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Jarrell, the Cliff, and the rain

I never thought I’d be sharing a testimony of mine, since anyone who has read through the Timeline of our website’s History & FAQ has pretty much seen a synopsis of my story. But there is one portion of my past that I rarely share that I have felt compelled to compose for you here. It’s an instant of time which I’ve thought back to many times when adversity abounds.

In my latter years, my faith has undergone—and is really still in the middle of—a veritable upheaval. Things I was once so sure of, what many would call tenets of their faith, taken for granted as true, I’ve now doubted.

In my years, I’ve seen so much crap done in the name of God, by people who are so sure they’ve heard from God, who are so incredibly wrong that I wonder if any of us can be sure of what we “hear” from God. Then I look at the “inspired” authors of the various stories which were later pieced together into what we call the Bible, and I hope that their level of inspiration exceeded that of most modern pastors, teachers, or evangelists who spout all manner of absurdities and say that God spoke to them or gave them their visions.

This past 4 years for my wife and I have been beyond difficult—not trouble with our relationship, but with things happening -to- us from every direction. Sometimes it gets so bad, to be honest, that I catch myself thinking that “if” there is a god, he must be a sadistic SOB who takes delight in watching people suffer. The countless hopes for financial relief that are dashed over one stupid detail, then another. The seemingly endless trips to the hospital over one operation or another, none of which we can afford—then there are the complications, the things that weren’t likely to happen. They happen, and then it’s dealing with the recovery and the debt over a procedure which now costs ten times what it should have. The prayers that don’t seem to go anywhere. I feel nothing. No comfort. No reassurance. I begin to doubt even more.

Then I think back, back to that instant of time. It was nothing more than a blip in my existence really. But it has been an anchor, a point of significance, and something that I’ve never been able to explain away.

It was the summer of 1984. I was employed at Southwest Christian Center, and it was Saturday. A bunch of us were gathered in Bonita, south of San Diego, at the wedding of Mark and Amy, two members of the church band in which I also sometimes took part. The band was performing for the reception that day and the bride and groom were also playing, and the weather was gorgeous—really just a perfect day. Then it was time to pack up. I had brought equipment from the church and was anxious to head back and get it all put away in time for the Sunday service the following day.

I was headed down the road going 55 mph in my white ‘67 Rambler Rebel, had a green light in my favor at an intersection, and a shiny new truck was waiting there to turn right into my lane. But he didn’t wait for me to go by... turned in front of me with no more than 150 feet between us. I started applying the brakes immediately... he didn’t speed up. I was about to rear-end him..looked right for the curb..up and over..down, down, down, grass as high as the door handles, couldn’t see, trying to stop, not knowing what was ahead... finally came to rest. I got out and looked around. I was on the only piece of flat land in the little canyon. Ahead of the Rambler, and to the right was a sheer drop. I looked up toward the road. The guy in the truck had stopped and was peering down at me to see if I was okay. I was fine, except the embankment the car had just glided down was almost too steep for me to climb out! Yeah, it was -that- steep. Cops arrived moments later because there were calls from the trailer court across the way that from their view, this white car had gone over the side and had rolled several times. Of course it hadn’t rolled. But physics says it should have.

The cops called a tow truck for me. The guy worked for a good while with cable and hook to get me out of there, and finally did. When everything was ready, I got in, started it up, and continued driving to the church. I was not injured, none of the equipment I was hauling was damaged, and when I took the car in a few days later to get it checked out, no damage there either except where some of the grass had found its way between the body and frame.

Once I got to the church, I called home since they’d been expecting a call from me before then. I told them what had taken place. Dad and I were comparing notes on when it all happened. Then he recounted that he was relaxing in the porch swing, reading the Bible, and suddenly felt that he needed to just stop and pray in tongues for a time. So he did—no big deal. And after a few minutes, the feeling had passed, so he went back to what he was doing. Once we compared the actual time of my careening down the slope, that’s the exact moment he was praying.

The thing I’d like the reader to take with them about this incident is, my Dad was at the time—and still is—a homophobe. In fact I also was at that time, and yet this miracle took place for the two of us. I know now that if I would have come out to my parents while living at home, even if I was under age, I wouldn’t have been allowed to live with them for long, or, they might have forced me into therapy.

I’ve learned a deeper meaning to the saying based on Matthew 5:45, God makes the rain fall on the just and unjust. To me this speaks of the radical grace of God that I’ve come to embrace in recent years. There are no bad “unworthy” people, and good “worthy” people. There are people. You and me. And His love knows no bounds.

There are people right now, extended family, that my parents will not allow into their house because they think that doing so is the same as condoning their lifestyle. I know that is wrong-thinking, but they are not “bad” people. Growing up in their home, I learned of love. There’s a line in Savage Garden’s “I Believe” that says, I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do. My parents did, absolutely.

And in light of Matthew 5:45, they received rain right when they needed it this year, 2014, and their garden and fruit trees were truly blessed, and have been a blessing for neighbors in an ever-widening circle around them in free produce, for Renee and I too, and still, they ended up throwing so much away that they no longer had room for in their two freezers, because there was just too much, exceeding every conceivable explanation for the volume of yield from just a few seeds, far exceeding the gardens of anyone they or we knew of, this year or any year. It was like Jesus saying to the fishermen to cast in their nets just one more time after a night of toil with nothing, and when they obeyed, their nets began to break because of the abundance of fish.

Today, there is so much I can’t talk about with them, or else it devolves quickly. Every time we go to their house for a visit, we’re subjected to yet another bout of proselytizing based on their nightmarish, dystopian view of this “fallen” world that they learn from Fox News and Hal Lindsey, and a president who, in their view, if he isn’t the anti-Christ is certainly like the false prophet in the Bible. We have grown apart from them. Yet in all of this, I see so much blessing in their life—not deeds which are rewarded by merit, but from a loving God who simply lets His rain fall on both the just and unjust. This is why Jesus said to love your enemies. Because He does. Maybe an enemy isn’t much different than another person like you, or like me, who just doesn’t have all the answers and is reacting the way they do, based on their experiences in life. Maybe we can have compassion for the “other” and learn how to not automatically fear what we don’t at first understand.