Life doesn’t always give us a fair shake. Ask Bob. He’ll tell you. Oh, no, wait a minute. He can’t tell you. Not personally anyway. Can’t say a word, because he’s not alive anymore to talk. Not that he had that much to say when he was alive. Well, that’s not entirely true.
The first time I saw him was on the gymnasium floor, standing in the centre behind a podium they dragged out, in a jean shirt rolled up at the sleeves, and matching jeans, a contrast to the suited men standing behind him. His face was rugged, not the typical smooth cheeked look of most of the guys at the Bible College I attended. Every Friday we’d head to the gym and hear a special speaker give some kind of uplifting devotional talk. Or a visiting missionary, with slides and prayer requests. This week it was Bob. He was one of us, a classmate, in learning like the rest of us, but they asked him to share his testimony. You know, the before, middle and after one when there’s been a dramatic conversion.
So Bob told us about the streets, how he lived on them, from them. How he spent his days looking for money, so he could support his habit. He didn’t have a job, never had a real job worth talking about. Never had a family worth talking about either.
But one day, he tells us, from behind the podium, he met this guy from the church downtown. This guy sat on the curb with him, coffee in hand and talked about God. And the things he told him, Bob said, made sense, about the power of God and changing his life and everything.
So Bob did. He told the guy, yah, he’d give it a shot, he’d ask Jesus into his life. It wasn’t going anywhere anyway. And as soon as he did, he felt the desire for smoking and doing drugs and stuff kind of melt away from him. Said he felt the power of God come on him and he knew now that life had more for him than the streets did.
Anyway, he said, to make a long story short, he decided to go to Bible College, to see if God had a call on his life. And so he did. He got in on his testimony. On his dramatic conversion.
While Bob was talking, the men stood behind him, rocking back and forth in their high polished black shoes, the smiles on their faces big, being happy for Bob.
Well, after that day, they started calling on Bob more and more to give his testimony. Different Bible Schools in the area had him come and speak. And so the year went. He was turning into a kind of spiritual superstar, though at school he was pretty much a loner. Nobody saw all that much of him, and when we did, well, we didn’t quite know what to talk about. Bob came from a different world than most of us, and one that wasn’t all that easy to understand.
Anyway, turned out Bob dropped out before the end of first year. Nobody really heard from him after he left. Just a rumour that he went back to the streets. And we went on with things, the way people do.
A few years after graduation someone mentioned Bob’s name in the sentence with, has anyone ever heard how he was doing.
Yes, someone said. As a matter of fact they did. They think he ended up back on the streets. And not only that, he eventually died, probably killed himself. That was all. Just a couple of sentences about Bob.
He’d had such a strong testimony. And when he talked, we saw the dramatic power of God. I guess the problem was, the dramatic power is only a starting point. But somehow we looked at Bob as though he had arrived. Maybe he thought so too.
Anyway, Bob is a real person. My memory doesn’t have all the facts right, but Bob’s fate is real. And every now and then, when I hear people give their testimony of how God delivered them from a life of drinking, or drugs, or whatever, I see this man in a jean shirt and rugged skin standing behind a podium. And it makes me sad.
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