What a strange experience that was, watching the streets pass by as we headed East out of San Diego and - as usual, my mind was racing, first this thought, than another. For certain, I was not at peace.
I fell asleep and dawn was breaking as we neared Phoenix. What a sight. The desert flowers seemed to be reaching up to catch the first glimpse of the sun and I settled back, at peace, for the first time in a long time. I haf breakfast and I found myself up to old tricks, catching the eye of a pretty lady sitting across from me and I tried to start a conversation. All of a sudden, I had to excuse myself and go to the bathroom. When I returned, she was gone.
We headed North out of Phoenix, towards Flagstaff and as I was watching the desert pass by, I decided to read my Bible. Where to start? For years, it seemed, I had tried to read the Bible, starting on the first page and by the time I got to chapter 5 and the descendants of Adam, I would lose interest wondering why any of that was important. That day, I decided to try something new, I would start where Jesus started and to me, that day, it seemed like Matthew 4:17 was that place. "From that time Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'."
Repent! Repent? What did that mean? I had been going to "church" for most of my life and I could not recall ever hearing anyone preach on that subject. I looked out of the bus window and repeated my question, as if there was anyone to answer me. I closed my eyes and began to think about my life. I wasn't long before I started thinking about my Mother; we had never had a good relationship that I could recall and I had to wonder, why? And I recalled overhearing the arguments she had had with my grandfather, concerning the cost of my care. I loved them both, but I could not understand why they were saying the things I overheard and it hurt, as somehow, I thought I was to blame for coming between them. And then I recalled conversations between my grand parents about how she shouldn't have married that "older" man. I would later learn that actually, my father was older than my grandfather. As a youngster, I had often wondered why it was that my friends all had families and all I had was my grandparents. I began to realize that I had become bitter and many of the problems I had with my Mother had to do with the belief, she had abandoned me.
Somehow, I now realized I had been wrong - about a lot of things, and there was a reason why I should repent. I needed someone to comfort me as the tears began to flow. "Oh God, I am so sorry," again and again, and then I looked out of the bus window. It was now dark, and raining, and in the distance, I could see the lightning flashes against the mountains in the distance. I suddenly realized what else I was seeing. As the bus raced on, the wind it created seemed to "roll up" the road dirt on the window and clean it. I was amazed by this. And I began to wonder, was this what God was doing to me? Was He "washing" me? And as I reflected on my life, I realized I had heard that term before and now the tears became more than a few drops here and there, they were like a torrent, flooding my face. I realized I was shaking. I looked around, did anyone notice what was happening? It looked like everyone else was asleep. I began to thank God. My "dirt" was gone. It was a new day a-dawning. Now, the sun was out and we were stopping for breakfast.
I walked into the restaurant and was greeted by a waitress, "My, what a beautiful smile!" and for a minute I was confused as to why she said that. I looked at her and stammered, "I think I have just been "born again"!" "Well, sit right down, my brother, and let me get your breakfast ready." Away she went and when she returned, she had a breakfast ready with everything on my plate that I would have ordered. I started in and began to wonder, can I pay for this? I knew I really did not have much money on me, but as I asked, she was quick to respond, "Oh no, your breakfast is on me. Your smile made my day." Some of my fellow passengers began to laugh at the exchange. One offered as I was standing in line to get back on the bus, "Go ahead. You're my brother as well."
What had happened I wondered, as I took my seat. I opened my Bible and began reading where I had left off and continued all the way into Tulsa. I have no idea as what I was reading but I knew that I knew, I was doing what I should have been doing, years ago!
When I got off the bus, I hurried to a pay phone and called the school, asking for the President's office. The secretary was quick to remind me that this was graduation day, he would be delivering the Commencement address and then, he and his wife were leaving on vacation. She wondered if perhaps, I needed a appointment after he returned. "No thanks," I stammered, "I think I have just met his boss." As I hung up, I wondered if perhaps, I had lost my mind.