Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

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Each time she took in a deep, restful breath, he took a bite, but he didn’t realize that was what he was doing until he was halfway through his meal. He set the bowl down and just watched her.

A series of agonizingly long minutes passed until he picked up the bowl and went right back to rewarding each of her breaths with another bite of food. It was literally all he could do. Sure he called the hospital and helped her get back to bed, but he was utterly powerless in this situation. 

He set the bowl back down; there were only a few stray noodles remaining. Paul pulled out his note pad. The truth was no man every really had any power in any situation. A person could exercise, eat right, see a doctor and dentist regularly, and still end up killed just as easily as anyone else. 

Paul imagined most people understood all of that, but the illusion of power gave comfort. Paul’s mother was aways strong and beautiful, even now. She ate right and lived a life most people would describe as good no matter what their beliefs. Regardless, there she was, lying in a bed and completely helpless to do anything. 

Paul threw the notepad down in frustration. The slap it made on the hardwood floor caused his mother’s eyes to burst open.

Idiot! He couldn’t even reign in his temper for the sake of his mother?

She looked around, smiling when her eyes met his, and then smiling wider when she saw the bowl still steaming on her night stand. 

“Is that for me?” she asked.

Paul smiled. “I wasn’t sure if you were hungry or not, and I didn’t mean to wake you; I’m sorry.”

She gave a soft chuckle, and Paul grimaced as she winced in pain. “I’m sure whatever it was won’t do whatever it did again.” She must have noticed his concern as he stood. “I just felt a moment of discomfort.” She reached out a grabbed his hand. “I’m OK, and I’d love a few sips of that broth.” She pulled back her hand.

Paul nodded and sat back down. He picked up the bowl and scooped up some of its contents.

Paul had created machines that could generate vacuum fields without the aide of any containment device. All of that required skill and dexterity, but in all his life, he’d never been so cautious and gentle than he was in those moments. 

She opened her mouth, and he guided the spoon to her lips, letting her slowly sip the liquid in. She gave a thin-lipped smile and let out a contented sigh. “I’m truly blessed to have a son who cares for me so.”

Paul let out a frustrated chuckle, but her eyes caught his.

“Should I focus on the pain?” she asked. “Should I focus on my concerns? Am I such a fool for choosing to be grateful for what I do have? Am I so stupid and naive for counting what good things I can count?”

“Of course not,” Paul replied. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh like that.” He completed his apology with another spoonful of broth.

“I know you’re worried about me,” she said. “And I love you. And I’ve had my fair share of doubt and sadness and even anger. But if I just think for a minute about all the wonderful things I have, I can smile.” She did so, looking at him. “The first thing I always think of is you.”

“I was the worst son ever.” Paul scooped up more soup. 

She accepted another bite but them lied down. “I could say the same about my parenting skills.”

“Don’t go there,” Paul said. “We talked about that. What were you supposed to do?”

Her eyes were almost shut when the question came out, but they popped back open. “Care for you. Protect you.” A single tear rolled down her cheek. 

Paul thought for a moment. “You believe in forgiveness.”

“I have to,” she said.

“Whatever you may have done, whatever you’ve done in my life, know that the only thing I think about is how wonderful you’ve been to me.” The tone and forcefulness in his voice seemed to increase as he spoke. “I don’t think you need my forgiveness because I don’t hold it against you, but if that’s something you’re still holding on to, then know that I forgive you.” 

“Thank you,” she said softly. “And, you, who said you were such a bad son, you’ve made me so proud. I want the world for you. I love you, and I think you’re a wonderful son to me. Whatever you think you’ve done, I forgive you. You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.”

That last part tickled something in Paul’s mind, and he couldn’t understand why the phrase hit him as hard as it did. Whatever the reason, Paul had to scrub at his face and sniff in a suddenly runny nose. 

“So it’s settled,” he said. “We’ve forgiven each other, and I’m going to take care of you until you’re healthy.”

“That’s nice.” Her eyes drifted shut.

“I’ll be here when you wake,” he said. “I won’t leave you.”

“That’s … so … kind.” 

“I love you.” 

“Mmm hmm mm hmmmm.” 

Paul watched her sleep, careless of the time. He sat by her side and just watched until sleep came to claim him, too.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

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She smiled at him. “Of course I miss you, and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I get a little jealous. I just have to remember that while you are my son, you’re not my property.”

Paul chuckled. It was very similar to the point Nobody had made. But it didn’t answer his question. “But how do you remind yourself that?”

“I think I’m different from you there. You’re supposed to leave me to find a wife,” she gave him another shameless grin.

“Mom, I told you-“

“You’re making up excuses because you don’t think you’re worthy of having a wife.” Her face hardened the moment she said it. She gave him stern look. “That’s a lie! Life is a series of choices. Sometimes people make the wrong ones. A lot of people fail to make the correct ultimate choice. But even if you never make that choice, you don’t have to be like your father, and this nonsense that you’re destined to be like him is only a self-fulfilling prophecy if you focus on that rather than just giving your love to the woman who is lucky enough to choose you.”

“Stacy was a wonderful girl,” Paul frowned as he looked down and picked at his food with his fork. 

“Wonderful girls don’t cheat on their boyfriends,” his mother replied. 

“You’re being inconsiderate,” Paul said flatly. “Yeah, she shouldn’t have cheated, and the most painful part is she apologized for doing it. Meanwhile, I ignored her. I never spoke to her. I pretty much only used her.”

“So learn from that,” she said. “For one, remember to truly invest in whatever partner you choose. Don’t use them to gratify your physical desire. Simply appreciate them and care for them. The thing you should learn from her is something we should learn from anyone who sins against us.”

“What’s that?” Paul asked.

She looked at him. “No amount of wrong someone does to you permits you to do wrong.”

