A Testimony That God is Real
The interior of the chapel was magnificent. Decorated and draped, padded and polished, hung with scarlet velvet. Walls, pews and pulpits were ornately carved. Brass candlesticks, tall as a man, reflected light from the chandeliers suspended over the central aisle.That too, was carpeted in red.The air was heavy with droning refrain issuing from the pipes of the massive organ.
In the midst of this splendor, I sat alone, our tiny congregation of perhaps 35 spaced far out around me. Dad was always flustered with the way they scattered themselves like hard thrown jacks throughout the hall, almost as if they didn’t want to get too close to each other. Even on holidays when our numbers swelled, the sanctuary appeared empty. When hymns were sung, all that could really be heard was the organ itself.
Perhaps it was the discrepancy between the grandeur of the chapel and the puny size and sound of our struggling congregation that set the scene. Or perhaps I had just come to the age of questioning. Anyway on that day I was looking for inconsistencies and challenging the existing norms.
I was the pastor’s pre-teen daughter. I was in church all the time. I went through all the right motions and listened to lots of sermons. I guess that’s where it all started. Another sermon in our beautiful chapel. The preacher was a guest minister who told great stories. Normally I would have been all ears, but not today. Today I was bored. I acted like I was listening, but I was thinking about something else. Mom, in the organ loft, would have been horrified. I was asking myself a very important question. I wanted to know if God was real.
Might it all be a farce? How did I know it wasn’t just another fairy tale like Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny? Could it be only a legend handed down through the generations? Maybe everyone believed, solely because everyone believed. People had been talking it for hundreds of years. It was the thing to do. Should I believe just because everybody else did?
I thought about the chance that God was real. Boy! If there really was a God, I would follow Him anywhere. Even through a snake filled swamp? Oh, oh! Would I? Well, why not? I’d be His. He’d be all-powerful. If he wanted me there, He would be with me. If He was real, whatever He asked of me I would do. If He was real.
How could I possibly find the answer? Something that doesn’t exist can’t tell you He doesn’t exist. And if He was real, the only way I could know was .........was straight from Him. How could I do that? I couldn’t. Could He? Maybe I should ask him to prove Himself. How? How about a sign from him, like a horse tied up outside our back door? No. That wouldn’t be right to do. I just want to know if God is real. A horse would be nice, but it’s sort of like blackmail to have to get a horse from Him before I would agree to be His.
The sermon went on.I still pretended to listen, but I knew it had to be at least half way done. I left off having deep thoughts. Now I was thinking about what I’d get to do when the sermon was finished. I was thinking about spying.
Mom played the organ, and after each service, she always let me or my brother close it up. Today was my turn. The organ was in its own little loft up some steps, on the same raised level as the rostrum that the ministers occupied. There was a wall between the organ loft and the rostrum that was like a beautiful screen. It was fancy, carved wood with lots of empty spaces that were covered with a burlap type cloth. You could see right through the cloth from the organ and watch what they were doing on the rostrum and out in the congregation too - but they couldn’t see you. Like a spy. It was neat! That’s what I was thinking about. I always felt so important when I got to climb the steps and go into the secret little loft room. I would watch all the people in the congregation. On the organ I always pushed in all the stops, and pressed the one button that made all the other buttons pop up. I even made the foot pedals even. The only thing I didn’t get to do was actually flip the switch that turned off the electricity. Mom always did that. She never forgot. She made sure to do that one most important thing. We rented the beautiful chapel from the theological seminary, and we mustn’t do anything to make them unhappy. It would be bad if the electricity was left on. But I knew if she’d let me, I would remember to turn it off. I wished I could. Then I would really be important.
It was then the thought struck me. “Hey, wait a minute.If God is real, if he’s all-powerful, what if I ask Him to prove he’s real by making Mom forget to turn off the organ. He could do that, couldn’t He? Of course He could. All He’d have to do is fix something in her mind to make her think she’d already turned it off. Or He could get her so excited about talking to all the people out to hear our guest preacher that she forgot. Or He could even let her turn it off, and then He could turn it back on again. And why shouldn’t He do it if He knew I’d be His for the rest of my life? But would He? Probably not.It’s probably wrong to even ask for something like that.” Then my thoughts became a silent prayer, “But God, if You’re hearing my thought’s, and there’s not something awful about asking, I sure would like to know if You’re real. If You’re real, I’d do anything You wanted. I’d be Yours. But first I’ve got to know if You’re real.”
The sermon still went on.I shifted gears again and started thinking about other things. First -- school. Only three weeks before vacation. Then -- Christmas coming up and what I might get for presents. I hoped I’d get a bigger copper enameling kiln. Then -- what I’d do after church. Dinner. Chinese chicken with pineapple. Yum. I could smell it. My mouth watered. After dinner I’d play with my friend Linda. We’d go hiking in the woods again and wade barefoot in the creek. TV shows in the evening. They weren’t so great on Sunday night, but thinking about them was better than being bored. I thought about everything under the sun to use up the time, and I completely forgot my question about God being real.
After a while I ran out of things to think about. Wait a minute, the sermon was ending! I could tell by the words the preacher was saying. He was beginning to wrap it up. Thank goodness! We sang the last hymn, and prayed the last prayer. As the organ droned its finishing phrases, people filed out of the pews, and finally made themselves heard, their chatter and laughter making up for their former feeble attempt at song.
I made my way to the organ loft and checked to see if anyone was noticing me. It’s no good feeling important if no one notices you being important. It would really be great if the guest preacher saw me. I slowed down some to give him a chance. Opening the door to the loft, I climbed the steps to the little room. I spied - watching all the people who couldn’t watch me. There were quite a few more than usual and all in their Sunday finery. Oh well, I might as well get on with the job. Sitting down on the bench, I reached out toward the organ.
It was then I heard it. A very soft buzzing/humming sound. No, it wasn’t a bee or a fly. No, the people outside weren’t humming. It was the organ. The organ was humming. I had never heard it before. Just the slight whisper of a hum. The electricity for the organ was still on.
But the story doesn’t stop there. It wasn’t just the organ being on. It was the feeling inside me. Like the top of my head was open and something was being poured in. I was being filled with this wonderful, warm, feeling. It was something huge. Love, but not just ordinary love. Something much bigger and more intimate - like it knew me inside and out, better than I knew myself. I was being filled and filled, until I felt like I was going to explode. Overflowing. Overwhelming. Awesome. It was more real to me than the organ bench I was sitting on. And all at the same time the feeling said something. It said, “I am.”
Of course then I remembered my question about God being real. I remembered my promise. “God if you’re real, I’ll do anything you ask. I’ll be yours.” Now I had my answer. Now I knew. And now I was God’s for the rest of my life.
I still don’t know if I should have done what I did in the organ loft. I don’t know if it’s right to ask God to prove himself. All I know is He did it for me, and I still wonder why. Maybe because He knew I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut later when I grew up. He knew I’d tell the story over and over again. I’m sure He knew I would get the same thrilling feeling every time I did. Maybe he knew that others would get that feeling too. Perhaps my testimony will help other people know God is real. I hope and pray it does.
Oh - by the way.The organ was never left turned on again.But every time I tell the story, I still feel it - like it was never turned off.