TITLE: The Meeting
By Terry Atchison
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Genesis 32:10 NIV
I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant...
The tennis ball skipped and hopped down the hill towards the lake. Pablo ran and caught it in his little mouth, just at the edge of the water. His coat shown like a fish, in the summer sun. It reflected the sunlight and his body was silver and blue at the same time. Adrien loved his little Yorkie and enjoyed all the times they spent playing and being together. Pablo came running up to him, ball in his mouth, then he dropped it at Adrien's feet. He started barking, so that he would toss it again for him to chase. What a beautiful day! As Adrien bent over to pick up the ball, he glanced at Pablo, and noticed a strange turquoise blue color in his eyes.
The alarm clock in the bedroom indicated 4:37 am. The turquoise numbers were shining in the dark room, giving just enough light for him to see his way around. Pablo was just a dream. He had died three years before, ran over by a truck. His memory was still very strong.
'Sunday morning at last!' 'Why on earth can't I sleep later?' He was getting up to go to the bathroom.
'Man, I look tired', he thought, as he gazed at his face in the mirror. 'I really need some time off! I feel exhausted!'
He tried to make as little noise as possible as he made his way to the kitchen for some coffee and breakfast.
Adrien had been working two jobs lately, just to pay the bills. He worked full-time as a real estate agent. Times were pretty hard at this moment in his small town of twenty thousand people. Properties were hard to move. He took on an evening part-time job at the local hospital, working as a lab tech assistant. Pay wasn't much, but it sure did help to pay some bills. His wife, Marilyn, worked as a full-time nurse in home care, but her hours had been cut back. Things were really getting tight, and nerves were thin in the household. Marilyn was worried about Adrien's health because of all the stress.
“Good morning, babe. Why are you up so early? This is Sunday. You need to sleep later, then we can go to church.” Marilyn was standing behind Adrien, giving him a hug as she talked.
“You want me to make you anything else before I go back to sleep?”
“No honey. And I don't believe that I will be going to church this morning. As long as I am awake, I am going to get everything ready and go play some golf. It has been so long since I have had a day off to do that. Do you mind?”
“Well, I understand, but I would sure rather that we be in church together.”
“Don't you get it?” Adrien's voice was now loud and sounded harsh.
“I am tired! I need to relax and have some fun! Please, just go back to bed and leave me in peace. I need to be alone.”
“Okay. I understand. It is almost five-thirty. Come tell me goodbye before you leave. I love you.”
Marilyn was leaving the room.
“I will. Love you too.”
'Why am I so angry?' She was only trying to be nice.' He felt ashamed.
'When is all this stress going to stop, and things get back to normal? How much more of this can I take?'
He started thinking about the argument he had at work with another agent, over a commission. They really got angry with each other and accused one another of being a thief. It was over a couple of hundred dollars, but each acted like there were millions involved.
'What a jerk! Those were my clients and the commission should be mine. I don't care if he was there alone when they came in to close the deal. He should have tried harder to contact me! I won't let this get by without a fight!' His thoughts kept jumping from one conflict to another.
His last oil change had cost more than usual, so he let his friend, Jamie, who owned the garage, know that he was not coming back again. He had gotten angry with his waitress at noon on Friday, because she had mixed up on his drink. He belittled her in front of everyone in the cafe, then left, talking to himself, vowing to never set foot in there again! His boss had angered him simply because in a meeting he was told that they needed better numbers and that he needed to try to work a few more hours a week. He was also very angry with himself because he had faltered and watched some porn on the 'net'. Why on earth did he let himself do that? Conflicts and problems were popping up everywhere. It seemed as though there were more and more in his life. He was angry inside, looking for answers, and it was really affecting his relationship with his wife.
Adrien finished his breakfast, showered, got dressed and went to the garage to get his clubs ready for the day. He paused as he stepped down the stairs to the garage floor.
'I really should be praying now. That is the way that I used to start each morning. This will be the second Sunday that I will miss this month. Too bad, God, I just need a little rest. I will make it up to You. I know that You understand.'
