by: Patricia Brandt
OREGON OR BUST!
A neighbor let me borrow his Volkswagen microbus to motor up the California coast. Those old hippie-mobiles were the way to travel back in the 1970s. At 21, 1 was a flower child, single, with a brand-new baby girl. Life was going to be one big adventure.
Growing up I’d taken things way too seriously. Especially my faith. I believed with all my heart . It was as natural to me as breathing. One day when my teenage problems threatened to overwhelm me, I asked God to hold me in his hands. It worked somehow. I’ll never forget how clear and calm I felt. I almost thought I heard God say, “I will always be here with you.”
But a lot was happening out in the real world.
The Bay of Pigs. President Kennedy’s assassination.
The turmoil of the civil rights movement. Drugs. Viet-Nam. The protests. It seemed there was nowhere to turn for solace. Everything came to a head in 1966, when the cover of TIME magazine asked, “Is God Dead? The consensus seemed to be that either God was dead or he’d never existed in the first place. I was on my own now, and I wanted to know the freedom people my age were talking about. Freedom from the tired rules of the older generation, freedom from religion and self-deception and work that was meaningless. Life was supposed to be a great adventure, not a chore.
I left home and threw myself into the ways of the new generation. My daughter, Rain Ivana, was born in 1971. I named her Rain because I hoped she would help me grow She was really all I had to depend on. And she depended on me. Now Rain was four months old, about to go on her first big trip. I stuck a Baby On Board sign on the back of the VW and wedged an old padded playpen between the front and back seats. Rain cooed at her toys and slept, and I drove four hours straight, to our first stop, Santa Barbara, a quaint seaside town with avocado groves stretching up to the hills. We got out at the historic Santa Barbara Mission. “We’ll visit here for a while,” I told Rain, “then set up camp on the beach.”
I carried Rain through the beautiful rose garden and walked into the chapel. It was quiet, empty but for us. Candles burned, the hopes and prayers for loved ones. I moved into a narrow pew, Rain in my arms. On one wall was a painting of the Virgin Mary. The other showed a portrait of the Crucifixion. A cross hung on the wall behind the altar. God are you here? I reached to pull down the kneeler in front of me—then stopped myself. “God isn’t here,” I told myself . “He’s a myth.” Rain and I were just tourists. Like everyone else who came here to see art, architecture and history. But why did I remember so well how it felt to be held in his hands? Didn’t I want Rain to know that kind of love? In all my free-spirit living I’d yet to experience anything so fulfilling. “Let’s go get set up for the night,” I told Rain. “We have a lot to think about.”
I’d seen cars parked right on the beach. Fresh salt air and the sound of the surf would be the perfect lullaby I carried Rain back to the microbus, set her in her playpen and headed for the shore. At the beach kids played, parents barbecued, dogs chased Frisbees. I pulled the VW onto the sand and parked not too far from the water. This would be home for the night. All these fun-loving folks would be my neighbors . We’d watch the sun go down. Somebody was sure to start a campfire, and we’d gather around it to sing. Maybe this was all my baby and I needed.
Rain napped, and I read till the sun sank toward the horizon. A lot of people were packing up to go home . Other commitments, I thought. Not me . I’m free to
watch the stars come out.
I climbed into the microbus to set up the sleeping bag and lantern, then fed Rain. By the time we came out everything had changed. I looked left and right. Not a single person, not a single car. There was nobody on the beach! “I guess sometimes free can mean lonely,” I explained to Rain. We looked out at the waves. Was the tide coming in? I wondered if I should move the bus farther back, maybe even off the beach entirely. “What do you think, Rain? Should we go?” She looked at me so trustingly. Waves lapped closer and closer. With Rain safe in her playpen back in the VW, I got behind the wheel. Turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. I tried again and again. No use. The engine was dead . I got out and stood in front of the bus. Waves lapped at my heels . Push! I shoved as hard as I could. The thing wouldn’t even budge.
The beach was desolate. Not a soul in sight. I’d never make it to the road in time to flag down help. Water was already up to the tires. You have to stay calm, I told myself. For Rain. I stared out at the ocean. So big and dark, and I was totally at its mercy. Free? I wasn’t free. That was the myth. I was lost and alone and powerless.
“I was wrong, God,” I called out to the water. “When I was a teenager you promised you’d always he with me. I turned away from you. And I’m so sorry Please help us.”
Calm washed over me. The same calm I remembered from so long ago. Then I noticed something strange in the water. Two rubber pipes extended above the surface, a couple of yards apart. They moved together closer and closer to shore. Then two huge shapes rose up ami(l the waves. Divers! I ran to them. “My car won’t start. Could you give me a push?” I begged. The men towered over me, both more than six feet tall, their wet suits glistening in the setting sun. They pulled off their masks. One had long blond hair and the other had beautiful brown hair. And their eyes! Both had the brightest eyes I’d ever seen, crystal-clear and shining like sapphires. Eyes full of light and strength.
Without a word the men walked up to the microbus, one on each side. I got inside with Rain and put the van in first gear. The engine sparked to life, and with a whoosh I was up on higher ground, safe from the rising sea. I waved a thank-you out the Window. The two men walked away side by side, disappearing into the night.
“Well, we’re back on our adventure,” I told Rain. “But now we’re going to get serious about how things really are.” Someday, when she was older; I’d tell her all about this night. The night God sent his angels to prove he’d been looking after me—after us—all along. I was saved in more ways than one.
ANGELS on EARTH
39 Seminary Road,
Carmel, NY 10512
Mar/Apr 2005, (pgs. 38-42)
Church of the Science of God
La Jolla, California 92038-3131
© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993