The headline writers could barely contain themselves. ‘Angel Strikes Wanaka’, ‘Girl Raised from Dead’, ‘Dozens Fall in Long Drop’, ‘Miracle Mayhem on Main Street’ ‘Floored’, ‘Wild Ride in Wanaka’, ‘Restaurant Resurrection’, ‘Spiritual Tsunami Washes Wanaka’, ‘Long Gone!’.
The front page of every daily showed Sam with the girl in the back of the car.
The airwaves overflowed with speculation, and talk-show hosts tore any remaining hair out trying to get witnesses on air. They found a few fellow diners and sticky beaked bystanders, but the key players were well off the grid.
The ever-faithful Terry took the first flight from Queenstown to Wellington the next morning, dropped off the tape, and went to ground. Dan now had video interviews and pictures of events inside the restaurant. It wasn’t the first time he had digital gold in his hands, but it still felt great. Copies and broadcast rights had gone out to networks all over the world.
One question echoed across the globe, from the highest offices in every land on down through all levels and layers of society. ‘Where’s the angel now?’ The follow up questions asked, ‘Where will he turn up next?’ and ‘Would we be among the lucky ones if he did?’ Websites sprang up and blogs blossomed. Opinions were inevitably divided, but few were surprised. That’s the nature of the beast.
Perhaps the best story doing the rounds was the interview someone did with Julie Thomas, the girl who had died in the back of the boy racer’s car. She didn’t have a great deal to say, but she looked great, and told it well. Yes, she knew she had been dead, she had seen everything in a kind of out-of-body experience. She said she had seen the angel man go over to her body, and she knew what he was going to do. How did she know? “I could see this incredible light, like you see in places where they melt metal. I can’t describe it any better than that. It was flowing out of his hands as he healed Wayne’s chest and again when he touched Leah, and all those cuts just went away. And I saw it flowing into my body when he took hold of my hands, and that’s when I began to feel it.”
But try as they might, no one had managed to get the man on the air—either on radio or TV. Anyone would think he didn’t want to be found.
* * * * * * *
Now what happens?
“What do you want to happen, Sam?”
I don’t really know. But it feels like the honeymoon is over, and now the sentence begins.
“What makes you say that?”
Things were going well, and I felt like I was making a difference. Sure, not enough of a difference, I know. But now…now I’m getting pounded at every turn. Everyone wants something or to use me for their own purposes. I feel as if I’m trapped and unable to go anywhere near as much as I did before. Surely there has to be a better way than this.
“I know you can’t do everything you might want to do, and inevitably one day you won’t be here to do anything at all. Then what, Sam? Who will be there to do it then?”
Surely You know that. Why ask me? At least before I was able to do something. Now I can’t even do that. How can that be helping anyone?
“It’s a fair question. There were those who felt that way about my time here. Back then, like you, I couldn’t be in more than one place at once. Many were healed, many delivered, and yes, a few got to live a few more years. But the plan was never that I do it all on My own, Sam. And neither is it that you should.”
Sorry, but can You unpack that a bit more?
“Out of one seed came many. The Book of Acts shows what happened. There was no longer only one, now there were several moving out, doing much the same things. And like you, they struck resistance. It wasn’t always pleasant. Sure, they weren’t perfect. You’ve read about some of the struggles and the problems. But in spite of all that, the word spread, as did the blessings.”
So how does that affect me?
“Like I said, Sam, out of one seed came many. You could do some wonderful things, but then what? On the other hand, if you were able to inspire and motivate others to do what you are doing, then how much greater impact would that have on the world?”
And if they, in turn, were able to inspire and motivate others—is that where You’re heading with all this?
“What happened in those first centuries, Sam? In spite of the limitations and all their human weaknesses, my message spread across much of the known world.”
But was the message enough? I mean, even if the world got it, it didn’t seem to change much? What went wrong?
“Man got hold of it and made it into a religion. That’s one of the pressures still opposing you today, Sam.”
So what can I do about that?
“Just keep doing things My way. Don’t be conned into trying to do things man’s way. You’re now an alien here in your own land, Sam. And you have a choice. You can choose to try and be like everyone else who lives here and do things their way, or you can live My way and change things My way.”
You mean like one of those creatures from outer space, like in the movies—or should it be inner space?
