Divine Intervention or Free Choice – Can They Co-exist?
Movement, shifting, change – the world I entered many decades ago sure has been dynamic. My belief system has gone through so many modifications over the years. At times I have felt like a Kafka character moving through an unending metamorphosis. During other periods I felt like a blessed human who beamed nothing but wisdom and bright light to those around me.
Thank goodness I did not stay in any of those extreme roles. But, I did gain experiences that allowed me to understand the variety and depth of emotions humans can achieve and how that influences one’s behavior. Collective cultural events play on our beliefs also. I was a teenager in the 1950’s thinking America had just saved the world, and I was growing up in a wonderful place. Then in the 1960’s the world turned quickly for me. Good and bad fought for attention. JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Bad. Civil Rights and the Women’s movement. Good. Marriage. Good. Mother-in-law’s suicide. Bad. The voices of authority was losing their credibility for me.
But, at the start of 1960, I had an experience in which the true value and worth of it did not crystallize for me until many years later. Being an atheist at the time had something to do with that. When I had graduated from high school my mental process was to get a job to put money in my pocket and party, party, party. My plans for the future did not go very far beyond the up coming weekend. At that time marijuana and alcohol were the party favorites with a benny thrown in now and then to keep the eye lids up and the mind racing. You had to be careful with marijuana because possessing it could get you up to 5 years in jail. Different times!
One weekend while at a party, I went with some others to a back room of the house to smoke some weed. We hid smoking at the time because of the risk involved. I was introduced to a guy named John who was a friend of a friend. John said he had just moved back to town after being away for some years. It was a fun time and then some of us decided to go to San Francisco and hit some after hour jazz clubs. Somebody suggested we also go to L.A. After some laughing and more talking, a few of us decided to go to San Francisco for the night and meet in the morning at a restaurant and go on to L.A. for the rest of the weekend. John was part of that group. A car load of us took off for S.F., partied the night away and went to the meeting place in the morning. We were the first to arrive and were having coffee when in came John.
John said his friend wanted us to pick him up on the way to L.A. and we better get going. As we left the restaurant police were waiting for us. The street was blocked off. We were put facing a wall with our hands against it and our legs spread. We were patted down and put in patrol cars and taken to the local police station. There were four of us and each was put into a separate room. A detective came into my room and started questioning me about the party last night, marijuana use, why we were going to L.A. and things as such.
I was answering with “don’t know” and innocent answers. Then, the door opens and in walks John. We look at each other eye to eye and then the detective asks John, “is he one of them John?” He answers, “Nope, haven’t seen him before.” And he leaves the room.
The detective says something to the effect of: “…you are lucky kid. You better keep your nose clean and watch out who you hang out with. Now, get out of here…”
Over the next few weeks I stayed in a state of fear and confusion. Some things were clear. John was an undercover guy. He fingered everybody but me. My friends were in jail. I was not. Was I being given more rope to hang myself in some way? Was I bait to catch more kids? I also knew it would be hard to stay away from my friends and change my life style while living in my home town. I would have to go. But, where to?
It was during this period that Divine Intervention and Free Choice came together for me. I did not see it clearly at first. Remember, I was an atheist at the time. But, years later when I was on the Spiritual Path and reviewing my life, the dynamic of the experience jumped in my face and yelled Look!
The military draft was still going on in this country. In my area the average age for being drafted was 23 years. I had about 2 years to go before I would be drafted. But, I could volunteer for the draft and have my number moved to the front of the line. I thought I would buy myself some time for things to settle. I would get my job back when I got out of the Army and start again. It was that trend of thought on which I made my conscious choice. So there was divine intervention and conscious choice. But, divine intervention works differently than most people think. Many times it creates a crossroads in your path forcing a choice to be made.
There is a joke about that. A man is standing on the roof of his house during a flood. A boat comes by and people yell “jump into the boat” to the man who in turns yells back “no thanks, I’m waiting for God to help me.” Then a helicopter flies over and drops a rope latter for the man to grab. He waves it away and yells to the helicopter “No thanks, I’m waiting for God’s help.” After awhile, the flood water rises above the roof and the man drowns. Then he meets God and asks “why didn’t you help me?” God answers “Well, first I sent a boat, then a helicopter, then…”
The Army turned out to be more than an escape route for me. When I had graduated from High School I did not consider going to college as my self-esteem was very low in the area of academics. In the Army I hung around with a number of college grads and started to think I was smarter than I had thought. My perspective of myself started to change. When I was released from the military I started college and different qualities of mine began to bloom and grow. The tree was growing more and stronger branches.
Be of service to humanity, that is the water which feeds the spirit of self. Service is not immediately rewarded all the time. But, the ability to service is a blessing in itself.