Questions from Readers
How do you know that God is Just Love?
Ken, how did this become heart instead of just head knowledge?
(What follows is the tenth of an eleven-part series that is one answer to these questions.)
I noticed that I was repeating to myself, “Everything I have I do not need and everything I need I do not have.” God was speaking, in the midst of this uniquely challenging episode of my life, not just a true Word of the Lord but also a soon to be indispensable message.
The train station in Samaria, Romania, 92 miles beyond our Arad destination, had just opened. I was the only one at the ticket window. We quickly ascertained that the clerk did not speak English and that I did not speak Romanian. So I held up two fingers, in the form of a peace sign, and crisply articulated, “Arad.” She checked a few things and handed me two tickets and crisply articulated some number in Romanian. Reading my puzzlement she flashed ten fingers four times and then two fingers more, or something like that. Oh, “Forty-Two.” I reached for my wallet and pulled out $42. Now it was her turn to be puzzled. But she was quick. She reached into her drawer and pulled out a bill and pointed to it and said, “Lei.” Now there was a word I understood. “No lei,” I said, “Only dollars.” She held the tickets in one hand and the lei in the other hand and pronounced that if I had no lei I would get no tickets. Strike one.
I stood there a few seconds and realizing how thirsty and hungry I was—and Joan certainly was also famished—I decided to solve one problem at a time. Out on the courtyard in front of the railroad station were many vendors and I quickly decided on a couple of bottles of orange juice and some sweet cakes. I handed the vendor $5. He would not accept my currency. Strike two.
Back in the station looking around, I saw a bank of telephones. “Here is my salvation,” I thought to myself. “My ATT phone card will work anywhere in the world.” But the phone accepted only coins. Besides, public phones were only for local calls. In Romania you had to go to a designated center to call long distance within or outside the country. Strike 3. Then I decided that Joan needed to know why I was delayed. I returned to the tracks and made my explanations.
I could hope that in Romania you get more than three strikes. Obviously I needed help. Two young women who appeared to be well educated were passing by the door into the train station. I abruptly stepped up to them and asked, “Does either of you speak English?” One of the women smiled and asked, “How can I help?” I explained that I needed to buy two tickets to Arad.” She answered graciously, “We will help you.” We all got back in the ticket line and continued talking. I explained that I had no lei. They reiterated that if I had no lei I could not buy tickets. My razor sharp mind kept generating answers. “Where can I go to change dollars into lei?” My new comrades revealed the once again painful truth. “There is no change place around here.” With a shrug they exited my life as quickly as they had entered. I stayed in line. I hadn’t yet had another brainstorm. But then the lightning struck. I had all of that American stuff in my suitcases, good old American stuff. I would show these Romanians how a capitalist makes money, anywhere in the world. Lots of people back home, especially my wife and children, had told me to “Stay safe.” Maybe that is why my brain was instantly flooded with a dark thought, “You could be arrested for black marketing.” With horror I imagined myself in a Romanian jail. I would not buy myself out of this dilemma. Still in the ticket line I turned around a couple of times viewing once again Joan and our luggage on the platform, the ticket window, the phones, the vendors, the people, and it dawned on me that none of them were the source of my rescue. I noticed that I was repeating to myself, “Everything I have I do not need and everything I need I do not have.” God was speaking in the midst of this thorny episode of my life. “Everything I have I do not need and everything I need I do not have.”
I kept standing in the ticket line only because there was nothing else to do. The message had sunk in that I had no way to get where I needed to go. I had no power, no control, no answers. A very small part of me, emanating from some not-despairing corner of my soul whispered, “Way cool. This is really something. I can’t wait to see how this works itself out.”
A young man, maybe in his late 20’s, was walking towards me from about 20 yards away. Every item of his dress was a dirty white. When he arrived and was standing close, he opinioned with a smile, in English with no apparent accent, “You need my help.”
“That’s for sure. They won’t sell me tickets for Arad because I have no lei,” I informed him. I intuitively knew this man was my redeemer and expected him to toss me a handful of Romanian currency. He just turned and walked away. “You call that a redeemer,” I silently complained to God. The ticket line continued to move slowly and I still had nowhere else to go.
Someone was tugging on my shoulder. He was urgently notifying me, “That train is your train and they are going to let you board.” He pointed as one possessed of life saving information.
“But we have those six bags.” I pointed and protested as one possessed by an insolvable burden.
“I will help,” the man in white informed me, and we were off. Once we reached Joan and the bags, our destination was still on the far side of the tracks. He and I grabbed the gigantic bags and Joan managed the backpacks. We dove down into a tunnel and under three sets of tracks and back up the steep stairs and about 50 yards down the track. He threw all the bags onto the train and we climbed aboard. I offered him some of our American stash but he just shook his head, “no.” And we were off. I looked back down the tracks. He was gone.
A minute or so later, having caught our breath sufficiently to begin believing we were not going to perish on the Samarian railroad platform, Joan and I looked at each other. Simultaneously we perceived truth and knew that the other had been impressed with the same knowledge. We had just been rescued by an angel. Angels are messengers and the message of this angel was, “Everything you have you do not need and everything you need you do not have.” I immediately began wondering in what ways this message would be critical during my tenure in Romania as an evangelist.
The train ride to Arad was thankfully uneventful. Though it was a fairly large city there was actually a cab driver at the railroad station in Arad who spoke English and personally knew Titi and Ligia Bulzan and where they lived. He also had no problem being paid and tipped in dollars. Not everything that happens on a God-driven excursion has to be a tumultuous learning experience.