“Yes, a bit like that. All those aliens in the movies and on TV came into this world for a reason. They had a mission. They came to achieve something, and while they lived among men, they still were working for the one who sent them. It may have been tempting to just slot into the way the humans did it, but by and large, they didn’t. Do you ever wonder why they didn’t?”
I guess they could see all the flaws and problems of being human. And all humans didn’t react well if the aliens had powers they didn’t have, did they?
“You know how man will react to you as well as I do, Sam. That’s one of the things that you’re still afraid of, isn’t it? So the issue is not how man will react, but it’s how you react to man. You can choose to do that on his terms or on Mine. To react on his terms is like choosing to fight a battle on your enemy’s terms. Any soldier will tell you that if you go into a fight when the other side chooses the weapons, place and time, you’ve already lost. How many of those TV aliens felt the need to play things according to man’s rules?”
But there is enough of man still in us to make us face that conflict, right?
“That’s certainly one of the problems, Sam. But another one is the idea of rules. When I say there is a need to do things My way or according to My rules, people try to look for a copy of the rule book. They think if they can just find them, learn them, and follow them, they’ll win every battle.”
Well, isn’t that true?
“In one sense it is, Sam, but in another it’s not. The trick is to know what My way of doing things really is. You see, there’s a catch. The catch is that My way is not about simply following the rules.”
So Your rule is that we don’t obey the rules.
“Sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it?”
It sure does. If you follow that logic, and we don’t obey Your rules, we end up trying to obey your rules. That gets really confusing. Isn’t that sort of thinking what got us into this mess we’re in?
“Think of it this way. Soldiers study the rules of war, and they study the history of men in battle. But that doesn’t guarantee they will win every new battle they have to face. Simply knowing the ‘rules’ or what you think is right and wrong doesn’t guarantee success. Success comes from fighting each new battle on My terms, and not have those dictated by the opposition.”
Can You give me an example?
“Think of what is happening in Iraq. The US adopted a strategy based on its understanding of the rules. But they ended up having to fight a battle on their enemy’s terms. The effect was that rather than being seen by people as liberators, they have alienated many of the very people they went to help. What started out—in their eyes—as a way of doing something good, ended as a messy, costly nightmare with no one appreciating all their sacrifices. Many of them wonder why they bothered.”
So that’s what comes from following the rules?
“It’s only an example, Sam. And as such, it’s not perfect. But it’s what can happen when people play by man’s rules. Do you recall that session we had a long time ago when we talked about things back in the garden?”
Which part? There was so much.
“Remember which tree was the problem one?”
Sure, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“That’s right, it wasn’t just the knowledge of what was evil, Sam. It was also the knowledge of what was good and right. Man’s rules, and man’s way, is based on such knowledge. And there’s not much point in My asking if you remember the result?”
How could I ever forget?
“Man so often chooses his knowledge of good and evil, of right and wrong, over the fruit of all the trees that bring life. My way isn’t about knowing all the rules and learning what’s right. My way is about life and life in abundance.”
That’s a hard thing to get my head around.
“And you’re not alone in that, Sam, partly because you’ve been brought up in a system that is based on that same idea of the knowledge of good and evil.”
But how can that be wrong? Surely we need to know what’s right and wrong. If we don’t know that, the whole world would do what it liked.”
“Isn’t it anyway, Sam? But it’s not a choice of some rules or no rules at all. That’s the con job that has been perpetuated by men, whether they knew it or not. No, it’s a choice between the tree of knowing right and wrong and the tree of life. The reason so few can grasp that is they’re still looking through their filters of right and wrong. They can’t see how it could work. Of course they can’t. How could they? They’re not eating from the tree of life.”
Why is that? Why don’t we want to eat from the right—sorry, ‘right’ implies right and wrong again, doesn’t it? Why don’t we want to eat from the tree of life?
“For the same reason Adam and Eve did the first time. Do you remember that too?”
Eve wanted to because she was told it would make her like God, and she would know the difference between good and evil, between blessing and cursing. And I think the next part says that it looked good and tasted good. She wanted to be wise.
“And what inevitably happens once you know the difference between good and evil?”
Are You saying that we know too much and can’t go back?
“In one sense, yes, but in another sense, no. You’re right Sam, no one can go back while they are hanging onto all that ‘knowledge of good and evil’. But if you’re prepared to drop all that, to throw it all away, then you can start again.”
Is that what they mean when they talk about being born again?
