Sunday, August 12, 2012

The NASA Engineer answers.

While taking his picture I learned that today was his birthday.

58 years ago, on the day, his journey began.

What is your salvation story? I asked.

Fifty eight years ago, I was born to devout Hindu parents in a small town in deep-south India. I was one of six children. We were all raised in a very traditional way – learning all the religious customs, edicts and scripture. My family belonged to the highest caste called the Brahmins who are the priestly caste though my father was not a priest and did not raise us to be priests. I was extremely independent from the beginning, and my parents realizing that I was intellectually blessed, encouraged my independence. My family lived in predominantly poor neighborhoods where I witnessed extreme poverty. I could not conceive of a compassionate, loving God in the midst of so much pain and deprivation.

My understanding of God was strictly limited to creation, punishment and suffering, and death. God was remote in my mind. He created, but He did not care about the outcome. The remoteness of God under such hopeless circumstances was justifiable to me. It satisfied my rational mind, but there was no satisfaction in my inner being from this rationalization.

I attended Catholic schools from an early age because my parents knew that these schools offered the best education in India. Part of the curriculum included lessons from the Bible. Every school day started with an assembly and reciting of the Lord’s prayer. However, these were perfunctory acts as part of the school routine with no real spiritual impacts to my heart. Neither my parents’ faith nor the religious teachings at school answered the mystery of suffering and the hopelessness I witnessed around me.

When I left home at the age of 17 to attend an exclusive engineering college in Madras, I completely shut God out. The intellectual, rational dialogues with my elite colleagues from many southeast Asian nations only added to my agnosticism. When I was 21, after having completed my undergraduate degree, I left India and immigrated to the United States to pursue my graduate studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Surrounded by students from different parts of the world added more firepower to my agnosticism. I was leaning more toward a godless, self-sufficient universe.

Marrying a girl raised in a Christian home did not in any way change my beliefs and value system. I believed strongly that survival and security in this world were strictly a function of one’s material acquisition and the protection of one’s interests. “Be selfish and enjoy all the comforts that the world has to offer” became my motto.

My dream of one day working for the space program came true when I joined NASA in 1989. Living in Georgia and Alabama, part of the Bible Belt, I had many friends whose sole goal was to convert this “heathen man”, and make me see the Light. Instead of drawing me nearer to God, this actually pushed me more toward atheism.

In December of 1996, NASA sent me to Wallops Island in Virginia to oversee a two week project. I was staying in a motel on Chincoteague Island. One cold morning about 6 a.m., I decided to visit the beach, for I had been raised in a coastal city in India and was very fond of the ocean. Of course, at that hour, no one was at the beach because the state park adjacent to the beach was a hunting ground. It was high tide with six to eight foot waves crashing onto the 20-foot wide shore. Hermit crab tracks and shells were strewn all around. At that time, no overwhelming issues of any nature were on my mind.

After walking a quarter of a mile, a Bible story came flooding into my memory, something I had learned 30 years before in my Christian Education classes in the Catholic School. So goes the story: As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”  So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41, NLV)

Suddenly, just like in the Biblical account, a scene unfolded in front of my eyes as I stood alone on the beach. The roaring sea absolutely calmed down. The wind stopped. I saw a boat floating ashore, and a white-robed man stepping off the boat. He walked toward me and took hold of my hands. I distinctly remember Him calling me by my name, “Jay,” a nickname my father gave me when I was a child. He told me, “Jay, I love you. Trust me and all your doubts will be cleared.”

He took me by the hand and we walked along the beach. I can’t fully recall all that He had told me, for I was too overwhelmed. But, I didn’t have to be NASA rocket scientist to realize Who walked beside me. Then and there I knew I belonged to HIM. I let go of all that had been precious to me – my life – and surrendered it to HIM. I can never forget those eyes looking into my heart. Indescribable peace filled me.

I knew my intellect would stand in the way of sharing this vision and my surrender. The whole encounter refuted my logical training and rational mind. However, like Zacchaeus, this was my sycamore tree, my passion. I knew I had to come down of the tree, for the ONE I had encountered had transformed me into a new person – HE had invited me to join HIM.

From then on, I found security not by owning things but by being owned by JESUS. I found peace, not by controlling my mind, but by being controlled by JESUS’ love and grace. I began a new journey, a LIFE of eternity in CHRIST. My selfish egotistical past was crucified, and I had been reborn. An insatiable desire drives me to hear His words constantly. I have an all-consuming passion to see HIM again.

The truth is that we all have “come short of the glory of God,” and we cannot see Him face to face without divine assistance. The sycamore tree of Zacchaeus was the proverbial tree of divine purpose. When humanity fell short of the glory of God, He planted another tree of inestimable worth. The tree of destiny, the CROSS, was planted on Calvary for all of us. God himself climbed it first so it would still be standing on our day of destiny. We can’t see Him from any other vantage point, but if we will just climb that tree, we’ll transcend time and access His abiding presence for eternity.

Thank you for sharing. I have been blessed because of it. 

1 comment:

ptc said...

very nice story !