I used to make fun of televangelists. I saw them as hucksters and con artists and doubted very much that they provide doorways to salvation. That all changed some years ago when I heard a woman’s story of an encounter with a televangelist.
I went to a retreat up in Pecos NM hosted by the Benedictine monastery and highlighting Morton Kelsey and John Sanford, two therapist/writers who had both a great impact on my journey. I was thrilled to hear and meet them in person.
When I arrived, I headed for my room. I had requested a single room and was intent on reflection and journaling. But as soon as I got to my room and was confronted with silence, my old addiction raised its head. I wanted to drink, the old escape from facing myself. I drew on lessons in recovery and got through it.
A night or two later, I had a dream where I could not find my AA book. I realized that I really wanted to connect with other 12-Steppers who might be at the conference so I asked one of the organizers if a 12-Step meeting was possible. He set up a time and place and then announced to one and all that there would be “a 12-Step meeting led by Richard Patterson” So much for anonymity!
The meeting was one of the best I’d ever attended to that point with people sharing all sorts of journeys through addiction and recovery. But one story stood out.
An older woman shared how one night she was dead drunk and was watching a televangelist who intoned “If you want to be saved, lay your hand on the television set!”. Just the sort of comment I would typically mock. This woman tried to stand up, fell on the floor, crawled over to her TV set, put her hand on the TV and passed out. It was the last day she drank.
Her story continues to humble me. God reaches us in whatever way gets our attention. In my case, a Star Wars movie played a key role! Those of us who’ve walked the path of addiction sometimes require different taps on our shoulders for God to get our attention. For me it was “Return of the Jedi”. For this woman, it was a televangelist.
My sobriety is the strongest evidence I have in my life of the reality of God’s grace. But what that woman’s testimony reminds me of is that God’s grace can come to us in surprising unexpected ways. We are asked only to say “Here I am Lord!” I said “Here I am” in response to a movie. That woman said “Here I am” as she crawled across the floor to lay her hand on her TV. We both were blessed.
Reflection: Whether you are religious or not, can you think of unexpected ways you were blessed?
The most obvious blessings I can think of on the spot have come to me through nature. I can be having a bad day, whether stressed or ill or feeling under-appreciated, and I look up and there are some beautiful clouds, or look over and there is a sweet child, walking along, which is unexpected on a university campus. A cool breeze on a warm day can really do it for me, because that sensual experience takes me right back to the carefree schooldays in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
So nature does it for me. Excuse me. I’m going to step outside right now!