There have been a few times in my life when I have wondered, "Where is God when I need him the most?" As the second in a series of three columns dedicated to my faith, the following is yet another example of not only answering the question but reaffirming my belief that God is always with me.
Hanging on the wall in the narthex of our church is a large, five-foot tall painting depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Although impressed by its size, I never really paid much attention to it as I walked past it on my way into the sanctuary every Sunday for the last ten years.
This year our church is celebrating its 140th anniversary. As part of the celebration, I was asked to interview three members of our congregation who are direct descendents of the founding families that started the church in 1873. Having never interviewed anyone before, I prepared a list of questions and recorded the session on my digital recorder. Last October, we met one Sunday between services in one of the spare classrooms. The members of the group gave a fascinating account of how the first church made of logs burned down in a forest fire, the second church blew down in a tornado, and the third church was torn down because a larger facility was needed to accommodate a growing parish. Each descendant recounted the details of how their ancestors played a pivotal role in not only starting the church but kept it going through many years of trials and tribulations. After an hour or so, it was time to wrap things up. Before everyone left, I asked one last question that wasn't on my list, "Is there anything we have today that came from the previous buildings?" The members mentioned a bell, a small golden cross, the stain glass windows and a picture.
"What picture?" I asked, thinking it was one of the small black and white photos on display in the hallway.
"The painting of the crucifixion of Jesus," one of the elders answered. "It survived the tornado in August of 1944 and was found in a cornfield a few miles away in perfect condition."
Rendered speechless for a moment as I mentally processed what he had said, I finally came to my senses asking in a high-pitched voice, "You mean the large, five-foot tall painting I walk past every Sunday and never paid much attention to it?"
"Yes" he responded before adding, "If you look at the photo of the church in the newspaper, the building was completely demolished. The fact that the painting survived without a scratch is a miracle." I couldn't believe that all these years I was walking past a miracle and didn't even know it.
This weekend, as we celebrate Easter Sunday, the painting takes on a whole new meaning. It reminds me that all those times when I wondered were God was, he was always with me, I just didn't know it.