Jesus showed up in my backyard. Literally.
Conveying in words what I saw and felt that hot Summer day seems problematic at best, futile at worst. How to express the warmth, love, the big hug, and overwhelming exhilaration of Jesus appearing to me in my own backyard. Seriously, how do I write about that? Where do I begin with a story such as this? But I must. As they say in the new TV series about the life of Jesus called The Chosen, “People must know.” Jesus is as alive today as He was 2,000 years ago.
I read this quote from Tim Tebow a while back: “Just do what you can, with what you have, for the glory of God.” I like that idea, just go for it. So here it is…
I have been a lifelong martial artist, beginning in the mid ’80s, to the point where I traveled to China to find instructors who were better than I was. I went back to the source: the warrior monks of the Shao-lin Temple in China.
Wow, did I overestimate my abilities. Super impressed by their martial art skills, combined with their great humility, especially after they repeatedly beat the blank out of me, quite effortlessly I might add, they definitely had my attention. So when they started talking about how Buddhism had made them a complete fighting machine, mind and body, I listened. Something was absolutely different about these guys; they were the toughest fighters I had ever encountered, and yet they were so nice afterwards, kind to everyone and everything around them, even bugs, which, by the way, are super big and scary in China. So I slowly was introduced to Buddhism.
My first six-week training tour was in 1995; my last in 2005. It was brutal, yet I kept going back because they were that good, and it was without a doubt making me a better all-around martial artist. Well, it was after my third and final trip that I returned home, and it happened.
It was not your typical end of July Summer day in Cleveland, Ohio, as I lay in a complete, full body sweat after training in my backyard. The heat, humidity was stifling, there was zero breeze, as if air stood still in time and no longer existed. But it was nothing to me, nothing at all. I had just returned to the States after completing my last training tour in China, where temperatures were typically around 100 to 110 degrees, and the humidity was so thick you could cut it with one of the swords we were training with. Five minutes into your workout that started at 7:00 a.m. you were in total meltdown, and it stayed that way until sunset. So 80 degrees in Cleveland was a walk in the park.
By that time in 2005 I was a full-blown Buddhist. You do not go up into the mountains of China to train without getting indoctrinated into Buddhism; it is as much of their training as the physical aspect of martial arts is. When I first went to China to train in 1995, I was a fallen away Catholic; just too many man-made rules that always seemed to be changing. Buddhism seemed straightforward, enticing; and so I jumped on the bandwagon. But there was always this nagging going on in the back of my mind as if something or someone was telling me I am on the wrong path.
I sat on my workout bench in my backyard, leaning up against the bar, totally exhausted, eyes shut, dripping sweat from everywhere. I was confused, frustrated. I was told that Jesus is the only way, yet “the way” He was presented to me up to that point in my life just did not seem to hit home; there were just too many obstructing constructs. I just wanted to know Him and understand Him without all the hinderances that seemed to come attached to the various “religions” out there. So I cried out in my mind, not out loud, peering upwards, eyes closed. Casting every vile accusation at Jesus I could think of, which I will not put in print. “Where are you, Jesus? Do you really exist? Have I wasted my entire life trying to find you? Should I remain a Buddhist? What the” …?
Jesus is in my backyard.
I was almost to the point of tears in my frustration, eyes still closed, crying out in my mind, “Where are you? Where are you?” And then He was there: not a shot across the bow, but a direct hit right in the center of my forehead. A vision of the biggest, most beautiful brown eye, just one, I had ever seen. And a voice, not audible, but I heard it well, “I am everywhere.” I jumped up, opened my eyes, in shock, and I had the immediate palpable sense of Jesus being all around me: in the trees, in the sky, up close as if I were being hugged. It was a total calming, loving feeling that words cannot express well enough. My backyard had never looked so crystal clear before. Wonderful bliss, all doubt wiped away within an instant. He is here. Jesus is in my backyard.
And that eye, oh, that beautiful eye, just peering into the middle of my forehead deep down into my soul. It was the eye of Jesus, point blank, up close and personal. No doubt He was present, and He came to see me, me of all people, came to rescue me. Such a feeling, such a feeling. I knew. I knew Jesus was real, alive, and everywhere from that moment on.
And there it is: Jesus showed up in my backyard. Literally, He did.
I know I have not done this story justice. A better writer than I might be able to, but this is the best I can produce. For years I kept this miracle, which is exactly what it was, to myself. Only a couple people knew. But as I came to have a better understanding of Jesus through reading the Bible, and a ton of other writings about Him, I realized no matter how poorly I stumble to put it into words, I must try. “People must know.” Jesus is alive in 2022. He is here for you. He is here for me. He is here for everyone.
Jeremiah 29:13, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” And I might add: and in all your frustration and pain.
When you look at the cross, you see the heart of Jesus.
- Frank Paul, The Sower.