Feeling bad about what he had just said, Adrien bowed his head and started to pray. Each prayer time was always started with The Lord's Prayer, followed by The Prayer of Jabaez.
“Our Father, who art in heaven... Who am I trying to kid! I just don't have it in me! What's the use in praying when nothing happens? Nothing gets better! Each day is worse than the previous, and my prayers just go unanswered! Why are You punishing me, God? What have I done so bad that You are angry with me?”
Adrien realized that he was talking very loudly to the ceiling in the garage. He felt a gnawing emptiness inside, and was angry with the world and everyone in it. He was also angry with God because He had let his life become such a burden.
'It's not my fault!' He was rationalizing as he loaded up his clubs into the car.
'You are the one who makes things happen. Why don't You answer my prayers? Why is everyone onto my case? I will start praying again when I see a little change in my life. Okay, God? You make the first move, and I will follow. I feel too tired to try anymore. I will be counting on You.'
Once again he felt guilty. As he sat down in the car seat, he felt a small, burning, tightness in his chest.
'Must be the coffee and my acid-reflux from the eggs. I really shouldn't be eating so much for breakfast. And, I forgot to take my pill.'
He started his car, then just sat there, listening to the Christian music on his radio. That is when the big guilt filled his being. He started a conversation.
“God, I am truly sorry for all I said earlier. I do love You. I need You in my life. I know that only You can heal my stress and make me a better Christian.. You know my needs and wants and I know that if I only trust You and have faith in You, my life will change for the better. You will change disappointments into victories.” His voice was calm and sincere.
But then, doubting thoughts filled his head once again.
'And cows and pigs can fly too! I can't believe what is happening. Nothing will ever change! It will only get worse. You don't care! I will only believe again when You have shown me that You really care about me and make a change in my life. Now I am going to have a relaxing day playing golf. Forgive me, God, but I really need this day just for me. Maybe once I am relaxed, I will be able to pray to You and tell You what I need. For now though, just watch over Marilyn and let her know that I love her.'
Adrien started to back out of the driveway. It was a beautiful morning! The sun was shining brightly, just up above the horizon.
'What a nice day! Man, I couldn't have picked a better one to play a couple of rounds.'
The car backed out into the street and then BAM! The white sunlight reflected off of his interior rear view mirror, directly into his eyes and blinded him. He wanted to reach up to change the mirror position, but he couldn't feel his arm. The brightness became unbearable, and so he shut his eyes.
Adrien had now idea of what had just happened. He opened his eyes and saw nothing. Everything was black. Very black.
'This is what it must be at the bottom of a coal mine. Where am I?'
He wasn't really scared, just confused. There was no sound. No car sounds, no vibrations, no birds, no wind, nothing. His breathing was not making any noise either. He assessed his arms and legs. They seemed to be okay, but he didn't feel the need to try to move them. It seemed as though he was suspended in the middle of blackness. There was no up or down. No gravity pulling on his body. There was blackness, nothing else. He was in no pain. Silence. Nothing but silence.
“You didn't say good-bye to Marilyn.” A soft, male voice out of nowhere startled him.
“Who are you? Where am I? Am I dead? Why is everything black?”
Adrien wanted so much to be holding Marilyn in his arms right now. He was thinking of how much he loved her.
“You love her, but you didn't accept her concern and love for you this morning.”
“Who are you? Why am I here? What do you want? Of course I love my wife! Why don't you show yourself? Turn on a light!”
Then a glow appeared all around Adrien's body. He could see himself, his body, but if he reached out, his hand would disappear into darkness.
“Is that better, Adrien?” The voice sounded so calm and peaceful.
“Yes, I guess so. Can you please tell me who you are?”
“You know who I am. You have know me for forty-eight years, nineteen hours, and fifty-nine seconds. Do you remember?”
“Oh my God!”
Adrien was feeling mixed emotions.
'What did I do wrong? Is this my judgment? Is this for real, or did I have some kind of stroke or something?' A multitude questions were running through his mind. Shouldn't he feel elated, happy?
'This voice could only be God! No! This can't be real!'
“Yes, Adrien. This is for real. Now you understand who I am. It is time we had a talk, Father to son. There are many things that need to be clarified.”
