On Mar 25, 2015, at 8:22 AM
This story deserves to be told standing alone, so impactful was it for my new friend and for me. I hope that you will share this story with others who pray. For me, it was a “Pilgrims Progress” experience.
I met a man on the side of Camp Creek Bald, resting against the mountainside and leaning on a long hand-whittled walking stick. As I climbed up the slope, he called out a greeting, then added “You can’t be too proud on this mountain!” I will long remember that greeting, sage words that sparked a miraculous encounter.
The day was warm, but he was wearing a thick camouflage jacket, a single glove, and a knit cap. His face bore a two-week old beard. A large nose and a bushy mustache made him an interesting sight. He introduced himself as “Einstein” and I asked him how he got the trail name. He promptly ripped off the knit cap and smiled. I laughed so hard I thought I would cry, and he laughed with me. The man was a dead ringer for Albert Einstein. I learned later that he once stood on the steps of MIT’s library and made $2,500 in one day offering students a chance to take their picture with him as he handed out buttons that said “E=MC2.”
Einstein is Jewish. We spoke for a long time about all the things he’d learned growing up Orthodox as a child, about things he learned in the temple and synagogue, and about everything he had learned reading the Bible. As he spoke, I knew we had been placed together on the mountain for a reason.
Einstein was headed home. He had completed a two-week “mountain top experience” on the severe Camp Creek Bald that I would later cross. Five years ago an infection destroyed three vertebrae in his neck and doctors cut them away, replacing them with fused cadaver bone. They placed him in a three-month medically- induced coma to keep him still. A stubborn but dearly loved wife pulled him through months of rehabilitation and therapy. He fell during the therapy and shattered his hip, leading to more operations and more therapy, all supported by his incredible bride. Then the unthinkable happened. His wife was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. He brought her back to her childhood home in NC and cared for her until her recent death. Now, only weeks after losing her, he sought an answer on the mountain. His question: “Why?”
Einstein was in tears as he shared his story, wondering aloud why she had to die, and why I could not have been there to listen to his story during his solitary days on the mountaintop. I shared with Einstein that perhaps God had a different plan, for us to connect on his way down, and on my way up. He nodded.
“Jesus is calling you, Einstein,” I told him. “You are full of knowledge of the Torah, the Talmud, the Bible and so many other things. But Jesus does not just want us to know about Him. He wants us to know Him. He is calling you to a relationship with the Christ.”
I hope that I never forget the look in his teary eyes, Albert Einstein staring back at me with such deep hurt. “You are at a very important junction in your life, Einstein,” I told him. “You can make a decision for Jesus today and be in a relationship with Him, not just know about Him. He is calling you.”
Einstein nodded and said, “He put you here. For me.” I replied with something like, “Maybe He did,” amazed at what was transpiring. I sat down by him and asked if we could pray, then told him, “You can ask Jesus into your life right now. Is that the desire of your heart?” He burst out a hearty, “Yes!” mixed with a choked sob.
Einstein and I prayed on the side of a mountain. He had laid his grief at the top of Camp Creek Bald, and now he poured his heart out to God on the downhill slope. That’s the way it is for all of us. We fight our way to the top, sometimes railing at God for answers. Broken and on the downhill slope, we open our hearts to Him—the Creator of the Universe, waiting patiently for us to turn our lives over to Him.
Be in prayer for my new friend, Einstein. Share this note with a friend, a Sunday school class, or a small group. Let’s fill Heaven with prayers for a broken man who has turned his heart over to God. The enemy lurks, ready to steal away his joy and his new-found faith. Pray that God will place one of His disciples in Einstein’s path.
Our Redeemer lives! He is in this marvelous creation that surrounds us on the Appalachian Trail. He waits patiently for us to see Him and for us to ask Him to restore us. Like walking the AT, we have to take the next step.