Kevin was sitting on the back row of the balcony. His friends, Chris and Martin, were sitting next to him where they were whispering to one another in hushed tones.
He was there because his mother made him but she couldn’t make him listen. Instead, he spent the time talking to his buddies about girls and joking about the movie they watched the night before.
“Check it out.” Chris nudged him in the ribs and pointed at one of the other people in the balcony. “That dude is dirty, man. I can smell him from here.” He had singled out an old man with wrinkled features and dirty clothes that had quietly walked in and sat down alone a few rows ahead of them. He looked like he had never so much as seen a bathtub before and there was a slight odor coming from his direction. Kevin made a face and the other two boys quickly lowered their heads and laughed.
Kevin was laughing with them when he noticed the sanctuary lights dimming. He looked up and saw that all the lights around him were slowly fading out. What was even stranger was when he noticed that the sunlight coming through the stained glass windows was diminishing. He sat transfixed until he was left in complete darkness.
What was even more disconcerting than the complete lack of light was when he noticed that everything else had also stopped. There was no light. The preacher was no longer talking and his friends had ceased whispering to him. The hum of the air conditioner was gone as well as the smell from the dirty man a few rows up. Kevin sat wide-eyed in the emptiness and felt the edge of panic.
His mind was imaging gruesome things he hadn’t thought of since he was a boy creeping towards him in the darkness. He was on the verge of screaming when, suddenly, a painful bright light appeared over him. He lifted his left hand and turned his head to protect himself from the harsh glare.
He opened his mouth to call out when another light clicked on. It shone over the podium where the preacher had been and Kevin could see a man in a dark suit standing there. He was tall and heavyset with hair the same color as Kevin’s. He looked up to him with grave eyes. Kevin felt his heart stop in his chest. He hadn’t seen his father in three years. Not since they’d buried him in the same suit he was now wearing at the podium.
“Son,” His father said compassionately. “I failed you. I spent my life striving to be your friend and not your father. I should have taught you the importance of listening to God’s voice and responding.” He paused and looked at Kevin. Kevin couldn’t look away. His heart was overwhelmed with a desire to run to his Daddy but couldn’t get there because of the darkness between them. He wanted to cry out but his voice wouldn’t work.
“Son.” His father repeated, “If you hear God speak to you, answer. Do not mock and play with God. Eternity is too important to dismiss. Listen to Him. Respond to Him. Don’t let fear and foolishness hold you back” His father’s voice took on an urgent seriousness. “Don’t ignore Him, son.”
Kevin didn’t know how long he sat there silently looking at his father before he realized the light was changing. The other sanctuary lights were slowly coming back up and the sun was again shining through the windows. With shock, he saw that his father had faded out as the light faded in and, now, the preacher stood in his place giving the invitation.
Kevin felt a tug in his heart. He knew it was what his father had just spoken to him about. He knew it was the call. He almost got up but then he started to tell himself he was crazy. There’s no way his dead father just spoke to him and, besides, if he went up there, what would Chris and Martin say? The thought of the mess they’d sling at him was too much so he sat quietly with his head down until the music stopped.
Ten minutes later, Kevin stepped out to cross the street. His mind was still thinking about what he had imagined his father said to him when the truck ran him down.
He never got another chance.
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