“I am so sorry for all the things that I have done wrong in my life! Please forgive me! Just let me go back with my wife and.....”
“Silence, my son. We have much to discuss and see together. Do you remember the time, as a child of eleven years, that you came to Me with your innocent and loving heart? You gave yourself to Me. You understood what being saved meant.”
“Yes. I remember it, like it was yesterday. I was eleven. On my knees there in that country church, You filled me up with Your love, and I felt so invincible and ready to live my life for You.”
Adrien saw himself as a child, kneeling on the steps, down in front of the congregation. Many men and women came and laid their hands on him as he prayed and gave himself to God. That was such an intense moment in his life.
“I was so happy, My son! I was proud of you and loved you so much!”
Adrien remembered that moment so well. The warmth that filled his body was indescribable. He knew that the Holy Spirit had filled him up. That had seemed so long ago.
“Do you remember your older sister's wedding? That was a great moment for you, wasn't it?”
Adrien remembered how happy his sister was. He was sorry that she was leaving home, though. At that time, he was twelve years old and loved her like a mother, more than a sister.
“Your sister received some money for her wedding gifts, didn't she?”
Adrien knew where this was going now and he already felt ashamed.
“That summer, wicker purse was easy to see into, wasn't it, Adrien? Do you remember how you opened the latch with two finger tips, even as your sister was sitting beside you? You got the bills out, but then you couldn't shut the purse back up. Your sister caught you.”
The scene passed before his eyes like a movie.
“Please! I am sorry. I was tempted. I didn't have any money. It was a kid's mistake!”
“A kid who had given his life over to Me just a few months before. When you committed that act of stealing, I felt pain throughout. It hurt me so much that I wept. The pain was so intense! You hurt me!”
Adrien felt tightness in his abdomen. He felt ashamed and helpless.
“But she forgave me. I prayed and I know that You forgave me too.”
“I am sorry that I hurt you. I didn't realize that I could hurt you, God.”
“Yes, I forgave you. I always keep my promises because I will always love you. Even in pain, I will love you.”
“You attended church with your family regularly and many times you were thinking of so many other things than what was going on in church.”
“I was bored from listening to my father preach. We heard those sermons at home all the time too. He made us go to church if we wanted to or not.”
“You were a Christian at that age, but you didn't study My word. You should have been happy to learn the scriptures, but you preferred to waste your time daydreaming.”
“Do you remember placing a tack on your Sunday school teacher's chair, just because someone dared you to? That really hurt her feelings and you thought that it was funny. And what about putting all the nails behind tires of many of the members cars that one Sunday? A lot of people had flats and you were amused. Once again, your actions felt to me as if a blade was cutting into my body. Now think about that for awhile.”
Silence again. Adrien's stomach was tied up in knots. He felt as though he needed to cry, but no tears came. He was so ashamed! How could God feel pain?
“I can feel pain, the worst kind of pain. The pain we get from disappointments when others betray us.”
Adrien was mortified! He was starting to realize how much of a burden he had been throughout the years.
“Then along came cigarettes. Do you remember the many times that you smoked? You were so young! It hurt Me to see how you defiled My temple.”
“Yes, I smoked. Every one of my buddies smoked too, even the deacon's kids. We all sneaked off to smoke. I believe it was because of all the stories that our fathers and grandfathers told us about themselves, smoking as kids.”
And many scenes of Adrien, as a youngster, smoking, appeared. He watched them all, feeling the 'gut feeling' grow inside.
“You defiled My temple. You broke your Father's heart.”
“I am sorry, Father. At that time I didn't know that it was such a bad thing. Many men at church smoked too.”
“And they hurt Me too, my son. You continued to smoke for so many years! Each cigarette that you lit made Me feel the pain as if a nail had been driven through Me. You knew it was wrong, but you never prayed to ask Me for help until many years later.”
Adrien felt shame like he had never felt before.
“Do you remember all the times that you used My name in vain? Of course you don't. There were so many times over the years! How many of those did you ask forgiveness for? You even defied Me one time, cursing Me, telling Me that if I really did exist, to strike you dead at that moment. The pain that I felt at that moment, you will never know. Of course, this was on a foolish dare, made between you and your young friends. Today, I am sure that you know there are worse things in life than death.”
