Jan was a stocky boy with a morbid fear of his father. Now 8 years old he lived with Dad alone. Mum had died in a car accident when he was 4. Everybody thought that Jan had coped with his Mumís death in a remarkable way. He was a tough cookie. He could handle anything. His short thick hair only enhanced the image people around him had of him. Donít worry about Jan, he is doing fine, theyíd say to each other.
That night they had come to the student restaurant on the first floor in the Damstraat for a cheap dinner, as Dad had had too much to drink again. It was not that he was really drunk, but he had become less and less interested in looking after himself over the years and Jan was an added nuisance in his life. Cooking dinner was now an unusual occurrence and they often had take away, if anything at all. Going to the Damstraat restaurant for dinner was a treat.
The food was usually good there but tonight Jan wasnít hungry. Hans, his best friend at school, had shared a big bag of chocolates with him just after school had finished and it had in fact made his stomach somewhat queasy. Jan picked at the food, while his dad scoffed down his meal Ė potatoes, spinach and meatballs with gravy over the top.
Dad looked at Jan and said: ďCome here.Ē Jan moved reluctantly a little closer. ďCloser!Ē, commanded his father. Jan moved closer with his head bowed down. Dad smacked him in his face.
ďWhen I say ďCome closerĒ, I mean come closer. And you are not eating (another smack in the face). I bloody well spend all this money on food for you and youíre bloody well wasting it. Eat it.Ē
Jan did his best to eat some of the food, but when his dad was like this, it would put a knot in his stomach and this would make eating even more difficult. He pushed another bit of meatball into his mouth, but really couldnít chew, let alone shallow it. He involuntarily spat it back on his plate. He didnít mean to but it just came out. Dad smacked him again and pulled him off his barstool. Under a barrage of cursing they left the restaurant.
8 years later (with the door closed):
It was Friday night and Jan had been to a party with his classmates at Hansís place. Hansís family were Christians and although Jan wasnít really interested in Christianity and going to church and all that, he always liked going to Hans's place. He felt he could relax there, because he didnít have to be on his guard all the time. Hansís mum was also very sweet. She always made them a cup of tea and something to eat after school. They had asked him to come to church a couple of times, but when his father got wind of it, he was furious and didnít want to hear of it. The family never pushed him about it, so it wasnít an issue. Hansís mum told him he was always welcome there.
It had been a good night; they had talked and laughed and danced with the girls. Maybe a few beers too many, but Jan was feeling way up there with the clouds, when he mounted his bike to cycle home. He loved cycling through Amsterdam at night, when the streets were empty and he could swerve on his bike. It started to rain, not his favourite time to be on a bike, but tonight it didnít matter. It made him feel even more alive. He decided to turn left at the roundabout at the Muiderport station and then right along the canal. The road there was a little higher, almost like a dyke, so you could see the water glisten with the reflection of the streetlights. It was a peaceful scene.
In the meantime, Dad had come home just after midnight and as was his habit after a nightís drinking would call Jan to see if he was home. Jan had been woken up that way many times. However, this time there was no answer, even after repeated loud yelling. Dad got annoyed; where was that boy? He stormed into Janís bedroom, thinking he would drag him out of bed to teach him a lesson about showing respect for his father. That boy had become so disrespectful lately, ignoring him way more than was acceptable. He ripped the blankets off the bed. Jan wasnít there. He checked his own bedroom to make sure. Jan was not home, where the hell could he be? Then he remembered in his alcoholic state that Jan had a party that night at Hansís place. He was furious that Jan would stay out that late, especially with that Christian bastard. They had approached him a few times and tried to suck up to him and manipulate him to get him to church. They had told him that God was a good God and that He loved him. Bullshit! If He was such a good God, why had He taken his Marie away? Why had He let her die? Why was the world in such a mess, if there was a God? If there was a God, he wasnít doing a very good job. No, it was all bullshit. He had firmly closed the door on all that religious garbage.
He would teach Jan a lesson. He had told him many times to be home before midnight. He got back in the car, it had started to rain. He pulled out of his parking spot while he was trying to find the wipers, and just managed to avoid a neighbourís car parked on the other side of the street. He stepped on the accelerator on the way to Muiderport station.
Just when he drove onto the roundabout at the station, he saw Jan turn into the street along the canal. He turned right and right again and saw Jan a hundred meters in front of him. Although he couldnít be sure it was Jan, he had a feeling it must be him. He stepped on the accelerator to catch up with him.
Hearing a car behind him speed up, Jan looked around. He cycled on and moved to the right. However when the car got closer, it slowed down behind him and seemed to follow him. Jan looked over his shoulder and just moving under a streetlight, he recognised his dadís car and in a split second saw his dadís eyes focussed on the back of his bike. He seemed to be oblivious of the fact that it was Jan.
