Martin stared around the laboratory, wide eyed. The young graduate student could not believe he’d been accepted into the lab of Professor Von Trager, the most prestigious scientist of his time. Martin took it all in, the rows of glassware arranged in the cabinets, the fume hoods filled with frothing and bubbling reactions, the white lab coat-enrobed students scurrying about. He drew in a breath and was rewarded with the scent of solvent vapors.
His tour guide for the day steered him out of the lab. “Professor Von Trager will see you now.” Martin thanked her, and with trembling hands, knocked on the professor’s office door.
“Enter,” sounded a mild voice from within. Martin wiped his hands on his pants. He’d seen the professor countless times before, but to be invited into his office, the birthplace of his ideas…
He pushed open the heavy door which squealed in protest. He soon found himself seated in front of a massive pile of papers under which, he assumed, was a desk. Hardly daring to believe his good fortune, he stared in rapt attention as his mentor discussed his latest project. He finally began to relax, basking in the man’s brilliance.
“God has certainly blessed you with a remarkable mind,” he told the professor.
Professor Von Trager’s face darkened to the color of a ripe pomegranate. Veins bulged in his forehead. Despite his sudden change in appearance, the professor measured each word carefully.
“Do … not … speak … to … me … of … God. Please close the door behind you.”
Flustered, Martin muttered an apology and backed out of the room, right into the department secretary. She took one look at his face and quickly guided him down the hallway. Stopping, she turned and asked “Did you mention God to Professor Von Trager?”
At Martin’s nod, she clicked her tongue. “He’s really a very reasonable man otherwise.” She looked both ways down the hall and continued with a hushed voice. “Years ago, Professor Von Trager had a beautiful bride and the most precious baby girl. They were the pride of his life. His wife was the strongest Christian I’ve ever known. The day a drunk driver took their lives, a piece of the professor’s soul was taken as well, I’m afraid. He’s been furious with God ever since.” She leaned closer to Martin, who was nearly overcome with her sickly-sweet perfume. “I’m only telling you this to warn you. If you want to stay in this department, it would be wise to lay off the God talk.”
She walked away, and Martin stood there alone, as the clicking of her high heels faded down the hall. Martin was crushed. He’d managed to anger the man he admired most in the world. He slumped again the wall and offered up a prayer to heaven. The answer was clear. “Pray for him.”
For the next two years, he prayed for the professor every morning. Every day, he worked dutifully in the lab, never again mentioning the name of God to his mentor. Their rocky start was never spoken of again.
One January evening, Martin was working late and noticed the lab was unusually quiet. He had heard murmurings earlier about a storm moving in, but had paid it no mind. Now he walked across the hall to glance out the window. The world was covered in a thick blanket of snow, deepening by the minute. He decided he’d better head home. The only light still on in the hallway came from Professor Von Trager’s office. As he passed by the door, he heard a moan.
“Sir,” he called into the office, “Are you all right?”
When he got another moan in reply, he rushed in to find his mentor crumpled on the floor.
The professor tried to sit up, his face contorted with pain. “I tried to move my filing cabinet and threw my back out. Help me into my chair.”
Martin tried, but the heavy man was too much for him. “I’ll get some help.”
Rushing through the building, he found no one. He headed back to his professor and called 911.
“Sir, with the storm, it may be a while before someone can get here.”
Martin quickly took stock of the situation. If he ever had a captive audience, it was now. He sent up a silent prayer, and wondered if he dared once again to mention the name of God.
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