Stay out. No Admittance.
Russell’s mind was firmly closed to God, or even the possibility there might be a God.
I stand at the other end of the spectrum. I am certain God exists, the creator and source of all things. More than that, through Jesus Christ I am no longer an enemy of God, but a son.
Despite our differences, Russell and I were good friends. We enjoyed a round of golf, watched football together and shared family barbecues.
We first met as young parents living on the same street. I mentioned my faith in God a few times but Russell made it clear there was no place for God in his world. We chose to remain friends and although I dropped the subject, I prayed that God would somehow break through Russell’s wall of denial.
Ten years after we met, Russell and his family moved to another city. We continued to exchange news at Christmas for three or four years, but eventually we lost touch and I confess I stopped praying for Russell. My prayers hadn’t made any difference and God introduced me to others who were more responsive.
One Saturday morning, last month, I discovered God had not forgotten Russell.
The door bell rang and when I answered it, there he was.
“I guess you didn’t expect to see me again,” he said with a smile.
“Russell! Come in. Come in.”
“Where’s Molly? In the car? Tell her to come in, too.”
“Molly’s not with me. That’s why I’m here.”
The story that unfolded had me in tears, then thanking God for His grace.
“Everything was going so well,” said Russell. “You know I left on promotion - it was the best career move I could’ve hoped for. Molly was unsettled for a few months but she found new friends and we were both as happy as we’d ever been.
“But it all turned sour six months ago. I never realised life could change so quickly.”
I saw the moisture in his eyes.
“I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to her.”
Russell recounted how Molly had collapsed without warning at the supermarket and was dead by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital.
“A blood vessel burst in her head. The doctor said some people have headaches beforehand but often there’s no warning. Molly had no idea something was wrong.”
I wept with Russell, stunned at the news, waiting for him to continue.
“At first, I was numb with shock. Molly and I were still happily married after thirty five years. I’d expected at least another ten years before we’d have serious health problems.
“Then I was angry. Angry at God for taking Molly. For breaking up a good marriage. We didn’t deserve this.”
Russell paused and looked at me intently.
“Did you hear me, Jim? I was angry at God.”
“I heard you.”
“One day, when I was describing my anger, a young fellow at work said something that stopped me in my tracks. He reminded me how often I’d said there was no God. Just like I used to say to you.
“I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to blame someone. If I couldn’t be angry at God, how could I deal with all this pain and grief? How could I move beyond it?”
Again Russell smiled, a smile that hinted at the answer.
“I discovered something, Jim. Something I’d been denying for years. There is a God. I used to think people invented Him because they needed a crutch in life. Not so. When I went to God I found something I’d never had before - peace. And forgiveness and hope. I just wish Molly and I could have found it together.
“I knew you’d want to know. If you ever prayed for me, your prayers have been answered. God smashed the lock and tore down the gates I’d built to keep Him out.”
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