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Light in Strange Places

Light's in Strange Places

By Mike DeSena Pastor, the Morgan Church

Introduction to Robert Hunter’s Genius

Robert Hunter was a genius. His brilliance was often obscured by Jerry Garcia’s brilliance, but he was in his own right (write?), a brilliant lyricist who said things in code and in token rhyme and rhythm. Although he was notoriously silent on most things, especially his lyrics; I’m pretty sure he and I don’t share the same worldview. But one can be a genius without being a Christian, of course, and he was a genius.

A Christian Perspective

 I am a Christian. I don’t know what he was. I was going to say “I don’t care”, but I do care. I care about people’s souls and their eternal destinies. I guess I should just say “man…that cat could write”. I am pretty sure I have a book in me based on fragments of his lyrics.

Light in the Strangest of Places

“Once in a while you might get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right,” he wrote in Scarlet Begonias. It is certainly true in my life. I’ve told numerous stories through the years of how “God spoke” His truth to me (and others) in ways that were surprising and interesting and ordinary and spectacular.

An Unexpected Encounter

I was a young airman, serving in the USAF and stationed in Crete, Greece. I was hanging out with my buddies, drinking beer and having a few laughs before we went out for the night. We stopped in Terry’s room for a few minutes and sat down. I didn’t know Terry that well. He was a nice guy, but he wasn’t a Christian. I know he wasn’t a Christian, because I didn’t like Christians and if I knew someone was one, I would have a conversation with them and provoke them to an argument. But there was nothing about Terry that would indicate he was a Christian, and the 12 pack under his arm assured me that, even if he was one, he wasn’t taking things too seriously.

The Book That Changed Everything

So, I was disarmed, I guess. I wasn’t ready to be bombarded with truth, but I was ready to see some light in a strange place.

“What’s that book?” I asked him. “Oh…I don’t know. Someone gave it to me. It’s just sitting there. Do you want it?” he responded. “Yeah,” I said before I had a chance to cover my eyes and avoid the light in the strange place. It was a book I had heard about. Some Christian, somewhere, at some time, tried to get me to read it. I laughed at them then. I wouldn’t take a book from some goofy Christian. But Terry was different. He wasn’t a Christian. He was a drinking buddy. He didn’t believe. He didn’t have religion as a crutch, he had that twelve-pack instead.

A Journey Begins

So, I took the book. I read it, too.

Somehow, that dumb little Christian book convinced me God was real. I had rejected the idea that God was real sometime in my teens. I wanted to live life the way I wanted to, and the only way to do that was to ignore the reality of God. I don’t know what it was about that book—I can’t even remember what book it was. But it started my journey to God.

From Belief to Following

 It took a couple of years. Because believing in God and following Jesus are two very different things. I had to go through a tough breakup and have an existential crisis walking down a road along the beach. I was listening to the waves lap up on the beach and looking up at the stars. I felt so tiny…so insignificant…like a dot on a fat lady’s dress. Meaningless and alone in the midst of a million other dots and stars. I began to think about the decisions I made in life and how foolish and uninformed those decisions were. I couldn’t see what was coming around the corner, never mind down the road. Now, those decisions weren’t all bad. I got lucky and got an assignment to Crete, after all. But it was all “happenstance” and rolling dice. As a matter of fact, I joined the USAF by going to see the recruiter on a whim to get out of high school for the day. What in the world was I thinking? I didn’t know, but God knew.

Seeing the Light

 That night the strange place I saw the Light (not just some light-but the Light) was a beach road, by myself, staring at stars, listening to waves, and wondering what in the world became of me.

A Prayer and a Commitment

I knew I had made a mess of me and I needed something bigger than me to fix it. I prayed the only prayer I could pray…it was the most honest sinner’s prayer I ever heard before or since. “God, if You are real, fix me and I will follow You.

He did and I have.

The author is the pastor of The Morgan Church in Morgan, VT, and a contributor to MyFaithNews.