We were swimming in the beautiful and turquoise coloured waters of Mataranka Springs, situated atop of the hot and humid Northern Territory, Australia.
That day, our 5 yr old son had finally learned how to swim and was enthusiastically able to keep up with his older siblings. We were all cooling off after days of sweltering heat.
Traveling these long and lonely roads of Australia tends to make people keen for conversation and interaction with other people.
A man watched us nearby and I could tell he was keen for a yarn. I finally leant against the pool wall and rested from the kids climbing all over me. He moved closer and took his chance,
“it’s a beautiful day!”
“Certainly is” I responded, “I wonder what the poor people are doing?”
He smiled, “Who do you work for?”
That was a difficult question for me to answer because at the time, we were traveling around Australia speaking in Churches but, primarily in Gaols and High Schools, with the subject being, the existence of God and, I always found this hard to find a light and glib answer.
So, while I’m hesitating for a simple answer, my wife Clare, blurts out,
“We work for the Boss!”
The man looked quizzically at her, then at me and then, back at her,
Clare enthusiastically said,
“The Big Boss!” while pointing skywards.
I just shook my head at her wonderful child like ability to explain something so complex with 2 simple statements.
He got the message and was taken aback initially however, Clare’s enthusiasm and smiling face removed any alarm he may’ve been experiencing.
He introduced himself, as George.
The best thing about traveling is the people you meet and share experiences with. Travelers are much more open, more trusting and, generally interested in where you’re going, where you’ve been and, what makes you tick.
Many travelers are also seeking that elusive answer to the question of meaning, in an otherwise monotonous urban existence.
George perfectly fitted that description.
As our conversation progressed, it became apparent that George was a really interesting person.
He told us that he was from Czechoslovakia, 57 years old, married with two grown up children and, a Nuclear Physicist.
He was keen to understand how we could travel with our four kids and so, we explained that we were on a tour speaking in High Schools and Gaol’s about the existence of God or, ‘the big boss’ as Clare put it.
He laughed at our description, and said,
“Well, I’m on a pilgrimage, I’m searching for peace in my heart, maybe you can help?”
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Maybe we can?”
We started talking to him about our wonderful experiences with God which, truly amazed him.
He explained, that as a Nuclear Physicist in the former Soviet ruled Czechoslovakia, that he was one of the few people who were able to travel overseas regularly and, he had visited many countries.
He was able to see the Soviet propaganda quite clearly for what it was and, he was elated when the wall began to tumble in Berlin.
He said, “When the iron curtain fell, my colleagues and I thought that all the frustration’s that we were experiencing would very quickly disappear.
We thought that many of our questions would be answered, basically by the new freedom that would come.
But after ten years, the same problems still exist and things are more complicated now.
Yes, there are more opportunities but, with more opportunities comes more questions and more decisions.
So my wife let me fly to Australia and New Zealand for six weeks to find whatever it is I need, to find some peace in my heart. I’ve been driving her mad.”
During the next three hours we talked about many personal experiences and, as we progressed in conversation, we established a trust that is uncommon among strangers.
He asked us how we survived financially and we explained that we had been doing this for 4 years and that we didn’t charge for our services and basically, trust God for our provision.
Understandably, upon hearing this remark, the definition drained from his face leaving him expressionless.
You could almost see his thoughts whirling around in his head.
‘Who were these peculiar and strange people?’ He finally asked,
“How do you know? How do you trust that God will take care of you?”
We explained to him how we had experienced this incredible love that poured from the heart of God and, that we felt it was God who placed this idea onto our hearts in the first place so, what we were doing was his idea therefore, we felt that if we did what he wanted he’d provide for us.
In a word, faith!
Well, he nearly launched himself out of the water. He shouted out loudly, and his emotional outburst caught the attention of the other people in the pool.
“No No No! You don’t….er, you can’t say that! You don’t understand…….With my education and training, I majored in statistics, I can’t accept that answer. There is no logic. Faith is an illogical concept! it’s an illogical concept!!!”
