TITLE: Three Times Over - Part II October 24, 2015
By Catherine Craig
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Life moved on, and in 1976, as an apprenticed electrician for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (I.B.E.W.), I was sent to Valdez to work on the mooring berths for the tankers. At Pier 1, with the night crew, I descended a secured ladder to where temporary scaffolding had been erected.
At shoulder height, someone had wiped wire-pulling soap on the ladder’s rungs and sides from the hands. When I encountered the slippery surface, I lost my grip. Careening downward, I landed on my back – against a protruding 4x4. (At the point of impact, it somehow ruptured my lung, but that wasn't discovered until I checked into a Fairbanks hospital a few weeks after this story occurred.)
Two weeks later, I admitted myself to the hospital. When I took a breath, it hurt, and a gurgling sound came from my left side. Initially, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. During my first few days, I was on pain meds, and in and out of a drugged sleep. Then, one night in my sleep, I flat-lined. I died.
Again, I encountered the same tunnel, and ethereal brilliance. The words were the same: “Your time isn’t yet; you have to go back. You have work to do.” Just as with both prior occurrences, the return to my body was instant.
Spirituality continued to be important. However, I blithely moved on, distracted by typical things that accompany youth. I was only 26 at that time, two years into my first marriage.
Disappointed in the empty rituals of religion, but convinced that my children should have a basis from which to make informed decisions, I sent them to parochial school. I didn’t attend church.
Then in 1993, that marriage failed. During the divorce, I talked constantly to God, pouring out my heart, begging Him to restore the relationship. He didn’t.
I walked away from anything to do with Him, feeling as though He didn’t care. I became even more spiritual, but not with the Christians’ Jesus. I didn’t care what the Supreme Being was, whether Wicca or otherwise. I needed a spiritual connection to someone or something.
In 1997, I met the lady I am currently married to. She, Catherine, was a Christian. Since by that point I had progressed to embracing Universalism, and believed all roads led to God, I consented to attend church with her.
Just as before, the pastor’s words often scored, profoundly affecting me. I believed the Bible was a good, though corrupted book, written not by God, but by men.
I’d try to draw my wife into debates, attempting to discover answers through her about Jesus and God. She refused, saying, “God is a big God. He doesn’t need me to defend Him; He can do so. When your heart is ready, He will introduce Himself to you.”
Catherine didn’t pressure me. I watched her life closely, and saw her walk out at home the faith she openly talked about with others. She asked me to pray at meals, and at bedtime. I didn’t think it would hurt, though I didn’t share her beliefs.
I had thought God was too big, and busy, to bother with trivial concerns, that only weighty matters should be brought to Him. In response, my wife would say, “How can you learn to trust God in larger things if you haven’t in life’s small ones?” The results were startling. By bringing God into our daily life, I saw by the answers we received in prayer to very specific requests that He did care.
Then, in 2003, this marriage took a nosedive. After picking up a voice-mail message at the end of a fishing trip that she was leaving, I felt gut-punched. It took my feet right from under me.
I returned to Fairbanks. The house was empty, void of Catherine’s belongings. Upon returning to work a few days later, I encountered a co-worker who happened to be pasturing a church part-time. She suggested I might find comfort – and answers – in the Bible by reading the Book of John.
I read the Bible, in the evenings. On my fourth read-through of John, the lights came on. I cried. I just knew, and was persuaded by its words that Jesus was real, and He cared. I also got a glimmer of the Bible’s power and Truth.
Our church had scheduled a Dunamis “power of God” weekend Retreat. When I showed up in our Presbyterian pastor’s office seeking advice, he told me, “Grab a bed roll and don’t worry about anything else. Go. They’re waiting on you.”
I prayed all the way there, asking God to reveal Himself to me. I needed Him to do so. Badly shaken up, I felt alone, abandoned.
Upon arrival, during the first workshop on prayer, I must have gone into some type of trance. God was in that room, introducing Himself to me. I both emotionally felt and also somehow physically “saw” His face.
How can I describe what I saw? His eyes. Both joy and sadness were present, and He looked back at me with love and tenderness. Lines, the kind deep sorrow and suffering bring, were etched into His Face. Yet, crow’s feet at the corners of His eyes indicated laughter and a sense of humor.
Peace and forgiveness rolled over me. Broken and contrite, I wept like never before. However, at the end of that emotional flood, the residual joy that filled me lasted.
After Catherine and I reconciled, we tried to remember to bring tissues, especially to church. At the mere mention of Jesus’ Name, I couldn’t contain the tears that brimmed my eyes to roll down my cheeks. This kept up for about two or three years after my conversion to Christianity. We joke that we should have bought stock in Kleenex. Even now, eleven years after my born-again experience, I still tear up.
Jesus is real, as genuinely alive as I am sitting here writing this account. The Bible I once mocked has become, for me, a “living words” Book. It’s as relevant today as it was when it was written.
It is not just another good book.
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