Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)
TITLE: Ring of Truth
By Arlene Showalter
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“Hello, Sam Smug here.”
“Hello, Sam. This is Father speaking.”
“Father? I don’t understand. Dad died ten years ago and you don’t sound anything like him. Is this a joke?”
Sam heard a soft chuckle on the other end of the line. “Sam, this is your heavenly father speaking.”
“You’re serious?” Sam paused. “Um, God?”
“Yes Sam, this is God. How are you today?”
“Wow…God!” Sam enthused. “I’m great. Couldn’t be better. I just got voted onto the church board.”
“You sound real pleased.”
“O yeah, God, I’m so excited! I can finally make some much needed changes.”
“What sort of changes?”
“Well, for starters, we’ve had the same, tired pastor for years. Don’t get me wrong, God, but he needs to be put out to pasture; if you know what I mean. He’s done the same boring stuff for twenty years.”
“Is that bad?”
“Well, yes. We need more excitement in the church. You know, to get people coming.”
“How would you do that?” asked God.
“Lively music, some drama, shorter sermons…more movement in the service.”
“So you think that would improve the church?”
“Improve what?” asked God.
“More life… more interest. More interest… more attendance,” explained Sam.
Flustered, Sam jabbed the air with his free hand. “More attendance brings more money. Money’s important. It supports all the good stuff the church is doing.”
“You know. Money for homeless shelters, missions, stuff like that.”
“How about your neighbor?”
“Huh?” Sam asked dumbly. “My neighbor?”
“Your neighbor, Johnny. Are you supporting him?”
“Johnny Desperate? Come on, God,” Sam said defensively. “He’s always drunk.”
“Do you know why he drinks?”
“No, never talk to him. He’s pathetic, an embarrassment to the whole neighborhood.”
“What about his wife, Laura Long-Suffering?”
Sam snorted. “She left him. Who can blame her! Serves ‘im right. Bet he embarrassed her, too.”
“Sam, did you know his twin died in the last war?”
“His twin.” God explained patiently as to a slow-witted child. “They did everything together. Enlisted together. Shipped out together. While riding a transport, they had just changed places when minutes later Jimmy got shot through the neck. Johnny could only hold him as his life bled out.”
“That must have been years ago,” Sam pointed out, feeling defensive.
“Doesn’t matter. He can’t get passed it. If they hadn’t changed places, Johnny would be dead and his brother alive. Blames himself. Johnny wasn’t married at the time but his brother had a wife and two kids. Left them fatherless.”
“But he’s so obnoxious, God. I’ve tried to share Jesus with him, honest I have.”
“You know…the gospel. We gotta believe Jesus died for our sins to go to heaven.”
“Do you think telling him about a distant hope of heaven helps the hell he’s in right now?”
Sam shifted his weight from foot to foot. “Well, I, uh…what am I supposed to tell him?”
“Tell him I was there when Jimmy died. We welcomed him with open arms because Jimmy’s heart was ready. Johnny’s wasn’t. Jimmy loves being here, worshipping and getting to know his creator better; while Johnny has allowed guilt and shame to torment him. All these years I’ve waited patiently to embrace him, if he would only come and accept my love. The blood of Jesus could heal him, forever taking away all the pain of losing his brother. But you never bothered to look beyond Johnny’s outward behavior to see his pain.”
Tears rolled down Sam’s recently smug cheeks, dripping onto his shirt collar. “Oh, God, oh God, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Not only have I failed my neighbor, I have wounded your heart, too. Forgive my self-righteous blindness. Forgive my arrogance. I promise you I will pray for Johnny and go see him soon. Put into my mouth the right words to say to touch his poor, wounded heart. Amen”
“Thanks son. I knew you’d come through for me. I bless you. Good-bye.”
Gently, Sam laid the receiver back in its cradle, reaching for his Bible as he sank to his knees.
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