There is a flip side to the whisper in the dark. There seems to be an opponent, a force of good that counter-balances evil. Are we pawns in some spiritual chess match? I don’t think so. Despite the paradox of an omniscient divinity who knows all that will happen, there is clear evidence of free will. The pawns can march cross the black and white squares without the pressure of the players’ hands.
The book of Job begins with Satan arguing that the Lord’s servant is good only because he has it good. The Lord permits the testing of Job’s faith (twice) and the reader is carried along to watch how the businessman of Uz handles the outrageous pain he receives.
Job loses his property, his business, and his children. His wife and friends accuse him of some great sin. He proclaims that he has done no great sin, at least not in his adult life, to warrant such treatment. He is an honest businessman, and carefully follows the spiritual laws of his faith. He worships the Lord without reservation. He prays for his children regularly, just in case. He is a man "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil."
He stands between two forces, the Lord and Satan, and tries to understand why he is where he is. He cannot see the hands of Satan in his life, but he is deeply hurt by them. He wonders, is this the Lord’s doing? For what reason? That is Job’s plaintive cry: “why?!”
I have seen some creepy things now and then that make me wonder about what is slithering in the shadows. But there are also flashes of light as well.
December 18, 1992
Willy has been dead for three days. His funeral is tomorrow. The child I had dreamt of, the child who was entrusted to me, the child who was IN MY CARE, died with a whimper and a sigh. There is a terrible scream pulsing out of my chest that makes it hard to comfort my wife. My heart seems to be some sharp jagged thing that continually slices at me from within.
We haven’t hardly slept since it happened. We walk woodenly through our days, accepting the cards, flowers, and phone calls, with eyes that are red and alternating between a watery film that makes it hard to see and a dryness that makes the eyelids scratch.
We can’t keep going on like this. If we continue without sleep much longer we will become very ill. After exacting a promise from my wife that she would not abuse it we go to Kaiser Permanente to get something that will let us sleep.
It is a 30 minute drive to the medical center, where we stand like zombies for 20 minutes before someone notices us, and gets us what we need. We walk like marionettes to the car and head home.
It is a dreadful night. There is a storm pounding the roads. The wipers are on full speed and still I can only catch a flash of the road with its blinking white line as I thread the weaving highway above the river toward home. I’m only going 45, but occasionally I can feel the car hydroplane. I’m gripping the wheel hard enough to make my hands cramp.
“Look out!. . .” Brenda starts to say.
I saw it also. For a moment there was someone in the road ahead of us. But then he was gone.
“I saw it too,” I tell her. "There was someone there, wasn’t there?!”
She looks at me unsurely. She is doubting what she saw.
I’m glancing over at her every few seconds to gauge how she is doing when it happens again. I see her eyes widen for a moment and I jerk my attention forward.
In the brief moments when the wipers have cleared away the sheet of water sliding over the windshield I see someone running along the road ahead of us. He is perhaps 20 feet ahead of the car, running along the fog line between us and the guard rail, racing along the river on our right. His arms are pumping up and down with powerful ease. His feet are flashing down through my headlights into the splashing rain.
I glance at my speedometer. It is hovering about one third of the way between the softly glowing numbers of 40 and 50.
I look up again. There is no one in sight.
I reach over and take Brenda’s hand. I know we are going to be all right.
I’m with a couple of friends and we are at brother Michael’s house. It is a tiny little house divided in two. The left side is a wedding dress shop. Brother Michael lives in the right half. His front room is filled with vegetables and stale bread he has gleaned from grocery stores to feed the poor, and gospel tracts. He drives an old beat up Datsun pick up truck and sleeps on a fold up cot in the kitchen. Years later I learn that he was once a very wealthy man who gave away all his possessions to the needy. Now his eyes twinkle through his cataracts at the teens who want to distribute his pamphlets.
He is giving us SO MUCH STUFF! Handfuls of those old Jack Chick comic book tracts, Campus Crusade’s “The Four Spiritual Laws,” and such. I had a box filled with little red booklets. They are two by two and a half inches:
My friend Jeff’s car is parked across the street. I run out to it. I'm emerging between the parked cars and a car is heading toward me at about 30 mph, perhaps ten feet away. No time to race ahead, or to turn back. I'm about to be hit.
I feel hands on my shoulders. Big hands. The fingers stretch down my chest like they are the size of bananas. I can feel the large thumbs touching each other below my shoulder blades. And I'm flying back in the air, the way I had just come.
I land with a thud on the sidewalk, the car sweeps past, making.
I look around. There is no one. No one anywhere. My legs stretch across the sidewalk, pointing toward the street. I'm still clutching the box of pamphlets.
I stand up, unhurt, and walk slowly back into the house.
11:30 p.m., July 31, 2005
I’m standing on the bumper of a pickup truck that is swerving down the street. My house, my wife, are receding at 40 mph. The truck squeals down a side street, and somehow my feet stay on the bumper, my hands on the tailgate, almost as if I am being steadied.
The truck slows. I jump off. The strange ride ends.
I know it was dangerous. (And I know that what I did was stupid.) But there was something about it that made me feel safe. Somehow I knew I wasn’t going to be really hurt.
I was surprised, certainly. I was a little embarrassed (I was standing there, alone on that street in my boxer shorts). But I felt that I was safe.
The entire series of events that night had the feeling that there was some sort of force field about us, like something from Forbidden Planet. The monster was not going to get through the shielding.
True, there is no evidence, even of my own senses, that indicated anything paranormal, supernatural, or spiritual, but the sense of calm was almost palpable.
The Lord does not coerce us to follow him. But he forbids His opponent to coerce us as well. He places restrictions on Satan.
“The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’"
There are unseen things around us. There are temptations that come to us as if in a whisper, and there are fears that spring at us from the shadows. We can keep those fears away with a strong rebuke in His name. But sometimes something else steps between us and danger and says “but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
The latest theories about how our universe is put together describe a reality that contains more than the four dimensions that we experience. They are unsure how many (eleven? more?). Perhaps there are spiritual laws that are truly physical laws in realms we cannot discern.
Whatever the truth may be, I believe that there are forces of good at work. Forces that lend a steady hand, that sing louder than the whispers in the the dark.