“Pretty much. It means a whole new start and living according to My ways, not the ways of men.”
So it’s not a case of ‘if I could be 20 again knowing what I know now’?
“That’s part of the problem. People think they can hang onto the good bits of what they know, and also be re-born and start again. It doesn’t really make sense, does it?”
But surely these born-again people still have to live by some sort of rules?
“Let me ask you this, Sam. What rules were there back in the garden?”
The only rule was to avoid the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Hang on, isn’t that what You said earlier? Your only rule is not to obey the rules.
“Like I said, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? You may recall the word that crops up in the New Testament—‘justified’?”
Yes. I heard someone say it means ‘just as if I’d never sinned’.
“There was only one place like that, Sam. Back in the Garden, before the whole fruit thing became an issue. Do you think Adam or Eve never did anything wrong before that?”
Ah ha, hang on a minute. That’s a trick question, right?
Well if they hadn’t eaten the wrong fruit, they wouldn’t have known anything they had done was wrong. They may have done things I would see as being wrong, but they wouldn’t have known, would they? The only thing that was wrong was not to do what you told them.
“Very good, Sam. You’re catching on. So what do you think life was like back then, before the fig leaves when they had never done anything wrong?”
It would be very different. There couldn’t have been any guilt, or emotional hang ups, no condemnation.
“It was. And who had to worry about that? Who had to sort out those messes?”
I guess You did. It talks about that in the Bible, there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And You are saying that if we’re born again, then we can go back to that sort of place?
“Why not, Sam? You know what happened. I’ve paid for your ticket. I’ve paid for everyone. They just have to accept it. The problem isn’t the ticket. People have a hang up about the price. And I’m not talking about the price I paid. That’s done. No, the price they get hung up on is them having to leave behind all the prejudices—all those ideas about what is good and what isn’t. There is no baggage allowance on this flight, Sam. We talked about that in the Sounds, remember? Man always wants to take his things with him. He has a problem with trusting Me to look after him.”
And that’s the answer to my earlier question, isn’t it? I wanted to know what happens next. My job is to help You show them what can happen if they do, right? And that can lead on to others doing it too. That’s it, isn’t it?
There was no reply, just the same delicious deep laugh.
So I’m back to where I started this conversation, aren’t I? What happens now?
“And My answer is the same, Sam. What do you want to do now?”
Well, You certainly arranged things pretty successfully here. You made sure I got my speaking rights. You made sure I used them too. Have You got something in mind for a next step?
“What do you think? But that’s not as important as whether you’re willing to take that next step or not.”
Yeah. I needed a nudge to take the last one, didn’t I?
“Just a small one. But it worked out well enough, don’t you think? Was that enough for you to trust Me with something bigger?”
Does that mean it’ll be like last time and You aren’t going to tell me what it is before it happens? That way I don’t get to argue about whether it’s the right thing to do, or whether I want to do it or not. I have to trust You, right?
“What did you say back there, Sam? Wasn’t it something like, ‘He can always better anything I’ve ever been able to come up with, so why would I want to try?’ Do you really believe that?”
So You are saying I have to want to take the next step. And I don’t get to know how big it might be or what sort of response it might generate.
“Only if you’re willing to…”
…trust You, right? And what if I’m not?
There was no response. He didn’t expect one.
It’ll be bigger than last time, won’t it? I mean it’s easy enough to have enough faith for the things You have done before. Next time You are going to do something a whole lot bigger, aren’t You? Last time You let me get into the water slowly, but now You want me over my head—right?
“It’s up to you, Sam. How far do you want to go?”
We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Standing still and staying here isn’t an option, is it?
“Not if you want it all, Sam.”
That’s what You said last time.
“And we’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we?”
I can’t deny that, even if I wanted to. And You did warn me that I’d be lonely and scared, didn’t You?
“Yes, I did.”
And You warned me that I’d be tested.
“And how to overcome, if you want to.”
But I have to want to, right? Just like I have to want to take the next step. Which is what exactly?
“Which is to be willing to respond when I take My next step—even when you don’t know what it’ll be.”
I’ll try not to best guess what that might be. But You can’t blame a guy for wanting to know.
“What? And spoil the surprise?”
Why does that thought make me feel uneasy? It shouldn’t, should it?
“Relax, Sam. Just relax and enjoy the ride.”
That’s easy for You to say; You are…