My mother got up every morning between 2 am, and 3 am to study and pray. It’s undoubtedly one of the reasons I rise early today for reading and meditation. As a young boy, on rare occasions when my adolescent body decided to get up far before the crack of dawn, I’d sit at the kitchen table with her and have “Jesus” talks which became the foundation for my spiritual beliefs and encouraged my interest in the scriptures.
She collected many things, including antique toys, dolls, glassware, etc. During the seventies and eighties, she was also part of the Avon limited-edition perfume/cologne bottle craze. She bought dozens of them cheap at garage sales. A particular Avon bottle she wanted to add to her collection was a replica of the paddlewheel steamboat “Natchez.” However, every time she found one, it would be missing the plastic “smokestacks” of the ship.
One morning early when I sat down with her to talk about God, one of those boat bottles sat on the table, missing the piece as always. When I asked my mother about it, she said she’d been studying faith in Hebrews chapter eleven and planned to experiment with God.
The first three verses of that chapter tell us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” The chapter goes on to give a short synopsis about many heroes from the scriptures and what they accomplished through faith.
My mom said, “If these people can accomplish these incredible feats by faith, surely I can find one of these bottles at a garage sale that includes the smokestacks!” I remember that what she was saying seemed ridiculous to me. How could God possibly care about my mom’s Avon bottle collection? I made fun of her about it, and she smiled a knowing smile I’d seen often.
A couple of months went by with her not finding the bottle and me questioning her about her faith and God’s ability to produce the “smokestacks.” Then one day, she took a friend and me to Frasch Park in my hometown of Sulphur, Louisiana. Where the playground equipment sat, there were several inches of sand. As we walked from the car towards the swingsets, I was about ten feet in front of my mom when I heard her call “John!” and I turned around.
She had stopped in the sand and was motioning for me to come back to her. As I got closer, she pointed down into the sand at her feet, and there it was, half-buried. It wasn’t the entire bottle but just the plastic smokestack piece. As she pulled it out of the sand and held it up, I could see it was in perfect condition.
Maharaj-ji said, “What a devotee says in faith is always true because it came out of my mouth.”
If I were you reading this story, I would be tempted to think, “She planted that there to teach her child a lesson.” I asked her directly about it several times as I got older, and she constantly affirmed that God had manifested that item due to her faith in Him.
When I attempt to manifest something, it’s challenging not to imagine (and tell God) the delivery method He should use. Yet my Guru, Baba Neem Karoli, is famous for creating hundreds (thousands?) of items from underneath His blanket from nothing. The majority of the time, when something I desire does manifest, it comes in a form I could have never guessed – sometimes out of thin air.
It’s a real challenge for the ego not to set conditions on God. Yet, it’s when we let go of our plan that the Divine strategy (dharma) can unfold.
You have faith when you step on an elevator. It’s unlikely when you use one that you’re afraid you’ll plummet to your death. When was the last time you considered the strength of a restaurant chair before you sat in it? Most often, you have faith that it will hold you. Faith in God operates the same way. You may not know all the mechanics it takes for the elevator to function correctly and not to fall, yet you trust them. The Divine has the “mechanics” of your life designed to hold you with precision. Faith is learning to depend upon that fact!
When I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that the Divine has saved me from horrific situations more times than I can count. No matter what I’m facing, I remember many times when the solution appeared seemingly out of nowhere – just like the smokestacks. Maharaj-ji is so thrilled to produce the desires of His devotees from under His blanket.
Why not for you?