Dad now knew for sure it was Jan; he had recognised his jacket and the way he sat stooped on his bike. He had decided to play a little game with him to scare him and teach him a lesson. He pushed in the clutch and then the accelerator to let the engine roar as if he was going to run into the bike. It gave Jan a fright and he sped up. Looking over his shoulder he saw how close the car was and knowing his dad, he realised that he was drunk at this time of night. He cycled faster and faster, while he was thinking what to do. How could he get out of this situation? He felt a strong hatred for his father. Why did he have to play stupid and dangerous games like this?
Dad was staring at the back of the bike through the rain and the wipers going left, right, left, right. He touched the mudguard of the bike with the bumper bar and saw the bike jump a little. He laughed as he looked up and could see Jan look over his shoulder with his eyes wide open with fear. It was working. That boy had to learn a lesson. Jan was pushing harder and harder, trying desperately to get away from the car. There are no side streets. He was getting hot. What to do? What to do? This one-way street was narrow and since there was no footpath on the right side and a never-ending row of parked cars on the left there was nowhere to go but straight ahead. He started to sweat under his jacket and his hair was wet from the rain and the perspiring. He had to think of something.
Then looking in front of him, he saw the little posts, known in Dutch as ĎAmsterdammertjesí - the little posts with xxx on it. Here they cut off the road for cars and prevented them from going straight ahead under the bridge. There was only space for bikes to continue onto the cycle path under the bridge. Any other vehicles were to turn right. Jan saw his way out, he put his last bit of energy into speeding up; he was now dripping with sweat and rain. He pushed down the pedals as hard as he could. The car kept following and didnít seem to slow down. Janís eyes were on the ĎAmsterdammertjesí, faster, faster. A few more meters, a few moreÖ An eternity seemed to pass, everything seemed to go in slow motion, but finally he sped in between the posts onto the safe cycle path. He immediately heard a huge crash. Bits of metal and glass flew around him; the head lights that had been on his bike and his legs for the last few minutes died down. Jan didnít look over his shoulder. He kept cycling.
8 years later (with the door open):
It was Friday night and Jan had been to a party with his classmates at Hansís place. Hansís family were Christians and although initially Jan hadnít been really interested in Christianity and going to church and all that, he had always liked going to Hans's place. He felt he could relax there, because he didnít have to be on his guard all the time. Hansís mum was also very sweet. She always made him a cup of tea and something to eat after school. They had asked him to come to church a couple of times, but when his father got wind of it, he was furious and didnít want to hear of it. The family never pushed him about it, so it wasnít an issue. Hanís mum told him he was always welcome there.
Unbeknown to Jan, however, Hansís father had organised to meet Janís dad ďby accidentĒ. He had kind of bumped into him in the supermarket one day and started chatting. He had invited him to come to church and just to get rid of him, Janís father had agreed. He couldnít stand these sweet-talking Christians; they were all hypocrites, as far as he could see. Anyway, he had kept his word and had shown up for church one Sunday morning. He was running a bit late and had arrived half-way through the worship. Then there was a long sermon about the Kingdom of God and how different that was from this world we live in. Somehow it made sense to him, but when they started to ask people to come up to the front to give their lives to Jesus, he was ready to leave. Standing at the back of this packed church, he looked for a way out. There seemed to be a path between people straight to the exit and he started to walk. When he was almost out the door, the people near the door moved and blocked off his exit. Looking around there was now a path straight to the front of the church and many were up there already. Janís father kept walking and for no reason at all tears welled up in his eyes. It felt like someone else was walking him through an open door and he had no control. Funnily enough he didnít feel like fighting it either and he kept walking all the way to the front. When he arrived, he was crying aloud and someone invited him to come and stand with him. It all became somewhat blurry, but they all said some kind of prayer together, something about repenting, believing in the cross and letting Jesus into your heart. It was a tremendously emotional experience and he couldnít stop crying. It felt like a huge burden was lifted off his shoulders and he was being set free from a prison or something.
Life had been different since then. In the beginning Jan didnít trust his father. It was all a bit weird. He even asked him for forgiveness and promised to look after him better. It was a hard struggle but he gave up drinking and that was what convinced Jan that it was real. His dad and Hansís dad became good friends and Hansís family was now like his own family. In fact, they told him that many times, that they were now brothers in Christ.
It had been a good night, they had talked and laughed and danced with the girls. Maybe a few beers too many, but Jan was feeling way up there with the clouds, when he mounted his bike to cycle home. He loved cycling through Amsterdam at night, when the streets were empty and he could swerve on his bike. It started to rain, not his favourite time to be on a bike, but tonight it didnít matter. It made him feel even more alive. He decided to turn left at the roundabout at the Muiderport station and then right along the canal. The road there was a little higher, almost like a dyke, so you could see the water glisten with the reflection of the streetlights. It was a peaceful scene.
John 10:9-10 Jesus said: ďI am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pastureÖÖ..I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.Ē
Luke Zimmermann Page 1 07/05/2011
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