David M Peterson
For many years now I have been holding close to my heart the many miracles I have witnessed in my life. For reasons known only to myself, I will not dwell on the aspects of my Salvation and Walk with the Lord. Suffice it to say, it has been a lifetime of belief in God and a slow, sometimes unsteady climb to the loving arms of my Savior Jesus Christ.
The purpose of this article and perhaps many to come is to document the miracles I have personally witnessed in my life. When one is chosen by God for salvation, (please don’t think I am boasting) the work of God in preparing the way for belief can, as in my life, begin much earlier than the actual work of regeneration of the heart. This work I may write about at a later time. As to the miracles I speak of, the first I write of (the first miracle put down on paper is not the first in my life. I choose this miracle only because I have spoken of it before) is as follows.
Who is in charge?
During the latter part of my life of homelessness (another story indeed) I found the sovereign will of my God is not to be ignored. We may think we know best and may go about our business with pride and arrogance, and then, suddenly find ourselves falling flat on our faces simply because we wouldn’t listen to our God when he speaks to us. This is how, one summer evening while hitch-hiking from the west coast all the way to the east coast (actually that took over 6 months, we’re talking about 1 summer evening) I heard the voice of God, and thinking I knew better, ignored Him.
Like many know who have been homeless and hitch-hiking, some of the best accommodations available to spend a quiet night are found up on the ledge under a highway overpass. Many times I have slept up there, alone with the small creepy crawlies and the occasional snake or lizard. I would climb to the ledge and brush away the best I could any dirt or other loose material that may create a discomfort. Then I would lay out a small tarp to have a clean layer of material between me and any gross leavings of the previous tenant. Upon the tarp, I would unroll my sleeping bag and settle in for the night. Although many times, traffic below me would be heavy and noisy, seldom does any driver bother to look up from their driving and observe the goings on above them. At the break of dawn, I would pack everything away into my duffel bag and resume my journey, with my thumb pointing in the direction I wished to go.
So this one evening as I was riding with a kind gentleman who had picked me up several hours earlier, I heard the call of my God. I knew a town about an hour outside of Detroit, MI was approaching and because of the lateness of the hour, I would be spending the night in my usual manner. Now as we were about ten minutes away from this small town, I saw approaching, an overpass, and looking up I saw there the perfect place to make my bed. I heard my God telling me this is where I should stop for the night. I knew quite clearly this is where my Lord wished me to be, but I thought I knew better. You see, this overpass was out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but brush and weeds for miles around. I was looking forward to a place where I could find food and drink to pass the early hours of the night. My thoughts were of satisfying the flesh with little care for the spirit which my Lord God knew was of far more importance. So instead of listening, I asked to be dropped off at this small bedroom community. Thus, my 12 hours of hell began.
Upon stepping out of the car and thanking my friend for the ride, I surveyed my new surroundings. The first thing I noted was a small convenience store to my left, which in my mind convinced me I had made the right choice by continuing on to this little piece of paradise. Down the road about half a mile, I saw an open field and a small building in the center of it and to the left of that (perhaps it was to the right, I can’t really remember) I saw an area where a housing development was being prepared with large sewer pipes laid out on the ground. Everything seemed perfect except it had started to lightly rain.
A little rain never hurt anyone right? Not a problem I thought as the small building in the middle of that field up ahead would provide enough shelter to keep me dry. So I headed in that direction. Now, I had with me a duffle bag containing all my worldly possessions including a small tent and my sleeping bag. This weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 pounds which meant I couldn’t walk very fast at all carrying that bag on my back. So off I started. I was about to learn my first lesson, God is sovereign and controls the weather.
I covered the first half of that half mile with little problem and was feeling pretty good about myself. Then the rain started coming down a little harder. A little harder and a little wetter, yea, but I could still get to the shelter before I got too wet I thought. My determination increased and so did my pace. As I looked up, I could see I was getting closer but I also notice the rain had started coming down even harder, I was starting to get wet and I didn’t like it one little bit. I was getting angry but again my determination drove me even harder. I was getting closer and closer with just a few yards yet to cover when my anger got the best of me. Soaking wet I looked up into the sky and yelling at God, I said “ Is This The Best You Can Do?” That’s when it happened. The heavens opened up and the rain came down in such volume that I was dumbfounded and at a loss to explain what had just happened. Being wet was no longer an issue. I was soaked and confused by what I had just witnessed but the most powerful part of this act of God was still a few seconds and a few feet away. Running with a wet duffle bag on my back trying to reach the safety of the overhang of the building was my only goal at that moment. I was in the midst of something that I had never experienced before and I wanted only to get out of that Biblical downpour. Then it happened, I reached the overhang, I crossed from the storm to the safety of the building and at that very moment, exactly when I reached my goal, the rain stopped. Flat-out stopped as if the spicate had been turned off. Amazing was the only thought I could muster at that point in time. Amazing!
I had been truly humbled by God,. I had been put in my place by the sovereign will of the All Mighty Creator of the Universe, and I stood trembling, leaning against the building and looking out upon the wet earth with a renewed sense of awe. Slowly, gathering my wits about me I opened my duffel bag and dug out some dry clothes. Not caring at that moment who saw me. I removed the wet clothes and put on the dry ones. Knowing I would spend a lifetime contemplating this meeting of the Most High, my thoughts turned to shelter for the evening.
If my witness to the power and majesty of my creator had been the end of my ordeal that night, I would have felt honored for being chosen as the vessel through which His power was to be displayed. But it would be an honor I had not yet deserved. When we are disobedient to our God, there are consequences which always follow. I had been shown the power of God and my place in the universe (wretched man that I am) but I had yet to pay for the disobedience when God told me to stop at the first overpass. May God’s Will Be Done! My ordeal had just begun.
