God of the Stars
After supper -- sometimes late at night -- it was my job to take out the garbage.
We didn't have yard lights during those days. And the dim light at the back door of the house didn't reach the edge of our huge lawn, gardens and orchard -- where the garbage cans were kept.
Back then we recycled. We would just fill these huge oil drums with our daily garbage and then at some point when it got too full, dad would light it with fire and burn it. Composting also came naturally -- one would just throw all the potato and other vegetable peelings back onto the garden.
I remember one particular dark night. I got to the drum, tossed the garbage into it and was about to run back to the house -- fast as I could -- when I suddenly realized it wasn’t as dark as I had thought.
I looked up and I saw the stars. The sky just seemed to open up and the stars dropped down close to me. We peered at each other. Cosmic consciousness?
Immediately I became aware of the universe and the Creator. I not only saw His handiwork in a new way, I felt Him. He was right there… with me. Divine Consciousness? I was awed. I felt the deep hollow feeling in me. I wanted Him – always. I hovered outside -- basking in the new feeling until the autumn chill forced me inside.
The minute I was inside the house, the connection was broken.
Moodily, I pondered the message of the stars the rest of the evening. It wouldn’t leave me.
It was customary for my mother to tuck me into bed at night to make sure that I said my evening prayers. As I climbed into bed, I asked her my burning question. “How can I make sure I go to heaven?”
It must have been completely unexpected because I still remember the expression on her face. She seemed shocked.
She sat down on the side of my bed.
“You have to ask Jesus into your heart,” she said.
That seemed an odd answer. It sounded churchy -- something for inside a building and nothing to do with those magnificent stars.
“How do I do that?” I asked.
She hesitated and then said, “You say your nighttime prayer and ask Jesus into your heart.”
That made no sense to me. My bedtime prayer was in German, and I didn’t understand it at all. Even though it was the mother tongue of my parents and my older sisters, I had failed to learn it. I preferred English.
“Are you sure?” I asked puzzled.
It was worth a try. So I folded my hands as I always did, and recited my prayer.
The minute I said the prayer, I had this wonderful amazing light explode inside of me. I knew that my heart had soared right through the roof of our house and had touched the stars again.
The next morning at the breakfast table, my mother announced to the family, my father and two older sisters, that I had become a child of God. I was mystified and delighted.
I remained quite mystified -- and will always probably be a bit mystified by it all. How does one truly understand the mysteries of God?
For me, it included the question of a child born in a certain setting. How do I put together my evangelical, quite fundamentalist, childhood teachings with this new God that I had just experienced?
Back then, I was not only taught about God in Sunday School and church, we also had regular George Brunk revival meetings -- an itinerant evangelist who was both dramatic and convicting. For about a week, the Brunk team would set up a huge white tent in one of the neighboring fields, and hold outside revival meetings. The tent was full every night. Since the tent was set on grass, the aisles were laid with sawdust and there were many of my friends and cousins who walked down those "sawdust trails" to the tune of "Just as you are, without one plea" -- to be converted. It was compelling -- all of it. I wanted to go but couldn't.
And after that Billy Graham would come to Chilliwack. Again we would fill that huge city stadium -- and become convicted all over again.
It was the same song -- the same invitation -- and I again wanted to go down the bleacher-aisle! It would have been so easy! Then I would have had an easy, trendy conversion story to tell that would have fit in with everyone else's. I would have been one of them. But I couldn't. To do so would have denied the experience beneath those stars -- and I didn't want to minimize the impact of that on me. That experience had been the true awakening -- it had been an authentic, cherished, first encounter with my God.
Eventually I made peace with it by realizing that there are many ways to connect with God -- because essentially we are all on different individual paths. We are as unique as each individual star -- as unique as each individual snowflake. And God, the creator of our uniqueness, has already designed a unique individual way to connect with each of us.
I came to love my "star story" and began to build on it.
“When you reach for the stars, you are reaching for the farthest thing out there. When you reach deep into yourself, it is the same thing, but in the opposite direction. If you reach in both directions, you will have spanned the universe.” Vera Nazarian