We were surprised at his outburst because up until this time, attitudes were pretty light. The conversation was deep, complex and respectful even though we both understood we were coming from opposite ends of the spectrum.
And, it wasn’t that he was being disrespectful to us either but, it was like we’d hit a raw nerve in him, to see him react in this emotional way.
Then, he looked me straight in the eye and through clenched teeth said,
“But you know if I was to tell you the truth, my life is ruled by an illogical fear!”
He seemed to need all his will power to reveal that little jewel. He went on, his words were now coming out faster and with more intensity.
“I worry all the time about every stupid little thing.
For years I have driven my wife and children mad because of my incessant worry.
You know, a couple of years ago I had a potential life threatening illness. I promised my wife and myself that if the test results proved to be negative, I would never worry again!”
“Well?” I asked.
“The results were negative! but, do you know how long that peace and exuberance lasted? Do you know how long I embraced that peace before I started to worry again?
Ten minutes! Ten lousy minutes before I started to worry all over again about something else.
It tortures me!
Even on the Coach touring through this beautiful country, all I do is worry about something here or, something at home.
That’s why my wife told me to come here, to search for peace in my heart.
The truth is that fear haunts me.
I call your faith in God illogical but, I’m too proud to admit to myself my own illogical fear!”
We were all pretty stunned by George’s honest and revealing admission and we just looked at each other blankly for a few seconds.
We invited him to share lunch with us which, he accepted. After he’s emotional admission about his worrying, his overall attitude changed. Even his physical appearance seemed to alter from this big proud man to a big puppy dog.
Because of the personal level we all shared, it felt like we crammed a couple of years of friendship into just a couple of hours.
It really was a special time.
We delved into honesty at a very deep level that only life long friends or total strangers who, know they’ll never see each other again, can experience.
When lunch was over and George had to return back to his Coach to meet up with his tour party, we asked him if we could pray for him? He gladly accepted.
It was probably a little foolhardy for him. After all, he was a calculated and careful man who had no concept of God or even prayer but, he’d learned to trust us and I think, he conceded knowledge to these less educated but maybe more informed people, on this one subject!
He was very excited and said, “Wow, nobody has ever prayed for me before”
We prayed that God would reveal his love to him and, to protect him and remove the worry and fear from his life.
We knew from our experience that God answers prayers.
We exchanged details and George promised to keep in touch. He sincerely thanked us for the intimate time we shared.
He boarded his bus and, he headed down the highway to Alice Springs.
Over the next few days we thought about George and all the things we talked about. Much more than I can fit here.
During the ensuing days while driving the long, lonely roads in the centre of Australia where, thousands of kilometers becomes measured in days and weeks, Clare and I came to the conclusion that ultimately, life is a road of fear or faith.
To some, faith in God is illogical and unintelligent. I can understand and accept why people may think like that but, I do wonder how lonely and hope-less this world would be without the knowledge and acceptance of our loving God?
I also wonder how people deal with and explain away worry and fear?
Illogical fear as George put it?
Why do these thoughts continually tease and, over time consume people?
George explained that his mind would play out every negative scenario from potential accidents, being robbed, mugged, or the unrealistic dangers that may threaten his children just to name a few.
He said to us a few times, “Fear can haunt you. It definitely haunts me”
As I understand God, life and people, the opposite of fear is love and, faith is the fruit of that love. God is the source of all love and all truth. Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth and, the light.”
Every main thing concerning life is encompassed in that one statement if of course, you accept it.
This is what I believe and, this is my experience. All of us draw our understanding and share that understanding from our experience.
Truth, like fear is a spirit and, we can be haunted by fear or blessed by truth.
I’ll remember that day in Mataranka as a special day and I’ll also remember George because, as much as we tried to help him, he helped us understand how fear can permeate and consume even, the most intelligent and educated minds.