February 26, 2008
A few years
ago, I was stuck by the side of the highway with no gas, no money and no cell phone.
The Holy Spirit told me to sit and wait. I may have had a packed lunch
with me. At any rate, I tried to catch a few winks. About an hour or so later, I felt a strong urge to leave the car.
No sooner than
I had gotten the gas can out of the trunk (being out of gas was not an infrequent occurrence during my early walk with the
Lord), a car veered over and stopped. First blessing: I didn’t have to
walk. There would be many more to come.
I told the
Southern gentleman who picked me up about my twice weekly travel between Hilton Head and Columbia, SC for church, bible study
and visits with my recently recovered father. Almost a year earlier, my father
had suffered a serious head injury.
You see, my
money had long ago run out, I was not working, and I had given up my room at an extended stay hotel in Columbia. I didn’t want to trouble my father and his wife by asking to move back in with them. I had gotten my own place shortly after he came home from the hospital.
My mother had
bought a house in Hilton Head in the time since I had relocated to South Carolina. I
got there just in time to live with the contractor doing the renovation in a partially gutted house, amid a warren-like maze
of boxes. My mother was rarely there because she was taking care of her mother
in Newport News, VA after she had fallen and broken her hip.
There was no
kitchen at that time, so I had to ride my bike the mile to my aunt’s house for meals.
Now, I would walk. Twice a week I dutifully made the trip from the coast
whether I had money or not. This is what the Lord told me to do. After attending two bible studies on Wednesdays, I would sleep on the floor in a church or in my car. Then I would attend a small 7:00 AM bible study the next morning that was led by a
pastor of a large church, who had befriended me. On Sundays I often attended
two services and I made the round trip.
My mother had
stuck with me through all the years of drugs and smashed expectations. I wouldn’t
think of asking her for any money now. I don’t believe in coincidences,
and her house was the only thing keeping me from the shelter. I often thought
of getting a job; but the Lord was telling me keep studying, stay in the fellowship and stay near your father.
For many years
before my conversion there had been numerous times that I thought I would die of an overdose of cocaine. During those times when my heart felt like it was about to explode, I would pray to God that He would let
me live long enough to reconcile with my dad. Even though I hadn’t really
believed in the Lord when I made those prayers, it was apparently important for Him and me to see them fulfilled.
It turned out
that the guy who picked me up on the side of the road, this time, was travelling back to his home in North Carolina on his
way back from a bible class in apologetics in another state. That’s right,
a grown man travelling to another state to learn about the Lord. We were two
peas in a pod.
For those who
are not among the theological cognoscenti; “apologetics” comes from the Greek “apologia” or “apologetikos,”
which in this case means the delivery of a formal defense of one’s belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Riding in that
car, it didn’t matter that we were from different parts of the country or of different races. It didn’t matter what our politics was. Or, used to
be for me, because I don’t vote anymore. It didn’t matter that the
last time I lived in the South during law school I was the frequent target of race-baiting rednecks. Indeed, on my latest sojourn down South, this time with the Lord, I had come to rely occasionally on even
police officers helping me, out of their own pockets sometimes. Before, they
had more than once tried to plant evidence on me out of their pockets.
On this drive
I learned a bit about apologetics. I don’t remember what he said, and I
had heard the term a time or two already. One of my childhood friends who now
lives in New York city had recommended the “Bible Answer Man” radio program.
Every time I think I might want to study up on it or tune in the Lord tells me don’t worry about catching up
on every detail after getting such a late start learning all about the bible; when the time comes I’ll tell you what
man pulled into the gas station off of the nearest exit and as I started to get out I blessed him in the name of the Lord
and said, “thank you;” he cut me off. He looked at me like I was
crazy and said, “of course I will take you back to your car.” I told
him, with embarrassment about my circumstances—essentially living in poverty, albeit living temporarily in an expensive
He pulled out
a twenty. After I filled my little can, he told me to keep the change and he
drove me back. This was key because otherwise I would have run out of gas again. When you live by faith the “divine appointments” in your life proliferate. Because of them, your faith increases exponentially.
The best form
of apologetics is doing for me what that stranger did.