A few months back, I thought I was dealing with an ego pricked by a job interview gone sour and Jesus was simply a research project I was looking to tick off my ‘to do’ list. On one level my head actually believed that. Even after these blogs, reflecting back upon that first phone call when the SAP told me he knew how this would end, I still didn’t see clearly what actually had happened.
So I asked him. Seriously. Why did he say that to me? Clever reverse psychology? A baited-hook for the inquiring journalist?
His email reply was like receiving a mirror into my inbox. Nothing at all like I was expecting. Nothing prophetic. Nothing mystical. I read the email and my jaw dropped. No way. I hadn’t been that transparent. All I was doing was researching! And then I had to laugh. And laugh some more.
How did the SAP know? Below, in a nutshell, is what he wrote. The italics are my thoughts upon reading.
SAP: You rang the church. People who aren’t at all interested in Jesus don’t usually ring churches.
Phil: No, but seriously, I was just researching.
SAP: You shared the experience waking up with the hymn going through your head. People who aren’t all that interested in listening to God don’t often wake themselves up with hymns…so that told me two things: i) God was chasing you. ii) You mightn’t have been listening much when you were awake – so He woke you up to get your attention. Oh, and one more thing – God never loses a chase.
Phil: Well, erm, it wasn’t really a hymn as such. ‘Song of Bernadette’ is a song by Leonard Cohen. And, yes, while it is based on Saint Bernadette, who reported eighteen visions of the Virgin Mary, it wasn’t like a big hymn…but then..hmm…well, ok. Never loses a chase? Never?
3) Augustine (one of the great early church theologians and a wild man before he met Jesus) said a lot of pretty fantastic things. This is one: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts find no rest until they find their rest in you.’ I figured that you were looking for rest – you’d been looking in a fair few places – and finally God had put Jesus in front of you and you had to deal with Him.
Phil: A fair few places? Well, possibly…shouldn’t have mentioned the runes. Or the alien-channelling spiritual church. Or the crystals…
4) You had googled the Christianity Explored (CE) Course – people who aren’t interested in Jesus don’t ask to do a course about Him…I’ve done CE with a heap of people over the years and while not all of them became Christians – rather a lot did.
Phil: No, but seriously, like I said, I was just researching. Kicking tyres. Like any good journo.
SAP: Finally, I reckon I ‘knew’ because of what I could hear and see God doing for probably quite some time through your life – that phone call was just one of the last pieces of the puzzle that needed to slot in for you to see Jesus.
Phil: (sighing) And it wasn’t even one of those complex million piece puzzles, either, was it?
SAP: Plus you told me the name of your daughter in that phone call…I thought that was a dead giveaway…
And the final piece, that lifts this chase from humour to the miraculous? It slotted in just last night, without the need for any SAP commentary. Finally, I might just be getting this God and Jesus business. The Song of Bernadette? The one I hadn’t heard in decades? It wasn’t even the whole song. Just these specific four lines, over and over, waking me up in the wee hours:
So many hearts I find, broke like yours and mine
Torn by what we’ve done and can’t undo
I just want to hold you, won’t you let me hold you
Like Bernadette would do
Just like Francis Thompson’s poem, The Hound of Heaven. It was a call to stop running. To take rest. Be embraced. Accept grace. Which, yes, is the name of my daughter.