I can’t do this, Lucy thought, pressing her hand to a stomach so tight with tension it almost counterbalanced the extra pounds she’d added since the baby was born.
Shaking, she sipped the glass of water placed on the podium, trying to buy time. The college’s small auditorium was only half full for the optional seminar in World Religions called “Christian Convictions and Testimonials.”
The myriad of faces opposite were blank. In the semidarkness, they seemed like disembodied accusations waiting for the moment when she would trip to point at her in cold disgust for her inadequacies—she who dared to suggest that they . . . that all . . . have sinned and need to make it right with God.
It’s not bad enough He wants me speak up here when I barely know how to talk to them one-on-one. No! He just has to give me a message that no one wants, so I can be even more of a wackjob.
“Good morning,” Lucy’s voice croaked through the whine of the old microphone.
“Repent! For the kingdom of God is near.” (NIV Matt. 3:2) Remembering the verse, she pictured John the Baptist chomping a locust and wading thigh-high into the river. Now there was a man who wasn’t afraid of what people thought!
If a messenger of God ended up with his head on a platter for rebuking people, where does that leave me?
“I’d like to talk to you about finding God and living for Him . . . in a world that tries to silence the truth,” Lucy began.
“You can’t handle the truth!” A voice boomed from the audience in fair imitation of Jack Nicholson. Laughter rang through the crowd, and a pair of eyes she knew smirked at her from a second-row seat.
Oh, no. Anyone but him. Sensing her fear, the young man smiled and licked his lips in a slow, sensual arc. Yes, Lucy knew him: in ways she’d rather forget. She’d just wanted to feel for a moment that she belonged, so when he’d led her into his room, she had smiled and pretended it was what she wanted. Not long after, he’d moved onto someone more exciting and she was . . . pregnant.
And how completely unbelievable to her to be standing in front of the university clinic in the middle of a cliché. Well, no point blaming God. I sure didn’t get here by doing what He said, she’d thought.
Funny, but it was like finding out my favorite fairy tale was real, the way I felt such complete reassurance that I was loved, that everything would be okay if I trusted Him to lead me through the landmines. Now I’m here, and I don’t know what to do.
She wanted to run away. The other speakers looked sympathetic, but remained seated. Then she remembered her old friend Aidan who seemed to know her thoughts before she did.
“You can’t run, Lucy,” came Aidan’s mellow voice. He held her hands, warmth flowing into cold fingers. “You made a mistake. God turned it to something good.”
Lucy looked uncertain as Aidan paused. He touched her hair, gently cradling her cheek with the rough palm of his hand. “Evil is trying to work through that guy, sitting there looking at you like he knows you. If your message wasn’t important, it wouldn’t be worth stopping. Don’t let evil win this round.”
“God overcame my mistakes before . . .” Lucy began. “Maybe He can do something with this moment.”
Aidan’s eyes shone bright as he embraced her. “He can if you’re willing to let Him work through you. What if your words are meant to touch even one soul here and change her world? Would you risk laughter for that?”
Lucy remembered times she’d desperately wished for a hand . . . a voice . . . to reach out to her and nodded.
Aidan smiled. “Then start talking.”
The vision of Aidan faded from her mind, but not his words. Never mind that he hadn’t actually spoken them; it was the sort of thing Aidan would have said. She raised her chin, looking down at the father of her sweet child without the fear he’d been feeding on.
“Today I want to introduce you to a couple of God’s greatest wonders—His total love and forgiveness. But in order to find it, you have to know you need it . . .”
Aidan’s smile glowed in her mind.
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