Would God do a miracle for an unbeliever? An atheist? Jesus said that God “sends the rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44) He certainly did a miracle for me that kept me out of 2 years of prison at a time when I was really not a believer. Here’s what happened.
While I was going to the University of Texas in Austin back in the late 60’s, I had a nice job, drove a sports car and I was an atheist. I smoked marijuana from time to time, used psychedelics and sometimes I sold a little marijuana and psychedelics. I never sold stuff on the streets, just to close friends. But after awhile I got a little careless. Friends would come with their friends, people I didn’t know.
I lived in an efficiency apartment near the campus and one afternoon I was ironing shirts in my tiny kitchen. Then, kind of out of nowhere, the idea came to me that I really should take my drugs and go put them away somewhere.
I hadn’t been thinking about that till then. But I stopped ironing my shirts, put my several ounces of marijuana and the various pills I had into a paper grocery bag. My thinking was that this would somehow make it look like I was walking around with groceries.
I walked out the door of my apartment and right there was a man on a ladder. That wasn’t normal but I figured he was a repairman. He looked down at me and the paper bag but I guess he just saw the loaf of bread on top.
I walked a few blocks down to Shoal Creek, a well known place that students and locals go to for nature walks. I found a secluded spot, put my drugs underneath a rock and walked back to my apartment.
When I got there, I was surprised because the lights were on inside and I always turned off the lights when I left. I unlocked the door. And I was completely in shock to have two policemen with drawn guns coming out of my bathroom and kitchen, yelling at me, “Put your hands up against the wall!”
They had a search warrant for my apartment. I sat on the sofa while they searched everything. In those days, if the police even found a stem, seeds or the tiniest butt of a marijuana cigarette, it would virtually guarantee that you’d spend two years in Huntsville state prison, even as a first time offender. As it turned out, they did find some tiny seeds or stems of marijuana on my carpet.
At last they talked to me and said, “We can take you in for what we found here, the seeds and stems. But we didn’t find what the search warrant was written for. So if we take this to a grand jury, we won’t win. But we’re watching you.”
So they left. And I sat there. Did I praise God? Did I say, “Thank you Jesus!” No. I was a hardened atheist. I believed in nothing other than evolution, chance and the law of averages. (This is what I wrote about in “God is Chance”.) I was convinced that’s all there was.
I can tell you, things like this can really be tough on atheists. All I was really thinking about was,
“Why did I get that idea right then, when I was ironing shirts, to go put my dope away?!”
I hadn’t thought about that before then.The guy on the ladder outside my apartment? Almost certainly a police stakeout. He looked at the bag of drugs but saw the loaf of bread and didn’t do anything. The time between when I left my apartment and when I got back was around 20 minutes. I missed going to prison for 2 years by 20 minutes. It was like I’d been run over by a big truck but somehow I ended up between the wheels. That was how I thought about it afterwards.
So next Sunday I was in church, right? Suit and tie, big haircut and had really changed my ways? Not at all. I was deeply “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). “Though mercy be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness” (Isiah 26:10).
I guess I just thought that I’d been really, really lucky. But the thing is, all the time, things like this kept happening to me, for good and for bad. Not every day. But these were things that atheism was having a real hard time explaining.
I guess the end of the story is what I wrote about in “Lucifer and the White Moths”. It was over a year later when it virtually took death itself and going to the eternal fires of hell to wake me up enough to turn towards the Lord. But He, in His infinite foresight and knowledge, knew that ultimately I would make that turn to Him.
At the bottom of my heart I was desperately looking for the truth and wanted to do something good with my life. I just really didn’t know there was a spiritual world. So God in His love chose that day to send an angel to probably yell in my ear to get those drugs out of my apartment immediately. I just thought it was my own thoughts. Thank God for His unfathomable love and mercy and power.