Note from Beth: I am grateful to have Jim Lange visit as a guest storyteller and even more so for the many days God has blessed us with his life – 90 years this month! Enjoy!
A remarkable incident happened to me years ago that assured me that my God was not a God who was far off, but a God who was very near. It occurred early in my career while I taught at St. John’s Lutheran School in Glendale Long Island, New York in the late 1950’s. For a number of years Grace and I attended the Atlantic District Teachers Conference at Pocono Crest, a facility of the Atlantic District LC-MS in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The conference was held for Atlantic District school teachers in the latter part of October, and we were always delighted that we could take such a break from school teaching and participate in the Conference with fellow teachers.
In one of those years, when a Thursday afternoon session ended, there was still time before the evening meal for me to take a walk. I intended to follow a path that the main lodge displayed on a map of the area. I donned my raincoat because of the misty weather to follow a path that was pictured as going around a small lake before returning to the lodge where it began. As I walked it seemed like the lake was much further away than I had assumed it would be, but I kept walking, following the path. Darkness was beginning to settle in. I considered turning back, but I reasoned that a shorter distance would be after I reached the lake. Finally, I did get to a small lake, but it was also where this path ended. I had been on the wrong path and I was at the wrong lake! I had to return the way I had come. Time passed as I walked and I realized what a distance I had come! As I walked darkness set in, though the sky was still visible. In darkness, I could tell I was on the path because nothing obstructed my progress—until; until I came to an area where I ran into nothing but branches of the evergreen trees that bordered the path. I pushed back at the obstructing branches, but nothing gave way to reveal a path. I had badly erred and knew I was paying for it. As I continued to seek the path, I was able to make out a large rock positioned at that place, sat on it and talked to God. “O Lord, if I have to stay here till morning light, I will, but stay with me and give me courage to endure it.” As I sat, I continued in thought and prayer.
After a little while, I felt I should be doing more, so I started poking around at the place where I thought the path should continue. Behold, branches gave way and the path was before me! I was elated. Though I couldn’t see it, I could feel the path because it was paved; a misstep onto something unpaved would be easy to recognize. With a joyful heart I walked faster, and soon heard the sound of my feet crossing a footbridge over a small stream that signaled I was in the vicinity of the lodge. I did not see the footbridge, but did not even consider a misstep that might land me in the water. After my prayer, it seemed the Lord was controlling my movement and all I needed to do was to be extremely glad and thankful. I was smiling when I got back to my room and explained to Grace why I missed supper. My Lord and my God had just vividly shown me that he exists and that he responds to needs. This experience has been a constant assurance that God loves and cares for me—and for all who call upon him.
Psalm 50:15: Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.