Though the idea of sitting in a church pew filled him with dread, there was something inside that made him want to go. And that something pulled at his heartstrings.
Stephanie reached over and grabbed Todd's hand.
Todd finally broke a smile, and nodded. "For you. Because it's your birthday." His face turned somber. "But...I'm not making any promises."
Stephanie gave his hand a squeeze - a silent acknowledgment of his previous statement. Suddenly, she smiled as she let go of his hand and jumped up from the couch. "Kids!" She ran screaming down the hall. "Great news! Your father's going with us to church today!"
Todd could hear the cries of joy coming from down the hall, as he got up and made his own way to the back of the house.
The people were nice, and a few even introduced themselves to Todd; told him how happy they were to see him. He especially enjoyed the singing, and the praying too. At one point during a prayer, he found himself actually talking with God, something he hadn't done in a long...long...time.
Then came the preaching. Todd watched as the title of the message flashed across the large screen above the Pastor's head. And as each passage from the Bible came onto that same screen, and the Pastor gave the sermon, Todd felt as if every word was meant specifically for him.
At one point during the service, Todd looked down the row at his family. Smiling, he reached over and held Stephanie's hand. She looked up from her Bible and smiled back at her husband.
This was good. Nice. Right.
They all rose as a family when the Pastor finished his sermon, and they bowed their heads to pray. Todd knew the invitation would be given - had heard it all before. But on this Sunday morning something stirred in his soul, and he prepared to make his way to the front of the church.
Suddenly an older man got up from his seat and took the stage. Todd watched as the man walked over to where the Pastor was standing, just to the side of the pulpit. The two men faced each other as the whole congregation watched in utter silence. The older man reached out his hand for the microphone, and somewhat reluctantly, the Pastor turned it over to him.
The man held the microphone up to his mouth and faced the congregation...
Todd ran out of the house and into the backyard. The tears were streaming down his face as he made his way to the picnic table in the middle of the yard.
He cried out loud. "Why, Lord? Why today?"
He heard a whistle.
He looked through the chain-link fence over at the yard next door, a yard that had been void of inhabitants for well over six months.
Down at the back of the yard was a man wearing a hat. He had a shovel in his hand, and was using it to dig into the ground.
Todd rubbed the tears from his eyes and walked to back of his own yard, trying to get a better look at the man with the shovel. He leaned onto the fence between the two yards and stared at the man, who continued to whistle.
Finally, after much hesitation, Todd spoke. "Repairing the fence, huh?"
Max stopped whistling, but continued with his work.
Todd tried again.
"Are you moving in next door?"
Finally, Max turned and tipped his hat, acknowledging Todd's presence. And then just as quickly, he went back to his work.
"All right, Mister. If you don't want to talk, that's fine by me. Besides, I've had my fill of fellowship today."
Max stopped whistling. He took his hat off and wiped his forehead. He then took a giant step back from the broken down fence, and looked at the work he had done so far. After a few moments of silence, he put his hat back on, and spoke. "You see this fence here?"
Todd stared at it.
Max continued. "It's been months since anyone's worked to repair it." He walked back over to the fence and grabbed one of the metal poles that hung loosely in the ground. "She'll take some doing, but she'll mend."
"Trouble is. Someone's got to be willing to fix her." He walked over to Todd. "Churches are like that, don't you think?"
"Didn't exactly go the way you planned did it?"
Todd thought for a moment. "As a matter of fact, it went just as I thought it would."
Max smiled. "Did it? Did you really see yourself walking down that aisle this morning?"
Todd was caught off guard. "No...not that part. I mean the part where they kicked out the Pastor."
"But you did almost step out into the aisle, didn't you? You almost answered the call."
The tears began. "I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to..."
Max leaned closer. "Then don't let them stop you, Todd. Reach out, right now, and let Jesus change your life."
Todd shook his head. "So I can become like them?"
Todd looked up.
"So you can be just like them."
Todd continued to stare.
Max smiled again. "So you can be...forgiven."
The tears were coming hard now, and Todd lowered his head and stared at the ground.
"You're right, Todd. The church is made up of people, and people make mistakes."
Suddenly, Max walked through the fence and over to Todd. Todd didn't even seem to notice how Max came to be at his side, he was just grateful that he was, as he hung onto every word that was coming from Max.
"But those people are still the Church, Todd." Max continued. "They are still the Master's children. Forgiven, loved...free."
Now Todd looked up and acknowledged Max.
Max put his arm around his new friend. "And now the Master calls you, Todd. Will you except His call?"
It didn't take long for Todd to answer through the tears. "Yes," he said. "Yes, I will."
At that moment the back door of the house opened and Stephanie made her way to her husband. "What are you doing back here, honey?"
"Just visiting my friend." He went to introduce Max to his wife, and at that moment realized Max was nowhere to be found.
Todd looked confused. "He was here." He looked back at his wife. "I came out to the yard and I saw him working on the fence next door..." His words trailed off as he looked over at the fence, a fence that had not been touched in over six months, and was in much need of repair.
Stephanie looked questioningly at her husband, and then at the old fence across the way. She let out a nervous laugh. "I don't think anyone's been working on that fence."
It took Todd a minute, and then he smiled. "No, I guess they haven't." He looked at his wife. "Someone has been working on my heart, though." He slowly walked to Stephanie's side. "Will you do something for me, Steph?"
The tears were beginning again. "Will you pray with me?"
Through tears of her own, Stephanie smiled at her husband.
And in the back alley, a few houses away, a stranger looked on. When he saw Todd and Stephanie kneel down to pray, he turned away with a smile. He slowly adjusted his hat and then continued on his way, whistling a familiar hymn as he did so...
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! - 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
"Whispers" (featuring the angel Max, is available at the FaithWriters ebook store.