Do you ever look up at the stars during a late evening stroll, or stare at a bird in flight and wonder what keeps it all from falling? Ever think about the countless breaths we’ve taken or the trillions of heartbeats had over a single lifetime and and wonder what kept it from stopping?
A human being tossed to and fro in the raging sea of life may ask himself, will I ever walk the sands of a peaceful shore?
Everyone knows the song “God’s Grace” by Luther Barnes. There’s a line in that song that says: “How did I make it all these years. How did I make it this far. I know it had to be God.”
It isn’t too hard these days when you look around to find more reasons to be hopeless. World leaders are at odds with each other, throwing the word ‘war’ around as though human destruction and calamity is a mere petty thing. Women and children’s lives are increasingly torn apart through sexual violence and human trafficking. Slavery is not altogether extinct as its remains from a time of old still lingers in dark places, and animals have far fewer rights than they deserve. Our world is in the midst of upheaval and getting worse with each passing day. In our human wisdom and frailty it is customary to blame God for these troubles, but even while prophesy turns true and the great judgement draweth nigh, how do we maintain a spirit of hope?
Testimonies from those who have come through the worst and experienced God’s saving grace are everywhere. A sermon can do wonders to till the soil of a battered soul and bring nourishment to our spiritual needs, but what about those still on the fence, asking God for a sign that He is out there, so they can continue on even though they are weary?
MARK 16:17-18 says: And these signs will follow them that believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents and if they drink any thing deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.
Believers are anointed and entrusted with the news of the Gospel. New life gives birth to new life. If only we could slow down long enough, or detach ourselves from the wirelessness that controls our lives to listen, and to talk about our encounters with Grace, we could give new life to someone in search of living waters.
There have been unexplained healing miracles after a health battle, walking away from a car wreck without a scratch. Whole lives turned around in the opposite direction from a path of drug addiction and incarceration, to the path of freedom in Christ.
During a recent bible study class at Calvary Baptist church, members shared insight into the workings of God in their lives. From recovery to changed hearts, each story unraveled with clarity and emotion as though the tellers found themselves immersed in those moments again. These were experiences that led to an unswerving belief that God had intervened. One story in particular struck me. I had never heard of, let alone met anyone who had fallen 100 feet down a mountain and survived. After the shock and awe subsided, I had the opportunity to sit down with Karen to probe further into the details of this amazing story.
Karen Bradakis was once a rock-climber. But you would not know this at first glance. Her soft-spoken, delicate nature projects an image of one who paints on glass or recites poetry. She was first introduced to rock-climbing as an adventurous 21 year-old during a courtship with now husband of 31 years, Mark Bradakis, who ran the Wasatch Mountain Club at the time. We delved right into the discussion of what occurred on that warm summer day 33 years ago, on July 5, 1985 when Karen and a group of friends decided to hike up to the Wasatch mountains, and events leading up to the fall. Though its not something one would easily forget, what’s interesting about her retelling of this story is how many of the details are still in tact after so many years.
Her husband Mark and a male friend decided to take another trip up the mountain as plans made the year before were derailed by a storm passing though the area. The men began their ascent up the mountain while Karen and another girl would take the grassy goat trail instead, and decided to meet up with the guys on their way back down. This route posed some challenges of its own as the women soon realized that a clear, direct path was not available.
The group eventually made their way up the trail and after a few hours of hiking they decided to head back. They found themselves in an area where they had to come down over rocks. Karen went first from the top of the ledge, holding on to a large boulder to climb down but without warning it came loose. She fell rapidly down the hill and attempted to grab hold of small branches and tufts of grass to stop her descent but nothing worked. She eventually landed on a narrow ledge and one of her friends called out to see if she was okay. Karen suffered a broken arm and was in shock but able to respond. A nearby hiker who also happened to be a nurse came to her aid and tended to her injuries until the rescue crew arrived.
The worst of the ordeal was over but Karen faced a long road to recovery. Her Mom drove from Phoenix to help take care of her until she was back on her feet. She mentioned that there was a Baptist church located close by on Park Street where Karen lived and encouraged her daughter to pay a visit.
“I remember seeing the Pastor with the kids and some of the choir members coming through the neighborhood just before Christmas of 1998 and thinking they seemed so friendly. I had taken a 20 year break from church,” she said, “and felt it was time to go back.”
Karen can look back on that experience and see how God called her to be a blessing to others. She now heads the Visitation Ministry at Calvary and goes throughout the community visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes. She retired from the University of Utah last Fall and now devotes more of her time to what she believes is her true purpose.
“I was thankful that God saved my life. He wanted me to go out and visit people while they were recuperating to bring a little sunshine to their day.”
As we came to the end of the interview, I asked one final question:
“What went through your mind as the rock gave way and you began to fall?”
“I was thinking, I can’t believe that huge rock fell out! I guess no one had ever gone up there to check on it.”
To be caught up in the craziness of life’s endless pursuit of the things we believe will bring happiness, or to be so immersed in its problems that we become captives to fear, pulls our focus away from God.
1 TIMOTHY 6:10 says: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
His desire is to give us the greater gift of Himself as the only true source of meaningful and lasting happiness.
Christian pastor, Aiden Wilson Tozer once said the world is lost because we are lost internally. A man who is physically lost in the forest can find his way back, but a man who is lost spiritually has amnesia and does not know that he is lost, hence cannot find his way back.
There was once a myth that said a shepherd would break the leg of a sheep that wandered, carry it upon his shoulders until it was nursed back to health. In effect, the sheep became more attuned to his master’s voice and was not likely to stray again. Though historically inaccurate the fable contains some spiritual truth. The enemy seeks to break our trust in God, the very antecedent to the brokenness within ourselves. The pain and time of healing is what draws us back.
Once we remove the daunting expectations of finding temporal happiness away from God, we can seek rest in a place of unquenchable joy through a spiritual dependence and closeness to Jesus the Savior.
© Kester Collins