As the sun had set and darkness was but a few minutes away, I put my duffel bag on my back and proceeded to walk back to the highway where the overpass is. My thoughts were to settle in and spend the night in wonderment at what had just occurred. However, upon arrival at the overpass, my heart sank as I saw the configuration of the underside. This was a fairly new overpass where the slope of the side goes all the way to the roof. There was no shelf upon which I could spend the night. Well I thought, it’s time for plan B. Back to the small building in the middle of the field and to the large cement sewer pipes, I had seen earlier. I’d never thought of using something like this for shelter, but I feared another rainstorm during the night and wanted some sort of roof over my head. So I tried one on for size.
Climbing inside a cement pipe that is barely wider than your shoulders is not an easy task. Once inside, the closeness of the top and sides gives one the feeling of being buried alive. Although I’ve never suffered from claustrophobia, in this instance I had a very bad case of it. I lay there for several minutes trying to calm myself and perhaps become accustomed to this new experience. I also tried to direct my thoughts to the other reason for this choice. Being in a new place and being homeless isn’t a combination that sets well with the local population. You are not wanted and not trusted, so the best thing to do is make yourself invisible while there. This cement sewer pipe helped in that regard. No one would know I was here and early in the morning I would be on my way and out of the local’s lives. Oh, I so wish it had worked. But the Lord had other plans and a lesson He was teaching me. After about 10 minutes of laying there, I had had enough and out I came. Now that wasn’t going to work, so what is plan C?
Darkness had fallen and the heat and humidity were making me uncomfortable. As I walked up and down the main street trying to come up with a plan of action I notice the mosquitoes were becoming bothersome. They would soon become my worst enemy. Why didn’t I listen to that still small voice that told me earlier to stop before I got to this place? Because I thought I knew better and I knew what I wanted. I didn’t want to spend the night without food and something to drink, although I did have crackers and water in my duffel bag. So there I was, walking the streets with a 75-pound weight on my back, not knowing what to do next. As I came to the end of this street, I saw on one side, a row of nice houses and on the other side of the street, a high grass-covered berm. Running out of options I decided to climb to the top and pitch my tent. This was going from the frying pan into the fire so to speak!
As soon as I started climbing, the mosquitoes engulfed me in a thick cloud of insects, attacking me with their high-pitched buzz. I could hardly breathe but as before, my determination knew no bounds. I was going to get to the top no matter what, and no bug is going to stop me. I should have rethought that immediately but I continued. Upon reaching the top I threw my duffle bag on the ground and desperately grabbed for my tent. I thought if I could erect my tent and climb inside I would be safe from the blood-sucking insects attacking me. Just then I see a light sweeping the top of the berm. Someone in one of the houses across the street had evidently called the police. I had now become completely overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control. I stood up, stuffed my tent back inside of my duffle bag, and walked down the berm to the waiting police. I had now come face to face with my own failings and in my mind probably going to jail. Here again, is a time to pause and reflect on why I didn’t listen to my loving God, who would have taken care of me? No, I had to do it my way, and as always, my way is utter failure.
Upon reaching the bottom of the berm and standing before the policeman who was now seemly in charge of my fate, I was in no shape mentally or physically to resist. I think in a way he felt sorry for me, seeing me in such a state of disarray, but he didn’t show it. Instead, he asked me what I was doing in his town and where I was from. I tried to explain that I was just passing through and my only desire was to find a place to sleep for the night. This officer of the law saw me as an intruder into his small community and wanted me gone. He said I can go back to the on-ramp of the highway and If I ever stepped foot in his town again he would arrest me, and from his tone, I could think of other unmentionables that may befall me if I should ever darken his streets again. It would be a long night with no sleep, and a constant battle against the mosquitoes.
Now, all I have to look forward to is the darkened, deserted on-ramp of the Michigan Turnpike and the constant company of blood-sucking insects. I dug into my duffel bag and brought out several t-shirts which I used to wrap my exposed skin including my face in order to protect myself from being sucked dry. Off in the distance, I could see the tree line of a hillside. I considered trying to reach it and there set up my tent. But in the darkness, I couldn’t know where I was walking and so thought better of it. I finally think better of something! If I’d only listened to my Lord, but I didn’t.
I have no idea what time I got to the on-ramp, I didn’t have a watch or any other way of knowing the time. But it was a terribly long night, pacing up and down that piece of asphalt. Time to do nothing but think of the way I’d ordered my life. The constant failures which were a life long companion. I did a lot of praying that night asking for forgiveness and asking for an end to my suffering. But God is just and His will is always done. I think of the price I paid for my disobedience on that night and then think of the price my Lord and Savior paid on the cross for my sins. There is no comparison and yet my suffering was what my mind dwelled on. My discomfort is all I could think about, as I was on the verge of tears because of it. I pray my God forgives me for such selfishness. Lessons we learn from the Lord are at times hard, but we must always remember what our Lord did for us.
Morning finally came and the lightness grew upon the sky. Just knowing the night was ending and a new day dawned gave me hope. Now with this new day comes the first car along that road. Weary and beaten, my face covered like a mummy with a t-shirt, I stick out my thumb praying for a ride. My prayer is answered as the car comes to a stop and the driver asks if I need a ride. He’s going as far as Detroit and I praise God for this man. My ordeal had come to an end, I am truly blessed and am finally worthy to honor my God for the great things He has done.
My life had changed forever that night because of the great and wondrous things I had seen. My life changed also because my God loved me enough to chastise me for my behavior. I am today a person who is devoted to My God and my Savior Jesus Christ, not because of anything I have heard or read, but because I met the great God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on my journey to Maine. I praise God and thank God every day for the life that I have. Amen.