I stood up and did a slow circle, letting my eyes soak in the scenery around me. The sun was setting behind the thin streaks of cloud to the west. The hill on which I stood sloped smoothly down, landing in a valley of yellow, orange and red leaves still clutching defiantly to their limbs despite the brisk autumn breeze. To the north I could make out the silhouettes of the tallest buildings in the city from which I had removed myself for this occasion.
I now questioned whether I should have come here. Despite the beauty, the intensity of my desire to be surrounded by people at this moment was growing as quickly as the daylight was fading. I started to run. Feet pounding, my hair was soon windblown, my cheeks red from exertion. I came to the path leading through the sparse grove of trees away from this hill and back to the existence I was so well acquainted with.
But wait—maybe I don’t know that reality anymore. Do I? Am I different? Yes, I believe I am. I know I am—He told me so. In my sudden hesitation I had stopped running, and now noticed another person to my left, only about a hundred yards away, on his knees as I had been not long ago. My curiosity could not be contained, nor could my desperate need to tell someone my secret. I approached him.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said somewhat calmly. “I don’t wish to disturb you, but I noticed you here and wondered if you have a moment to chat.”
He looked up at me strangely, seeming to determine what I was really about. I guess he decided I must be a safe and sane individual, for he eventually turned on his knees until he was sitting cross-legged and gestured for me to join him.
“You didn’t disturb me really,” he stated. “I was praying. Was there something in particular you were desiring to, ah, chat about?”
Praying? Intrigued, it took me a moment to answer, and he looked over at me questioningly. I gave him a slightly shy smile and began to tell my story.
“I came up here today to start my life over. I’ve always believed in second chances, but actually I am going to call this my ‘First Chance.’ I see it as my first chance to see the world around me as it is—understanding what it was originally meant to be. I see it as my first chance to have a clear picture of who I am, what I can do with my life, what I can look forward to in the future, even after I die. You see, sir, I’ve never believed in God. I thought if there was a God, He must have decided to give up on this world, because I couldn’t understand how a loving, attentive God could sit back and watch the happenings I saw every day.” I glanced over at my heart-to-heart partner, and he seemed to be following, quite interested actually. I continued.
“Then today I realized something—I’ve been SO wrong!” His eyes widened at my outburst. “I can’t even believe the simplicity of the logic! God is there, right here actually, and He is pure goodness!” This time he seemed a little stunned and slightly cautious of what I was saying. But I couldn’t stop there.
“Do you know what God’s love is all about? Freedom! How could we as humans understand true love unless God granted us the freedom we needed to do so? If God wants us to love Him, and to understand His character—which is the ultimate love—He has to let each and every one of us make the choice. His love for us is so deep and real and unconditional that He is willing to give us our freedom.” I took a deep breath and chanced a glance at my nameless friend.
His head was tilted; his gaze intense. “Thank you,” he whispered. “When you approached me, I was crying out to God to show me that He was real. I’ve been trying to deal with a tragedy in my life, and had come to the end of my rope. You’ve given me a new grip on life with your insight.”
My jaw hung slack in my utter amazement. I was speechless. It seems that God had given more than one ‘First Chance’ today.
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