“Please, Father, I am so sorry. I never knew what a vile person that I was during those years! I was young.”
“Many other young people did not turn away from Me. The pain you caused Me, my son! The excruciating pain you inflicted on Me each time you committed those acts! I love you so much and you just gave Me more and more pain in return! My tears for you fell like rain many times.”
“But I had strayed away. My focus was faltering. I was searching for a meaning to my life!”
“You had Me, Adrien. You didn't need anything else.”
Silence. The glow had dimmed, then blackness came all around him like before. Adrien wasn't afraid, just ashamed. He tried to cry, but it was impossible. He felt as if his body was going to explode. Why had he doubted God for so long? Why did he let himself get caught up in all the petty bickering of everyday living?
Blackness and silence. He had no idea of how long it lasted. He needed rest, but there was no way for him to sleep. Images of all they had discussed continuously passed before his eyes, like a movie. He remembered all those events and it made him feel sick.
Silence. Blackness. Silence. Numbness.
“Through the teeth and over the gums, look out stomach, here it comes! Remember that one, Adrien?”
Light was once again glowing around him.
“You were sixteen, drinking for the first time in a bar. Man, you were some kind of big man, weren't you? I was about the last thing on your mind; or was I? You knew it was wrong, but you just had to go along with your friends. Be as big as they were.”
“I remember that, Father. I was a stupid kid. Yes, I knew that it was wrong. But I figured that You would understand and forgive me again. It was very wrong of me. I really wasn't much of an example. I knew You were watching, but I let the world take control of me.”
“Watching you discover the false, lying comfort of alcohol cut Me as sure as a real knife blade would have done. All you needed to do was to say no and go home. I cried as I watched you betray yourself and Me. I was losing My son, a part of me. The pain was tremendous!”
Adrien's thoughts were now 'If only I could do it all over again.'
“You can't! It is done.”
“I know, Father. I feel so sorry that I betrayed Your love for me.”
“You were a pretty good student all throughout school, until you passed your driver's license exam. How quickly your car became a tool for cardinal sins! I was there, son, each and every time you committed adultery.”
“Adultery? I was just a kid and got carried away.”
“You were a Christian, and knew right from wrong!”
“Yes, God. I feel so ashamed! Please forgive me again.”
“I have, long ago.”
“Yes, I knew right from wrong, but I was so wanting to be grown up. I had it all wrong.”
“Son, it hurt me so much to watch you take such a beautiful feeling between a man and a woman, and turn it into something vile and disgusting. That is one of My creations that you defiled and disrespected. My heart and soul were aching as I knew what you were doing. The pain was overwhelming!”
“But You are God! You can't be overwhelmed by pain!”
“Yes, my son. When my children betray Me in the most vile ways, it hurts My heart, just as you feel pain.”
“No! Forgive me, God!”
“It has already been forgiven.”
Silence. Blackness again. Adrien meditates on all of the examples that he has seen and heard about.
'Wow! Was I such a bad person, growing up? How could I have not seen or realized that I was hurting my God?' Adrien was thinking about it all, in the darkness, alone with God.
“Did you hear the one about...?”
“No, please God!”
“All of those jokes you told throughout the years. They were so funny at the time, weren't they? How many times did you tell people that you were a Christian, but this one little one won't hurt anyone. While you were laughing and gaining their esteem, I was feeling shame for you and feeling betrayed by one of My own. That is a terrible feeling!”
“I remember, God. No, they were not that funny. Yes, many times I told them just to go along with the others and belong with the crowd. It showed weakness on my behalf. I feel terrible about it. Once again, I was a bad example.”
“There were jokes about Me too.”
“Yes, and I am so sorry, God. Please, I feel so ashamed.”
“I forgave you of those too, remember?”
“You are so awesome, Father. Thank you for loving me.” Tears were rolling down both his cheeks.
“Adrien. Have you always been truthful? I have heard you say many times how much you loathe liars. You say that honesty is one of most important qualities that you look for when you meet someone.”
