtually no resources, improve my situation?
I know that if I had started down the rabbit hole of prayer I would have been trapped until I arrived in Dallas or my car ran out of gas, and I would have been at a loss for a solution. Instead, I put my mind to work. I determined that if I found a Best Buy I could convince them to charge my phone and lend me the use of a computer to look up directions, cancel cards, and the like. I decided that if I broke down I would not be reduced to mere beggary. I considered that the small travel refrigerator would be a good sale for some $10 or $20. The chilled beverages within could be sold.
Luckily, I made it to Dallas with a quarter tank left and was sure that $5 for food and $35 for gas would be sufficient to get me to Kerrville where my job and all my people were. A Best Buy in the area indeed helped me out and I charged my phone, changed passwords, got directions, looked up resources, contacted worried friends, etc.
I had also one other desire. The desire for a reason, also often provided through supernatural means. And I do hope this happened for a reason. Not some cosmic, predetermined, greater-good, but for the reason that the person who burglarized me really needed what they took to preserve themselves. Maybe the profits from my goods will get them where they need to be, help them feed their family, whatever. Then again, maybe not. I put my faith in hope. I hope the thief had no choice. I hope it helped them.
Here's the ultimate lesson: prayer would not have helped. It may have indulged my baser nature, my need for a primeval assurance of safety, for reason, but it would not have devised solutions. I would never have thought to go to Best Buy. If my car had run out of gas I would have been at a loss for a solution.
And if I had prayed, and gotten to Dallas alright? Would I thank God? Heavens forbid! How dare I! What of reality? What of the friends who cared enough to give money, to offer money, to stay on the phone with me? What of my mother who helped me call the credit card companies, the insurance people? What of the kindness of a gas station attendant who gave me a place to lay my head, out of the rain and the heat? What of the Best Buy worker who assisted me when I needed it? Would their credit go to God? I would never allow such a thing.
Once again, personal ingenuity and human kindness prevailed above superstition. I thank every person who helped me through one of the most difficult and scary times I’ve gone through yet.
Things are what they are, and nothing changes that. Only human goodness can deliver us from adversity. And I’m okay with that. The elation I feel now, knowing how I was helped, outshines those dark moments on Saturday.
So, remember, when you’re down, and things appear bleak, and everything seems too hard, look inside yourself and reach out to others, and find your salvation there.
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