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  • Rob Gieselmann

Premonitions

Updated: Jan 3

I fell on the mountain the day after Christmas. At least I think I fell. Others have asked me, Do you think someone ran into you? That happens sometimes on ski mountains, and this past week the mountain was so crowded that people were running into other people. In life, too, people run into other people - and I don’t mean in the acquaintance sense, but in the forcible or violent sense, in a way that does real damage.


Someone may have run into me, I don’t know. All I know is this: I somehow got off the lift, buckled into my snowboard, then woke-up mentally fifteen or twenty minutes later imagining I’d just helped ski patrol with a woman who’d wanted a toboggan “courtesy ride down.” (The mountain is too steep for some people to ski.) Did I actually help ski patrol? Maybe. The mountain record says that ski patrol in fact gave someone a toboggan ride during the timeframe for which I have no memory, but all I recall is the vague image of ski patrol and a toboggan. A vision.


The vision left me and there I was, by myself, skier’s right on mid-Upper College when I looked up and across the mountain and realized that I had no idea how I’d gotten there. Where am I? How did I get here? I had no memory of riding the lift, buckling in, riding my snowboard down, or falling. I did have some vague inkling that I’d had an accident. I felt pain in the muscles of my upper legs. I was woozy, foggy.


It felt as though I’d been transported in sleep to that particular place in space and time, then shaken awake. Something must have gone wrong, maybe terribly wrong, though even that realization felt fog-like. I had been working as a yellow jacket all morning - a mountain guest host - that much I recalled. I just didn’t know how I’d gotten from the plaza to the side of the ski run.


It came to me - when I realized I didn’t know - that I needed help. I decided to quit the mountain the safest way possible, which meant downloading on the gondola. Only, the top of the gondola was a quarter to a half-mile away.


And that - sitting on the side of the slope and thinking about the gondola - is where the memory stops again, a second time. Vaporizes. The next memory I have is of being on the gondola heading back to base.  I don’t recall turning the right corner onto the cat track. I don’t remember boarding the long cat track to the gondola, one that makes me, as a middling boarder, nervous. I can’t see the skiers come up behind me and race way too fast past me. No memory of unstrapping my board or of walking up the steep but short slope to the gondola. No recollection of asking the lifties to let me download. I only remember finding myself on the gondola and radioing David, my supervisor, that something was wrong with me. From that point, I remember everything else. The ski patrol checking me out; the emergency room; Heather and David’s ride home.


Premonition. I’d not been able to shake the dark premonition all fall: that the mountain held some sort of darkness for me. I’m reluctant to use the word, but here it is: evil. I’d tried to shake a premonition of evil.


Faith. The love of God. The protection of God. It was not as though these elements dissipated in the face of whatever darkness I sensed, but even these bedrock foundations to my life would not allow me to shake the dark premonition. I tried.


I don’t usually have premonitions, at least not like that one. So I figured it must be anxiety. Fear. I’ve fallen before, and the older I get, the less I want to fall. Or get injured, and I’ve had more than my share of injuries, usually from active lifestyle choices. But I’m not typically afraid. I’m not a fearful person.


When I was serving a church in California and being stalked by a parishioner, I had a similar premonition, only not of evil. The conflict of stalking had reached its climax. It was Holy Week; Jesus was going to be crucified once again by the end of the week. I was praying during my morning devotions, and what came to me plainly as fact more than prediction was this: you are the one who will be crucified. The thought was not grandiose. I did not and do not have a Christ-complex. Instead, what I felt was this: I had been fighting three years for what felt like was my life, trying to get authorities of all sorts to intervene and help stop the stalking. The authorities were of little help, and I finally realized that I was going to lose in the end. And I did lose. I ended-up leaving that church because of the stalking, and only then - upon abandonment - did I recover, did I experience resurrection life, hope, and a future.


I am not sure, yet, what the premonition of darkness on the mountain meant or means, but that vaporous episode on the side of the mountain certainly feels dark - and today, only a few days later - the premonition is gone, the darkness past, and life has returned to its place of  peace. True, I have a vague headache from the concussion, for when I fell, and it became obvious to everyone that I had somehow fallen - my helmet was cracked and dented - I hit my head hard. I hit other parts of my body hard as well, my pelvis, my legs, my neck.


Simeon had a premonition, only his was the opposite of mine. His was one of hope. He knew with every fiber of his being that he would not die until he’d seen the salvation of the ages, the promise of the prophets, the very life of God in human form. Jesus. Christ. And when he did see God’s sua sponte offering in the form of Jesus, he sang the most beautiful hymn imaginable. Lord lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy Word. Thy Word. The premonition for Simeon was Word. Spoken spirit of God in his soul. God living right there, in his chest.


These types of premonitions - Simeon’s and mine - I would classify as being from the Holy Spirit. God in the midst. God in the soul, living inside me, inside each of us. Maybe you would call them something else. Many people have them, though they are not something a person can decide to have, or even pray to have. And, for whatever reason, who knows? Would I have acted differently had I realized mine was from God? Maybe, but maybe not. It wasn’t darkness I needed to avoid so much as I was to travel through the darkness. Sometimes we need help traveling through.


Simeon’s premonition was different. God revealed to him that there would be a salvation that had only been hoped for until now. God would finally intervene. And, it would happen before Simeon died. He didn’t conjure the premonition up. It came not from himself, though it had become part of him.


Rare and common, and I wonder what premonitions you’ve experienced from time to time across the years? For the Holy Spirit lives within each of us, right here, fist against chest, right here.


From Luke 2 (NIV), about Simeon: When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”


Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:


“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation,  which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”


The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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