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Oct. 26, 2027, 7:26 p.m.
18 Years, 142 Days Ago
Paul sat in resentment as some preacher droned on and on, and no matter what the guy said, Bill was still dead. He died in a car crash that didn’t have to happen. Paul kept playing the scene out in his mind over and over again, and every time he did so, he only got more angry.
“I can imagine someone wondering why they should trust in a God who would let this happen.” Paul was only half listening, but that statement resonated so strongly in his mind that he couldn’t help but pay attention.
“The truth is that there aren’t any words that get to what we all really want. That’s because what we really want is Bill here with us,” the pastor said. “Of course we want that. We’re here, and we loved him, and we don’t want to say goodbye.”
Paul’s lip trembled as the pastor seemed to narrate Paul’s thoughts.
“But there is hope for those who believe in Christ.”
Paul gritted his teeth. It only took a minute for this to turn to a sermon, but he was in a church. What did he expect?
“I don’t know if you want to hear what I have to say, but my hope is you’ll hear me now, and one day, you’ll be willing to listen. I’ll plant because Bill was a planter.”
Paul remembered Bill saying he’d keep planting.
“Those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead will be saved, and those who are saved live eternally with Christ in Heaven.”
It was just like Bill had explained. The gospel: what a joke! Sure, maybe Bill is living forever in Heaven, but that doesn’t do anything about the fact that Paul’s mother cried herself to sleep every night. It didn’t do anything to bring Bill back from the dead.
“The hope Christians have is the knowledge that they will be reunited in Heaven, and so, we will see Bill again.” The pastor smiled.
A few people shouted at that. They shouted things like, “A Men” or “Praise God.”
“For that to matter,” the pastor said, “we have to remember the most important part. This world is not our home. This world is the test. This world is not eternal. Heaven is eternal, so what we want is to live forever with Christ and all those we will see in Heaven. True, in this world there is pain and suffering, but it is to the next world we look and strive to get to. One hundred years of pain are nothing compared to one second in Heaven. Those who know that won’t feel better in an instant, but those truths can comfort us in our pain and encourage us until we find joy again.”
Paul didn’t want an eternity. He wanted the next day. He wanted Bill to marry his mother and see him graduate high school.
But what if we could spend forever together?
Paul tried to stuff the question down, but more thoughts kept coming up. There was too much reasonability.
If it were a choice between forever and any lesser amount of time, wouldn’t forever mean more? Paul had to admit that it made more sense that way.
But that only works if there is a God, and I can’t believe a good God would take away someone like Bill.
“I love Bill.” The sound of his mother’s voice caused Paul to snap out of his thoughts. “I miss him more than I can say. My son misses him. I’ve thought a lot these last few days, and I came to the conclusion that I have an ultimate choice between two options. The first is hard to believe. I have to choose to believe there is a God. Now that God is the same God who took Bill from me, and that’s hard.”
Her voice cracked. She stepped back a few paces and took a few moments to compose herself, but she eventually returned.
“I can’t begin to understand why God would take Bill. I can’t begin to understand why he’d do it now. But choosing to believe in a God I can’t possibly understand also allows me to know that Bill isn’t really gone. It lets me believe that Bill is in his real home. As hard as that might be for someone to believe, the other option is impossible for me to accept. I can’t accept that Bill’s gone. I can’t accept that I have no hope of seeing him again.”
Again she cried for a time. Paul thought about what she said. Believe in a world where Bill was somewhere else, or a world where he was gone. It made a kind of sense, but it still didn’t bring Bill back to this world.
His mother managed to compose herself again. “But Pastor Gabe has made it pretty clear. I can’t believe in God because it gets me Bill back. God can’t be a means to an end, he has to be the end. So I had some more thinking to do. Can I really believe? The answer is yes, because Bill believed. Every question I had, he had an answer for, and I asked so many questions. The fact that he had answers was just another testament to how smart Bill was, but that wasn’t what sold me. I already knew Bill was smart. What sold me was how excited he was to talk about God. What sold me was how happy and confident he was. So yes, I want to know that God. I want to serve that God. So what I’m about to do, I do first to honor God, Bill’s God, my God. But I’m doing it today because it’s the last thing I can do with Bill in a manner of speaking.”
Paul sat in stunned silence. Bill dies, and she chooses to follow the God that let him die?
“After speaking with Pastor Gabe, I’m thankful he’s allowed me to be baptized right here, right now.”
The church erupted like some sort of rock show.
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