Simple Things/Lang Kenneth Haynes
Many have heard the story of the unfortunate fellow whose house was flooded by relentless torrents of rain. At first he was concerned about
keeping his first floor dry, so he rolled up towels and put sandbags in front of the entrance door. That didn't work. The water kept coming. His
living room carpet was wet, his basement was flooded and the water kept rising. He turned around to see his livingroom couch floating by. The
rain kept coming. He felt his first twinge of genuine panic. The water kept rising. He ran up the stairs to the second floor of the house and he was
thankful that he had a second floor to escape to. The water kept rising and swallowed up the steps one by one until even the second floor looked
like it had a small river running through it. He let down the folding stairs to the attic. It kept raining. In fact, it seemed like it was raining harder.
The homeowner held onto the banister on the second floor to keep from getting swept away by the fast-moving currents in his house! He looked
out of a window and was amazed at what he saw. Neighbors screaming from the roofs of their homes. Huge trees uprooted and rushing by like
they were toothpicks. And the rain would not stop. He crawled up through his attic and onto the roof of his house.
He began to pray. He was praying for the rain to stop. He was praying to be rescued. He was praying for his life. He prayed like he had never
prayed before. A rescue boat came by and one of the two people on the boat extended a hand and explained that they would take him to dry land.
The fellow refused the offer saying, "You go ahead and save somebody else. The Lord will save me." The people in the rescue boat did not have
time to argue. They did as the man said and rescued a family from the roof of a nearby house. The wind blew harder and it seemed like it was
raining sideways. A helicopter flew by. It was tricky and treacherous business. The whirlybird navigated between power lines and the desperate
cries of stranded people. It must have been the man's turn to be rescued. The chopper hovered over the house and lowered a rope ladder. A
helicopter attendant shouted something through her megaphone at the man. The words were inaudible but the rope ladder provided the necessary
clue. The man on the roof shouted back, through the wind and rain and confusion and desperation, that he did not need to be rescued because the
Lord was going to save him. The water continued to rise. The man drowned.
He was dead, but that didn't seem to matter. His body got washed up someplace, but an essential part of the man still felt very much alive. He
waited in a long line to have audience with God and the waiting felt strangely familiar. He sort of felt like he was waiting in line to get into a
movie. He didn’t know or care if he was wearing his body or if it was somewhere in the vicinity of the flood. His turn finally arrived. He stood
before God and mustered up the courage to question the divine presence. He asked, "God why did you forsake me? Why did you allow me to die
in the flood? Why didn't you rescue me?"
God looked a little puzzled to the extent that God can look puzzled and answered, "What you talkin' about Willis (the man's name happened to be
Willis)? I sent you a boat and a helicopter. I don't know what you were waiting for. Curtis Mayfield even sang a song about it. Shoot. You used to
sing along with it. The name of the tune was People Get Ready. You weren't ready and that's about all I can say." Willis was sentenced to do time
in the realm where not particularly conscious people are sent. The good news is that he would have eternity to figure out why he drowned that
particular day in that particular way. If there is a moral to this story I guess it might be that prayers are often answered in ways other than how we
expect them to be answered. It might be a good idea to count our blessings at the beginning and end of our days in this realm. There could very
well be answered prayers folded in.
Time is a linear concept created by human beings to enable us to put our little ducks in a row or to generally arrange things in a way that most
people define as order. The truth of the matter might be that the ideas surrounding past, present and future are just that— ideas. If it is true that
past, present and future are merely contrivances or ways we have found to impose some sort of order on things that defy our limited
understanding of order, then there is more than a fifty-fifty chance that the results of an event could occur before the actual event. Is there a
chance that the thing prayed for has already happened? Does the future sometimes unfold before the present? For example, when I was a child
my family visited Indian Point Park on occasion. The amusement park was known for its shows that displayed a range of unfortunate human
beings that had extra legs or skin so rough that they resembled alligators. The proverbial bearded lady was usually somewhere nearby in the
company of a very short man and a very tall man. I don't remember if either of the men had beards or not. I do not remember or care if the men
were really men at all. I do remember that I did not have fun at Indian Point Park. Gawking at other human beings was not and is not my idea of a
good time. My parents must have agreed. We very rarely went to Indian Point Park.
One day, Indian Point Park was gone! I had wished it gone. I prayed for it to be gone. I grew to hate the place. Now I was faced with the
predicament of finding something else to hate or transform the feelings of hate into something else. It is much harder to do the latter. I'm still
praying for the answer. I know that I am not praying hard enough and I am not clear enough. I also have the feeling that asking for a specific thing
isn't the way to get prayers answered. The trick seems to be to pray for something larger than your individual little want. For example, I had a
heck of a time with the little prayer that contained the words "Not my but Thy will oh Lord." With those few words I would give up my little wants
and perceived needs and accept something much grander in its place: the will of God. Do you trust the will of God? Do I trust the will of God?
Might as well because God prevails anyway. We can call God anything we want to. My guess is that God doesn't care. We can assign any gender
to God we so chose. I strongly suspect that God doesn't care. God might be a big White guy with a long gray beard. God might more closely
resemble a Yoruba prince. God may look like a Yoruba princess or Helen of Troy. It doesn't matter. Not to me, anyway. We can seek God or shun
God but God will always prevail. The house always wins and God is the house.
The disappearance of Indian Point Park was evidence of the power of prayer. The man with three legs and his associates did vanish, but Indian
Point continued to exist in the form of a nuclear power plant. The kind of place that created the kinds of people that visitors to the old Indian Point
Park used to gawk at. Funny. Prayer threw our notions of past, present and future out the window and with it our little notions that surrounded
cause and effect. Be careful what you wish for you just might get it. Be extra careful what you pray for you will get it for sure, but not in the way
you expect to receive it and not at the time you marked on your calendar.