It was almost dark when I saw the haystack silhouetted against the edge of a forest, barely visible through the steady rain.
Maybe I could sleep there. I was cold, hungry and soaked, and in need of rest. I had heard of people sleeping in haystacks, so I figured it was my best option.
I cautiously approached the dark mountain of hay, and after I made sure it was safe, I carefully hoisted myself into the musty fodder. At first, I was relieved, but soon the loneliness that had been my constant companion raised its ugly head again and reminded me of my desperate plight. “There’s little hope for you, buddy. You are on a dead-end street.”
I knew, loneliness was right. I was safe for tonight. But what about the next night, or the night after that? How long could I go on like this?
I shivered and rolled out my sleeping bag. It was damp, despite the plastic bag I had been carrying it in. Never mind. It would still keep me warm. When I was settled in, I checked my belongings. I still had three guldens; enough to buy some bread tomorrow. And then?
I had no idea.
How did I even get here? What was I doing? I wasn’t raised like this. My parents were both doctors, and I was accustomed to a normal bed, good food, and dry clothes.
Why on earth was I sleeping in a haystack, like a common vagabond?
I suppose it all started a few years prior when I became what they called a hippie. It was the time of the Flower Power. Scott MacKenzie inspired us young people to just stick a flower in your hair and walk to San Francisco. Happy and carefree.
Love was the answer, something which was confirmed by massive doses of mind-altering drugs, prescribed by the gurus of the New World such as rock bands like the Doors and the Grateful Dead. Like my peers, I had seen the light and was well on the way to becoming enlightened.
But without realizing it, my way went down instead of up.
After three years of drugs, a boatload of books on the occult, and some unreliable friends, this was the result. A haystack in the rain.
God, where are You?
He was there all the time, but He wasn’t in the drugs. He wasn’t in the books of the occult either, and my unreliable friends kept informing me that He was just a figment of my imagination. At best, I was God myself.
What a comforting thought.
Thus, I decided it was time to talk to the real masters. It was time for a pilgrimage. It was time to travel to India. By foot.
When I left, Mother wept. She didn’t usually cry, so I was surprised. Didn’t she understand that I was on my way to the truth?
“To India? But child…can you not find the truth in Holland?” she sobbed.
“No, Mother. I can’t.”
She pushed some bills into my hand and cried some more, “I will pray for you every day.”
“Thanks, Mom… See you around.”
But now, I was crying too. Alone in the rain, deserted in a haystack and without God.
The next morning, I wasn’t feeling much better. I was greeted by an intermittent drizzle, gray skies, and a hungry stomach. My good friend loneliness was awake too and quickly pointed out that there were no houses in sight and I was utterly lost.
God where are You?
Something stirred inside of me. An unusual feeling of comfort came over my wounded heart and I sensed a presence. There was somebody with me. I looked around but saw nothing unusual, except the haystack and the gray sky.
Someone was there… Someone was watching over me and the heavy oppressive cloud of despair was momentarily chained. There was peace.
Where did that come from?
Read your Bible. The thought was clear and demanding.
I had a pocket Bible with me. Sometimes I read in the Psalms, the only book I could vaguely understand. But this time, it was like the words jumped off the page. Those words were alive and spoke to me.
The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…*
My heart leaped for joy. Was that God? So secure, so rich and wholesome…
Hours later, I met a young man who asked me where I was going.
“Don’t know,” I answered, “I am looking for God.”
He smiled. “I know where you can find Him. He’s my friend and He can be yours too.”
“I’d like that. Tell me about it!”
It was a drizzly, rainy day, but it was the day that the prayers of my mother were answered. It was the day I came home.
Reference: Psalm 23