I looked directly at her. Her dark brown hair was tied tightly behind her head. In her eyes there was a sparkle, an alertness. All in all I was amazed that this person wanted to keep me company. It seemed we were having a real conversation. On the Appalachian Trail that doesn’t happen very much. I said to her, “On this path from Georgia to Maine I know more than ever God is with us if we want. Do you believe that?”
She said, “Do you believe that?” Her tone was defensive.
“There is no science in it, but yes, I do believe that.” And she asked why.
“Because, I want to be with God. On this trail my relationship with God is more obvious than ever. I study God at home as much as you do microbiology at the University. God is a being like you and me not a mystical creation of our imagination. Not only is God real but all this belongs to God. Science would have us believe all this evolved or happened this way. That implies God exists only in our imagination. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“What is truth?” She was beginning to sound coldly analytical, but she remained in the chair across from me. I told her something is true if it is an absolute fact that is the same for everybody whether they like it or not. I told her the law of gravity is a truth, an absolute fact.
“It’s very unlikely a scientist will say there is a designer of everything big and small. Think what would happen if a scientist did that, got up, and told his colleagues that a Grand Creator existed. The facts to support that statement would be his or her personal experience and, according to his colleagues, an ancient book written by humans. He would be laughed off the stage, considered unscientific, and lose the respect the other scientists. Scientists want to be respected by other scientists.”
“What book,”she asks? “The Bible?” We are totally engaged in conversation. I stop eating and we talk. I don’t feel tired anymore. “My mother is religious,”she says. “The Bible is like a rule book to her.” I ask her what she thinks of her mother. “I love her more than I can say, but sometimes I wish she would think more of herself. She loves her family so much, nothing else matters, not even herself. My father is all business. I suppose I’m that way.”
“The Bible is all about love. God loved us first, and also it says if we don’t have love in us we are no more than clashing cymbals. According to the Bible your mother is a very wise person.” She says her mother is no dummy. Then I say, “Love and faithfulness go hand in hand. If a person is loyal and faithful to God, God will be loyal and faithful to them. I need God’s help all the time. By normal standards out here I am pitiful. You passed me on the ledge so you know what I mean. I don’t mind being pitiful because then I am strong. God makes me courageous and strong when my faith in God is courageous and strong. That doesn’t mean I will never fall and break my neck. I have to be careful what I do. It means I am courageous and strong about doing it all of the time. God loves me, and I love God. It’s that simple.”
She looks over to the side where her friends are milling about in the kitchen area. I am thinking she will get up and go over there. She sees they are satisfied with what they are doing, and looks back at me with her eyes. She leans forward on her elbows and says quietly, “I do not think about God during the day. When I do think about God it is always a private affair. I say the same bedtime prayer when I say a prayer.” I ask her how it goes. She looks away and without having to think says, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my sole to keep. Thank you God for the birds so sweet. Thank you God for everything.” She is embarrassed and laughs that she said it out loud. Then she says, “It sounds so childish, but wherever I am it makes me feel secure and comfortable. At work or in school I never think about God.” I wonder why this grown-up child is pouring-out her sole to me. All of a sudden I feel I have a responsibility here.