My father faced a lot of difficulty in his early life. Born in the same Southern California town that I was, his mother died at 11 and his father at 17, leaving him orphaned and couch surfing immediately out of high school. He had been raised Christian, but fell hard into the Evangelical Christian revival of the 1980s. Although we no longer attend church and his views have softened drastically since I was a child, he maintains a strong tie to his faith. I first heard this story about a week before I asked him to record it. We were having a lengthy discussion about the world, and he told this story as testimonial for his faith. This recording occurred over family dinner at my parents’ home. The events that are described likely happened in the year 1980 or 1981.
SS: We were–my wife and myself–and, and a good friend of ours were young Christians. And we traveled everywhere together. And I had nothing. I had no job, I had nothing. And my father and I lived together and he was he was getting ill, I really realized it. But I came, we’re living in this little one bedroom. I would call it a shack. And I was sleeping in the bedroom, he slept on the couch. And my–I came home one day back to the little shack. And my brother had been there–when he lived in Arizona, and I hadn’t seen him in a long time. And he left a note saying, I took your dad and, and took him back to Arizona because he’s sick. Need to take care of him. And because you have nothing here.
SS: And basically, we spoke with the–the owner of this place who owns the house up front, “You’re gonna have to move.” I had no job I had no nothing. And I was–was damn I didn’t know what I was gonna do. And, and I just–I basically went and, and laid on my bed and, and cried out to the Lord, I just said, Jesus, I can’t do this. I can’t, I got no place to go. I’m done. I, you know, I wept and prayed. And then I went into a really deep sleep, like a nap but deeper.
SS: And I was awakened by banging on the door. And it was our friend that came to the door. And–and he was always optimistic, positive, full of the Holy Spirit. And he–and he said, he said, “The Lord told me to come here and said you needed me to help.” So he said, “Let’s walk.”
SS: So we hitchhiked–and we hitchhiked probably from one city to another, probably 12 miles. And we ran across a guy that was looking for help. I think it was working in a gas station. He hired me. And that same time, I don’t know how it came about. But my godparents’ son contacted me, I don’t know if I he called me. I don’t think you could call me because this was before cellphones, but if I ran across him, I don’t really remember. But he was living in a–in a mobile home park, and he needed to help sometimes with his–help him, you know, clean up around his place because his–’cause his wife and daughter, because he was working so much. And he had a–he had a little travel trailer on the side inside of his carport.
SS: And so by the end of that day, I had a place to live and two jobs. And I always attribute it to the fact that I was as low as I could go. And I think sometimes when you when you cry out from that point–from that position, it’s when God answers your prayers. It’s when you’re–when you’re done and you got no options, because he wants us to cast our cares on Him, so he can carry us. But we’re too proud most of the time.
SS: So that’s that story.
Although I no longer identify as a Christian, I find this story compelling, especially given my emotional connection to the speaker. A testimonial like this has a very specific context. My father is an open-minded man in many respects, and immediately prior to this, I was speaking about my spiritual beliefs that are completely alienated from Christian theology. He brought his story up not necessarily to convince me of the existence of the Christian God, but rather to reaffirm his own faith. Coincidence or not, real life events created this narrative, demonstrating how religious experience is not just doctrinal, but first-hand and emotional too.
Following Propp’s “31 Narratemes,” the narrative can be broken up into key narrative elements: the stakes effecting the protagonist are defined; absentation, someone goes missing (1); villainy and lack: the need is identified (8); mediation, the hero discovers the lack (9); acquisition, hero gains magical item (14); departure, hero leaves on a mission (11); transfiguration, hero is given a new appearance (29); resolution, initial misfortune or lack is resolved (26).