“Father. You know that I have told lies many times. Sometimes it was because I was a coward, sometimes because of pride, sometimes to build myself up in other people's esteem, sometimes just to hurt someone, sometimes to lessen a hurt for someone, and sometimes so as bolster my reputation. Whatever the reason, I know that it was wrong. You know how I felt when I asked You for forgiveness.”
“I forgave you each time, didn't I? Your lies cut through Me and hurt Me, but I still love you. I am your Father. Only My own children can cause Me pain. The children that I love so much. For whom I have given my life! But I will always forgive them. Always.”
“Thank you, God.”
“Tell me, Adrien. When you were high on drugs, did you understand that Satan had a grip on you? He wanted you to die. I fought for you. That is why you are alive today. You prayed to Me while you were high. Do you remember? You asked Me to let you live.”
“Oh Father! I remember those years. What wasted time that was! I could have been working for You, but instead, I was trying to 'find' myself with all the worldly pleasures. I was very unhappy inside.”
“And you kept Me blocked out. You kept saying: 'Just one more time, God. Then I will quit.'
“Father, I knew you were there. I knew You were watching over me.”
“I knew your worth, son, and I had some work for you to do later on.”
“Thank you Father.”
“Now, we know about your marriages. You were too foolish, too young, too immature, too uneducated, and without goals to be married as you did. They were destined to fail because you didn't include Me in your couple. That is why you were so unhappy. The time that you lived in a common-law marriage, was not blessed by Me in any way, shape, or form. That was thirteen years of adultery. You knew better! This too, hurt Me deeply. You made a mockery of My laws again. Do you understand that your actions were like spears piercing My flesh? The pain was tremendous!”
“Father, forgive me.” Adrien's voice was very small and quiet.
“I have already forgiven those sins! You have been blessed by a good Christian woman who loves you now. Cherish her until the end days.”
“Yes God. Thank you for Marilyn. She is a blessing.”
“Father? Are you there?”
Adrien saw his past failures pass in front of his eyes again. It was like watching a horror movie! He couldn't believe that his past had been so full of sin and disregard for the love of his Savior! The images went on and on.
'So this is my judgment, I guess.' He was thinking.
“No, Adrien! This is not your judgment. This is about your lack of faith in Me, and all the pain you have inflicted on Me, after all the love and the power that I have given you.”
The glow returned around Terry as the voice spoke.
“I have forgiven you of all those sins and I didn't remind you of all the wonderful, faithful and spiritual moments that we spent together over the years. This time together was just to remind you of how I never let you down, how I always forgave you, and how I loved you, son. You needed to be reminded of how much pain you can inflict on Me through your actions and lack of faith. That is why you are here with Me right now. You have hurt Me so many times! My children always hurt Me when they stray from Me. It is the same pain that you feel inside when you are hurt.”
“It is never too late to turn all of your problems over to Me. They are never too big or difficult for Me to resolve. F A I T H is all you need, Adrien. We can move mountains together!. When you try to live your life alone, without Me, without faith in Me, well, you hurt Me. Do you understand, son? Have faith in Me. No problem is too great or too small.”
“Father, I didn't realize that I could ever hurt You in so many ways. You always seemed to me as the invincible one who would never feel anything, especially not pain! I will always put my faith in You, for everything. I know my life is getting towards the autumn years. I will strive to put You first in all facets of my life. Thank you, God! Am I going to see Marilyn again?”
“That is all I ask of you. Your faith, and living for Me. Go now, my son.”
Adrien adjusted the rear view mirror with his right arm, so that the sun wasn't in his eyes. He remembered nothing about his meeting that had just taken place. He smiled as he pulled back into the driveway. He didn't understand why he didn't want to play golf any longer. There was a wonderful, glowing, feeling inside of him that he knew he needed to share with Marilyn. He just knew that he was feeling the arms of God around him, and that this was His day.
“Honey, I'm back.” He felt so happy as he headed down the hall to see his wife.
“Let's get ready for church! I have a feeling that from today on, things are going to change for the better!”
Psalm 130:3-5 NIV
3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
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