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Michael Harding: I’m ashamed to say that I love my Toyota; it’s my pride and joy

It amazes me how easily catastrophe rises in my life. And how my sense of faith can be so quickly shattered

There are days when I feel as if the sun is shining on me alone. As if God is smiling at me. As if there was a link between my good fortune and God’s plan for the universe.

Such feelings are far from healthy. I’m like the cock who crows at dawn, and when the sun comes up, he supposes that his efforts have been rewarded.

Needless to say, it’s my unhinged obsession with religion that makes me feel so like a cock. I think someone has been arranging the cosmic furniture for my benefit.

I was trying to explain this to a friend in Mullingar last week. We were having coffee and a sandwich outside the Centra on the edge of town and it struck me that it would be nice to finish off lunch with something sweet.


At that precise moment, a woman we both knew arrived at the table with little tubs of strawberry ice cream for both of us.

“My treat,” she said.

“You were sent by God,” I declared, and in a way, I believed it. Because the day had been going so well.

Later, as I drove towards Laois – my beautiful Toyota sparkling in the sunshine – I was smug from the fact that every unfolding moment had been to my liking: the coffee, the ice cream, the sunshine and the lovely car.

And despite having a sore toe, I had resolved to go walking in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

After an hour on foot without any pain in the toe, I assured myself that the Lord was once again attending to my every step along the hills; angels it could be said were ensuring that I did not stumble. So onward and upwards I walked. Such is the presumptive nature of my faith.

But after two hours there were signs that something was going wrong. The afternoon became humid, with heavy black clouds gathering above me. I could hear thunder clapping in the distance, somewhere near Carlow, and it was clearly coming my way.

Yet why should I care, since God was minding me? Even if lightning struck nearby, I should be fine.

“If a thousand fall at my side; If ten thousand were dying around me, these evils would not touch me,” as the psalmist says.

Such is the depth of my exceptionalism.

I was so far up the mountain that I was actually looking down at a phone mast nearby, but there was nothing to worry about; even if the thunder came closer and grew louder, even if flashes lit up the mountain like a movie set for Wuthering Heights, there was absolutely nothing to fear, as far as I was concerned.

Although I did turn around before the end of the trek and head back for the car park, sometimes leaping like a frightened deer along the boardwalk. And the thought did occur to me that it would be possible to slip, despite the little rivets nailed into the timber beams to give walkers a grip; and if I slipped and sprained an ankle, I might be a long time waiting for rescue.

But it didn’t worry me as I leapt like a gazelle from plank to plank between the heathers.

I reached the car and turned the ignition as the first crack above me thundered and let loose a deluge of rain. I laughed as I gripped the steering wheel, put the wipers in fast mode and drove through the sheets of rain and the swelling floods along the narrow roads.

“Thank you, God,” is all I could say; assuming “Him, Her or Them” to be the hidden love behind the universe as it unfolded in my favour.

Of course, the good car helped. I’m ashamed to say that I love my Toyota; it’s my pride and joy. It’s the very embodiment of God’s love in my life.

And later, as I turned into a hotel car park near Waterford, the mirror on the passenger side scraped the wall. I was horrified and instantly reversed to avoid further disaster, only to hear the stone wall tearing the passenger door to shreds.

It amazes me how easily catastrophe rises in my life. And how my sense of faith can be so quickly shattered. All I could do was just stare at the car and wondered why. Why God? Why hast thou forsaken me?

But from the wild sky there came no answer.