Years ago, I remember hearing a line from a random movie or television show or something. I don’t even remember the film or the show or even the exact quote, but I can remember the basic gist of it: “With all you’ve been through, how can you still believe in God?”
But here’s how I see it: With all I’ve been through, how can I not believe in God?
I’m the first to admit, I’m not a fall-to-my-knees, hands-to-the-heavens Christian. I make it to church once or twice a month, and I honestly can’t tell you if I’ve opened my personal Bible since I’ve been home from prison. Granted, while in prison, I successfully read the Bible cover-to-cover, but since I’ve been home, I guess the “fire” just hasn’t been there.
I haven’t “turned my back on God” or anything like that. I suppose it just hasn’t been a priority. And that really is too bad because many of the happiest (and most stable) times of my life were when I was more active in church and passionate about my faith – the “Opiate for the Masses,” as Marx said. But regardless, the priority of religion in my life has essentially been pretty low on the totem pole.
I’m not mad at God. I’m not falling away from God. I’m not rejecting God. I guess, in my life, God has become that buddy who I text every once in a while just to say ‘Hi’ and check-in from time to time.
I don’t pray as much as I used to. My line of communication with God hasn’t been very active. I don’t ask him for much other than the blessing of the evening meal. I used to talk to God, a lot. I’d drive in my car and have a one-sided conversation with God, airing my grievances and frustrations, asking for guidance or forgiveness or hope or strength, or just plain sanity. But now, we’ve become just two more people, passing one another on the sidewalk or in a hallway. It leaves a void.
And yet, He’s still there. And yesterday, he reminded me.
Yesterday I was having a typical rough day, battling with my regular “inner-demons” (as Tin Cup liked to describe them), just trying to make it through the day. And on top of my own personal struggles, it was also a busy day; took my daughter to piano lessons, took my wife to go tanning, took both girls to a baseball game – just nonstop stuff to do. And I was growing frustrated with myself and my seemingly endless inability to relax and be happy because I was in a pretty negative head-space (most of which was based on the fact that there are still things from the past that I still can’t seem to let go). So, in the midst of the errands – the driving from here to there, dropping off and picking up, God saw fit to put His hand on my shoulder, just for a moment.
I have an awesome car stereo, a birthday present from my family last year. It lights up different colors and can bluetooth to Pandora or iHeartRadio (via my iPhone) and all kinds of stuff. But it can be a bit sensitive too. My iPhone plugs directly into it, so I typically plug it in to charge, and when the phone plugs in, the car stereo immediately switches to “iPhone Mode” and I have to switch it back to the radio or CD player or whatever. But the cord I use in my car probably needs to be replaced, because if I jiggle the phone end just right, it switches to “iPhone Mode” again, and sometimes, Pandora will pop on as well. I just never know.
Yesterday, I was driving and listening a CD I burned of Ringo Starr’s solo music, pretty much flipping back-and-forth between “Photograph” and “It Don’t Come Easy,” since I’ll be seeing him in concert soon. And as I had stereo cranked up, alone in the car between dropping off my daughter and picking up my wife, my iPhone kept switching my stereo to Pandora. Annoyed, I repeatedly reached down to my stereo and changed the setting from “iPhone” to “CD” to return to my music. But at one point, after picking up a Wendy’s hamburger and eating it as quickly as possible (since I didn’t have time to just stop and eat), the stereo switched again, and this time, I didn’t have a free hand to change it, gripping the steering wheel in one hand and my Wendy’s Classic Single Cheeseburger in the other. So, annoyed again, I just let the song play. I’d had such a rough day, such a long day, such a trying and tiring day; I just simply admitted defeat to the glitches of my stereo.
A low, rhythmic, and melancholy piano riff began, and the first words of the song immediately grasped my attention and held me, captive to the words, unable to turn from something so pleasant, like in Stranger Than Fiction when Harold Crick was “forced” to eat chocolate chip cookies and loved them. “You’ll be okay,” the song sang. “You’ll be okay.” I took perhaps the deepest breath of my life. Here I was, sitting in rush hour traffic, between errands, eating my impromptu dinner while driving, feeling the weight of the world and my inner demons, and somehow my iPhone switched my stereo to Pandora, and the first words of this song – a song I’ve never heard before – says, “You’ll be okay.” And after the day I’d had, the lyrics go on to say, “The sun will rise to better days.” And as the song got going, I found myself stopped at an unusually long red light, and it afforded me the opportunity to simply listen to the words: “Let it go. Fly away. And say goodbye to yesterday.” Wow, I thought to myself. “Cause you’re never alone, and I will always be there. You just carry on. You will understand.”
Not to get all supernatural, but I knew what this was. This wasn’t just some weird coincidence. And it reminded me of the coolest thing about God: He’s always there when we’re ready to stroll back through His door, like the Prodigal Son, returning home. And yesterday, I suppose I just needed to know that, and He knew I needed to know that, and He reminded me. That’s the great thing about God. We can stray a hundred times, and He’s willing to give us a hundred and one chances, and then some. And in those times when life seems unbearable and impossible, He reminds us that bad times don’t last. “And change will come,” the song sang through my car stereo, “It’s on its way. Just close your eyes and let it rain.”
Unfortunately, Pandora doesn’t allow you to start a song over. So the next time I stopped, I logged onto iTunes from my iPhone and bought the song: “You’ll Be Okay” by A Great Big World. And I can’t seem to listen to it enough. What a great song. And I know I didn’t simply stumble across this song by happenstance.
I didn’t feel like this was God’s forceful way of demanding that I pay attention to him or turn from my heathenish sinful ways or anything like that. I just felt like it was a subtle moment of comfort in an atypically difficult moment, when He simply wanted to say, “You’ll be okay,” and remind me He’s there. And if He’s willing to comfort me and remain with me, then He’s willing to stand by anyone.
That’s the cool thing about God. He doesn’t hold grudges or see the worst in you; He sees what can be, what will be, and what should be, and then He extends His hand and offers to help you get there.
So even when it seems like the entire world is coming apart at the seams and our own personal universe feels like it’s ready to implode in a massive collapse of stress, anxiety, pressure, and failure; always remember one thing: God is always there.
“You’ll be okay.”