It began with a low, pulsating rhythm, like a heartbeat. Our bodies began to sway gently. With small movements of our hands and feet we expressed how our souls were being affected. Over the next 20 or 30 minutes (it seemed like hours) the music grew in intensity and volume. We were totally caught up in the driving jungle beat and the fluid figures from the guitar. We abandoned all restraint as we leaped and twirled and shook our bones all around. We passionately sang every line with Jerry as if we had written them ourselves. We were like one giant living organism coming out of a long sleep into a vibrant reawakening.
Then it stopped. Silence. All of the sudden I felt very alone. I looked around the stadium. Everyone was standing perfectly still, staring blankly into space. The stage was dark. It was as if we were all waiting. Our silent vigil seemed to last for a very long time. What were we waiting for?
It seemed to me like we were waiting for God. At any moment He would split the sky and descend into the center of the stadium and say, “I’m here children.” Yay! You finally came! Where’ve you been?! I’ve needed you! Who am I?! What am I doing here?!
Or maybe we would just break down sobbing like a small child that’s just been returned to his mother after being lost and afraid in a shopping mall for several hours. No more fear and confusion. No more endless wandering, trying to find a place to fit in. No more seeking the truth and only finding lies. What a relief!
The stage came back to life with a thousand different color lights. The music cut through the silence and subtly recaptured our souls. Everyone started doing the little fly dance again. “I guess God’s not coming so we might as well dance.” “Maybe God’s speaking through the guitar.” “Maybe Jerry is God.”
It was probably just as well that God didn’t show up, because I wasn’t really ready to face Him. I hadn’t exactly lived my life as a righteous man. The reality of my life was that I was very self-centered and rebellious and proud. Yet, I tried to appear to others as a loving, kind, friend to all. Sometimes I even deceived myself (for a little while). I always wanted people to like me, yet somehow, it didn’t come naturally to be a righteous man.
Even though it was tremendous mercy that God hadn’t picked that day to appear; somehow I was still disappointed. Deep in my heart I always wanted to know my Creator. The One who made the mountains and the forests and the oceans and the animals — the God who breathed life into every living thing, including me.
It occurred to me that I wasn’t going to find God at a Grateful Dead show. It seemed like I was just taking part in another religious service. I must admit, it was much more stimulating than my Mother’s Christianity. Yet it left me just as empty and hopeless and ashamed of how I had given myself to another false hope. It broke my heart to look around and see all of the lost children who endured lack of proper food, sleep and hygiene in order to be part of the “scene.” They were obviously hoping to find something that they weren’t getting at “home", whether it was love or peace or just to be accepted for who they thought they were. But I knew that ultimately they were going to be disappointed. I resolved that this would be my last show.
I was very depressed as I shuffled out of the stadium with the masses. I noticed a small woman standing by the gate handing people newspapers. She looked happy and very familiar. My heart leaped in hope...
I remembered some folks that I met a year or so earlier at a Dead show in that same town. I had never been so affected by other human beings as I had by these people. They were very warm and hospitable and peaceful. I had spent a few hours on their bus ("Peacemaker") talking to them. Just being around them made me feel secure and loved. I didn’t usually feel that way around total strangers.
They told me that they lived together in communities were they shared a common life of loving and caring for one another. They were searching for the rest of their brothers and sisters. The most stunning thing they told me was that they were brought together by, and had given their whole lives to following, Yahshua — the Son of God. They said that He was the very Messiah of Israel who was sent by God to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sin.
I had always believed that it was true that God’s Son had walked on the Earth 2,000 years ago for the purpose of restoring man to His Father. Yet I had never found the reality of that restoration in any of the various Christian denominations that I had been involved with.
But these people were very different from other “believers” that I had encountered. They were very simple and down to earth. I wasn’t afraid to be myself with them, they seemed to understand me. I wondered if they had found the God that I had always desired to know.
Although I was very intrigued by these people, it wasn’t very long before the looming reality of the next day’s responsibilities forced me to bid them farewell. But I never forgot the people from the maroon and cream colored bus. Every time I went to a Dead show after that I would hope to see them.
Could this little woman with the newspapers be a part of them? I ran over to her and asked her, “Are you with the community.” She told me with a warm smile that she was and pointed across the parking lot to where the bus was parked. I couldn’t contain my joy at finding them. I ran across the parking lot, practically dragging my friends behind me.
I spent the next hour talking with a wonderful woman that I had met the first time I saw them. My time her only strengthened my sense that these people had really found God. I just wanted to stay with them. I wanted to have what they had.
Later that night, driving home, one of my friends said, “They seem like really nice people, but you would really have to hate your life to just drop everything and go live with them.” Obviously, he could sense what was going on in me. I did hate my life. I hated who I had become after 28 years in this perverted society. Meeting people from the community fanned that little spark of hope in my heart that it was possible to find true forgiveness of sins and be restored to a relationship with the God who put me together in my Mother’s womb.
A month later my six-year-old daughter and I traveled to Vermont to visit one of the communities. What we found far surpassed my most hopeful expectations. We not only found a people who were in love with one another and their God. We found God Himself living in their midst.
I have come to see that it has always been God’s plan and His deep desire that He would actually dwell in human beings. He made our human spirit perfectly compatible with His Spirit. His purpose in wanting to make a home in our spirits was not just that He could have a relationship with us, but that we would be the perfect physical representation of His character to the rest of creation. We would love with His perfect love.
Throughout my life I had sought to be connected to people through the sharing of a common experience. As long as our souls were being stimulated by the same external source, it felt like we were in unity. But when the music stopped the illusion of oneness faded away. Unity is a spiritual thing. We must be filled internally with the same spirit. God is one. His Spirit has the power to make us one. Every attempt to find fulfilling love or lasting peace without God, will only result in disappointment. We will never be fully satisfied until we find our Creator and make peace with Him.
It’s been over 20 years since my daughter and I came to the community. Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am for the love and mercy that I have received. Nothing can compare to the peace of a good conscience. I’m being healed of the deep scars from my time in the world and I am learning to love with the love of my Master Yahshua. I’m not disappointed.
Wherever you find a people who are in unity with one another, expressing His love: that is where you will find God. For where God is, there love is. Where love is, there God is.