Hiking with an Evangelical Miracle
Posted September 11, 2011on:
I meet her, unprepared. I have sandals and no water bottle. I plan on a quiet stroll on a pretty trail. I don’t know her. Like magnets attracting each other on a narrowing path, we merge and talk about the weather, the Dalai Lama, China vs. India., my faith, and then, Jesus Christ.
Let’s call her Tammy. She has bright hazel eyes and a high pitch voice. I peg her in her 60s. ”I take the energetic route,” she swings her black walking poles and raises her white sneakers one after another over the rugged, rocky terrain. I follow her because I’m curious as to where the conversation and the hike is going. Part of me think, oh no, I’ve finally met one of those Christians in Colorado.
I hope she doesn’t try to recruit me… I’ve spent my life fighting dogma.
With red hair peeping from under her cap, Tammy stops to sip from her water pack and draws in the dirt with the tip of her pole to illustrate stories from Jesus’s teaching.
“Before a woman was stoned, Jesus asked everyone who has picked up a stone to reflect on himself. Have you done similar things like this woman? If so, put down the stone.” I like that. I wondered why this world is full of people who claim to do right for others without reflecting much about themselves.
I’m no perfection and I scrutinize my motives often. Whew. Tammy’s rendition of Jesus’ principles reminds me of what the Buddhists say about mindfulness, compassion, and acceptance.
“I was at a terrible, terrible place before I was saved.” Tammy announces as we wind around a pine tree. I wonder what abyss she refers to. Then she stops and turns to me, “By the way, your body is losing a lot of fluid at this high altitude. You need to be drinking every 15 minutes. As a good Christian I should share my water with you.” She gazes at my empty hands. “But I don’t think you want my germs.”
“Thanks. That’s ok.” She is correct. I don’t want her germs. I take in the wispy clouds in the azure sky, the sandy and green slope painted next to it. ”You know, I am going to turn around. I am getting woozy.”
“I’ll go down with you. I have a doctor’s appointment soon.”
Good. I want to know what traumas and healing she experienced. What makes her a believer in the Almighty? She mentions that she hasn’t found what she’s found in Evangelical Christianity in any other religion. She has gone through Catholicism, New Age, Witchcraft, and Fundamentalism. She’s read about Buddhism, Judaism, and Hinduism. She like the paternal “Our Father” because she didn’t have a father figure growing up.
“I had mental illness. I was catatonic. I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t even talk. The doctors said there was nothing else they could do for me. My husband left me. My kids gave up -I told them I wanted to die.” Tammy wells up next to the head of descending stone steps. The light on her face crunches as she squeezes her brows and eyes together.
“How long ago was this?” My heart races.
“Like, seven months ago?”
“Yes.” She sniffles and goes back to smiling.
“What made you better?” I am stunned. She seems healthy and joyful. Seven months ago she was going to and wanted to die?
“My friends were praying for me. One of them invited me to her place in Kansas, and she took me to mass everyday.” Tammy pauses and looks at me again. ”In church, I felt judged. I was still in the wheelchair. I thought about my pride and how that had to be broken.” She reveals she was one of those preachy holier-than-thou kind of people. “I kept praying. Eventually I felt accepted and loved by God.”
My face cracks open in awe. ” Thank you for sharing such a story. I am so honored to hear it. And I’m happy for you. You have such life in you now!” I feel her light rubbing off on me. I grin from cheek to cheek.
Tammy offers me a ride to my car. I decline. I want to process what has unfolded in front of me: a very personal, healing miracle. It gives me faith in my work, my calling.
Any healing is possible. Any way of healing is possible. I used to think healing childhood traumas is the key to wellness and peace. Now I see more ways -this time it’s the Divine Grace.
Three weeks later, I am still mulling over the bigger message of this encounter. Because, after meeting Tammy, I will meet a minister and a pastor in the usual unplanned ways.