The raucous laughter transmogrified into a macabre roar, as the pounding beat of the music reverberated through me.
“Why have you brought me here?” I demanded from the stranger.
Without saying a word, the foreboding figure pointed toward the corner of the room. There, seated on a barstool, was a much younger version of myself, feigning laughter as I swapped banter with a small crowd. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember ever having met any of them. For that matter, the sultry bar scene that played out before my eyes was completely forgotten to me. After all, I had had so many of them in my lifetime that I could in no wise recall each and every one. Slowly, I looked over the patrons seated throughout the seedy establishment. They all seemed to be joyously laughing the same as I, living the good life – eating, drinking, and being merry. Only then did I remember…
The empty laughter echoed like a hollow timpani throughout my soul, while fermented spirits only served to numb my despair. Wounded and bitter, I had plunged myself back into the darkness of a life without my Creator. But the cost to my soul was a somber emptiness that seared my spirit, a hopelessness that tainted my laughter. Yes, I remembered this scene very well.
“Who are you?” I angrily asked. “Why have you shown me this?”
No answer was forthcoming.
Then I recalled the apparition’s appearance from earlier that evening. He had told me that there would be three visitations that night. This must be the ghost of Christian past, I thought to myself.
As we traveled across the sky, floating through the air on our way back to my bedroom, the night wind seemed to whisper to me in an inaudible voice:
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
I awoke from my fitful sleep, admittedly relieved to find myself safe in bed. “It was only a dream,” I said to myself out loud, nervously chuckling. But what did it mean? I had long since repented of my obstinate ways, of my rebellious heart. That was a long time ago, I said, fervently trying to remind myself - myself more than any invisible wayfarer that might be lurking in the darkness. I lay back down, taking an uneasy rest.
Within moments, the second visitor awakened me.
“Wh-Who are you?” I timidly asked.
“I am the ghost of Christian present,” he replied in a resonant voice. Within moments I found myself in a separate room in my house, watching over my children as they prayed.
“Jesus, please help our daddy. He’s been working so hard and spending so much time at work. I know that’s why he yelled at mommy today; I know he didn’t mean it.”
I hung my head in shame. The hectic pace of my life had sapped my spirit and robbed my joy. I now neglected my once vibrant life of prayer, and each day I spent only transient moments in the Word.
In my bed again, I drifted off to sleep as willow branches swayed in the breeze outside my window. They seemed to speak in a harmonious voice:
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
The last visitor arrived in like fashion as the former two. It was the ghost of Christian future. I was instantly transported to a quite puzzling scene, a scene that I could not understand. I could see myself laughing heartily and boisterously that day. But the rest of the view was ambiguous, like looking at a cameo, with the remainder of the setting being unclear.
Before I could ask the ghost a question, before I could even try and sort out the abstruse scene, I once again found myself in my bed. There I sat, uncertain, my quandary unconsummated.
“Wait,” I called out. “What did that mean? Why was I laughing? Was that the masked laughter of emptiness, or the healing laughter of a joyous heart?”
My words faded into the empty room. The apparition was gone.
Then, in the quiet of the night, the Spirit’s still, small voice spoke to me. That, my child, remains to be seen. You see, that is your choice to make in life, each and every day.