“I know what you want to hear, and honest to God, I’d love to give it to you. Matter of fact, I must have picked up the phone half a dozen times this week, to call one of you and share my heart and feel comforted by your listening ears and what I’m sure would have been your kind words.
But I can’t.”
(A universal frown emerged on the collective countenance of the congregation.)
“I want to, but do you understand? There are things more important than what I want. Things more important than what you want. I can tell you that I went to Sammy Collins’ house on Monday night–made my famous beans and weenies–and prepared for whatever God would set before me. Patrick was there but no one else. I mean, Sammy and his wife were there, but that was it.”
(A deeper frown)
“You’re going to want to know why, or maybe you already know and I’m just being stupid here. Maybe you heard a lot more than I think. But I can’t share without betraying what I believe, what I hold dear and what makes me who I am.
I don’t think I’ve ever explained to you about my faith. I mean, I’ve shared it with you, but probably never explained it. Since none of us know what really happens when we die, everything we talk about in this sanctuary is theory. There are Christians who believe they’re right no matter what, but since no one has gone beyond death and come back with a completely unbiased report, we’re really doing this whole thing grasping at the air.
Can I be honest? It’s why lots of people give up.Their desire to be something or do something suddenly exceeds their comprehension of belief, so they split the scene.
Listen, I made my peace with God a long time ago by making sure that if He doesn’t exist, it doesn’t make any difference to me.
You might think I’m getting off the subject. Maybe I am. But really, it’s all the same point. I can’t tell you what happened at Sammy Collins’ house because it goes against who I am–who I’ve decided to be. Who I think I need to be to make sense to me.
You see, I sat down one day and decided what I would need to be if there were no God or heaven. I would still need to make a case for myself. After all, I’m here. Whether it was a miracle of creation or a process of evolution–TA-DA! Behold, I have arrived.
Even if I found out that God was all made up, I would have to include people. They’re around, you know. Except on Monday night at Sammy’s house.”
(A refreshing, hearty laugh.)
“You can’t live without running into folks. So you should make sure the cushion you keep between you and them prevents bruising.
And also, daggone it, while I’m here I might as well be creative. If you’re going to do everything the same all the time, you’re going to start hoping for heaven, which… Well, you know. We’re not sure.
And I’ve always believed in respecting life. If it’s alive, it deserves a chance.
See, I call this my back door. When I get discouraged or you guys piss me off, I go there–to that back door–and I open it up and I imagine a world without God and realize that it still would require His spirit. Does that make sense to you?
Well anyway, much as I would like to tell you my story and share my disappointment, I can’t. Because the God that’s in my heart is certainly real, whether the God of the Universe is or not.
You know, it’s funny. I’ve never told this to anyone before. I’ve never spoken it out loud–mainly because I thought it made me look like a freakin’ atheist. I’m not, though. I believe it all. I’m just ready, in case it’s not exactly what’s been advertised. I’m prepared to make sure that the things I would have done get done. And one of the things is to keep what happened Monday night to myself.
If it’s any comfort, if I was going to tell anybody, it sure would be you cool dudes.”
But then something strange happened. Two or three, and then five or ten people rose to their feet, came up and hugged Meningsbee with tears in their eyes.
The emotion he had been holding back all week long suddenly burst, and the good reverend fell to his knees, weeping.
The rest of the congregation joined the others around him, sprouting their own tears. Even four or five visitors stood on the perimeter with misty eyes.
Reverend Richard Meningsbee didn’t ponder what was happening.
He just let it happen.