By James A. Wilson
Best friends Tyler Smith and Heather Brown began their day playing but not necessarily playing well. Seniors at Christ’s Church Academy, St. Augustine, Florida, they skipped classes for a swim in the surf off nearby Vilano Beach. Heavy wave action and currents swept them further and further out until the found themselves some two miles from shore and growing more and more exhausted as they fought to return. After two hours of struggle they began to pray, begging the Lord they served imperfectly – they were cutting school, after all – to come and save them.
Their Lord turned up quickly in the form of Captain Eric Wagner and his boat – The Amen. Wagner and his crew were enroute from Del Ray Beach to New Jersey. Wagner – himself a praying man – called the fact he heard cries for help over the noise of wind, waves, and his own engines – a miracle. There is good news about this praying stuff – it really opens the door to all kinds of wonders – and it really blesses all concerned.
The really good news is God – Father, Son and Spirit – could not care less about whether His response to prayer is deserved, because nobody deserves anything from Him. I mention the young people serving Him imperfectly when they found themselves in serious trouble. Reality is He is so thrilled when we actually call upon Him a reprimand is furthest from His mind. Yes, there are usually consequences when we stuff up, but our poor choices are never – never – an obstacle to His countervailing love. He goes so far as to say – in His own Bible – that His strength is perfected in our weakness and He actually turns all things – all things – to good for those seeking His face, one way or another and sooner or later. Consequences will come, but His love and provision are the trump cards.
What happened to Smith and Brown is likewise typical of God making a way where there is no way. I will never forget how close I came to being snowed in as I returned from a mountain town last January. The announcement went out that the road was closed and I was already on it without chains or snow tires. I prayed and the Highway Patrol announced snow had stopped and they were re-opening the pass for less than an hour. I got through and the pass was promptly closed for the next five days. Some years earlier – on the western end of that same road – I was literally stopped by snow and as literally gifted to follow semis and snow plows – a few miles at a time until each successively turned off the road or was itself stuck – until I reached my destination more than a hundred miles away. This is not to mention all the healings, creating necessary things out of nothing, and even a raising from the dead I have personally witnessed. I thank God moment by moment his gifts are not dependent on our good behavior.
There are a couple of catches. If we want to see His goodness we need to approach Him with thanksgiving as a lifestyle; this is not a moral imperative but rather a chosen and repeatable perspective that opens our eyes to the really real. If we are chronically spitting in His eye with our behavior it is far less likely we will approach Him with thanksgiving and more often we simply fail to miss the coming of the rescue boat – even if it is named The Amen.
One thing we can take to the bank. There is no such thing as coincidence and when worst comes to worst He is quite capable of bringing out of it what we cannot imagine. Rescued – following heartfelt prayer – by a boat named The Amen a coincidence? A truck or snowplow coming along just when I need it at least a half dozen times with never a wait of more than moments a random event? Seriously? And what if the rescue apparently never comes, like when my friends died – one earlier this year and the other more than twenty years ago – after sudden and catastrophic illness bathed in faithful prayer? Yet both pronounced themselves ready to go home and many came to embrace the Lord due to the very circumstances surrounding these deaths. My oldest daughter never breathed the air of this world, being taken from it due to a poor medical decision just prior to her expected birth. Yet I have been privileged to bless many in similar circumstances because of her circumstances and mine, and the Lord has healed my grief beyond my ability to imagine.
The grief is real. The human longing for what we understand to be good is basic to who we are. Yet the God to whom Tyler and Heather prayed claims He will give more than we can ask or imagine; I have never known this to be false once the story comes to its real end. A heart of prayer, praise, thanksgiving enables hearers to better appreciate their own stories. Don’t leave home without it.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at firstname.lastname@example.org