He rolled his eyes. “So you’re saying a guy should let someone steal or assault him and just let it go?”

“Or a guy could lock his house and buy an alarm system and maybe defend himself without attacking, smart guy.” She furrowed her eyebrows, annoyed at his half-hearted witticism.  “It’s not OK to lie just because others lie. It’s not OK to kill just because others kill. It’s not OK to commit adultery just because others commit adultery. If one person hurting another made it OK for people to respond in kind, then the world would devolve into a planet of animals.”

Paul tried to press his lips together. This conversation was a set up, and he knew it, but she’d gotten him bantering, and she knew he could’t resist the debate. Eventually, he caved. “So what are we supposed to do?”

“Forgive.” She said. 

He stared at her as if she just suggested a person learn to sprout wings and fly off. “That’s it.”

She nodded. “The hardest thing to do is learn to forgive, but it’s what I wanted. It’s what I needed. So why, if I’m so hungry to be forgiven, shouldn’t I find it in my heart to forgive?”

“If that’s true why don’t you call-up the bio-dad and tell him you forgive him.” The words flew out of his mouth. They were insensitive. It was a crass, hurtful thing to say, and for no other reason than to win an argument.

“Actually,” she said softly. “I went and visited him in prison to offer my forgiveness.” He stared at her. His mouth opened and closed a few times, but he couldn’t possibly imagine what he would say. 

“I only visited him one time,” she said. “I’m not really sure what else to do, but I didn’t want that resentment anymore. I didn’t want that anger. So I let it go, and the way I did it was remembering all the things I’ve done.”

“You’ve never done anything as bad as what he did.” Some of the words sounded more like an animal’s growl than actual words. It was all Paul could do to keep from shouting.

“Oh if only it were that simple,” she said. She held a hand in front of herself horizontally. “This is all the wrong I’ve done in my life.” She placed her other hand far below the first. “And this is your father. At least as you describe it. Sure, I’ve done wrong, but the things your father did are so much lower and so much more awful.”

She raised her first hand almost like a student in class and pointed upward. “But how does any human look compared to a perfect and holy God? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Paul flung his hands in the air in frustration. “How perfect and holy can a being be to allow that man to do what he did?”

“Would you rather be a machine?” she asked. “Would you rather have no choice? Would you be human if you didn’t have the capacity to choose? People always get that question wrong. They ask, ‘Why would God allow these things to happen?’ But the better question is, ‘Why do we keep choosing to do the wrong thing when God gave us a way to do the right thing?’ We can’t cry out for freedom to choose and then be shocked when some choose to do evil, especially when we want to use the sins of others to justify our own.”

Paul stared at her. It wasn’t blind religion. It wasn’t pseudo philosophy. It was simple reason. 

“Did you plan this?” he asked her.

She chuckled. “I’m not nearly so calculating, but I’m your mother. Anyone who’s talking to you better be very careful with what they say and think. But don’t miss my point, Son. I forgave your father because it was the right thing to do, but more so because that’s what I wanted. I want to be forgiven for how I let him do what he did to you. I want to be forgiven for so much more than that. And if that’s what I want, then that has to be what I’m willing to give. That’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.”

… to be continued ..

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 51

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 51

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“That’s a different problem, but repenting before God is only the highest form of repentance. You sought forgiveness from Stacy, which, apparently, she gave, at least to some degree.”

The car continued along the freeway as Paul considered what his mother said. Was that what he was after? He didn’t think so. “I wasn’t after forgiveness, Mom.”

“You were probably trying to be punished because you know what you did was wrong.” Her already normally soft voice was whisper quiet. She was sad about something. It was probably because Paul wanted punishment.

“I think people should pay for what they do,” Paul said. “I think they should get what they deserve.”

“I sincerely hope not,” his mother replied. “I want to give mercy, and I want to receive mercy. I know exactly what I deserve, and that’s why mercy is so wonderful.”

“You deserve to be happy!” The comment came out in a sort of muttered growl.

“And I don’t deserve to be punished for letting your father do what he did to us?” Paul’s head jerked at the question, which came out much more like an accusation.

“You were the victim!”

“And yet I let him do as much to you.”

Paul shut his eyes and took a deep breath. He hadn’t forgotten how he’d treated her as a child. He did whatever he wanted and expected her to let him. Then he got angry at her for giving him exactly what he wanted. It never made any sense. It only got better when he and Jordan became friends. 

“That’s not the same,” Paul said.

“It can’t be both ways, Paul. We either all get everything we deserve, or we all need mercy. But I’m of the opinion that if everyone got exactly what they deserve, we’d all be in a great deal of agony. And before you make some crass extreme counterargument, I acknowledge that some people are far more evil than others, but that’s not my point.”

“There is no one who is good,” Paul said.

“That’s,” she paused in shock. “That’s exactly right. Have you been reading the Bible?”

He’d never even considered telling her before this moment. It never came up. “I read the whole thing around the time he was arrested.” Paul refused to speak his name, and he’d die a million times over before he acknowledged that man as his father. 

Not that it worked. He was literally just like him, and he deserved exactly what that man got. 

A memory flashed in Paul’s mind. It was the night of Nobody’s first visit. The bastard had passed out drunk, and a bottle had tipped over. Paul set it right to be positive the alcoholic wouldn’t trip and hurt himself.

“Paul, are you there?” He’d been years away in the past and hadn’t heard his mother.

“Sorry,” he said. “I zoned out for a second.”

“I was asking why you read the Bible then?” 

That answer would lead to a lot of other questions. Paul had eluded to Nobody once or twice, but he’d never told the whole story. As he thought, he figured he should have lied to his mother, saying he’d read the Bible after he got close to Bill, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie to his mother or about Bill.

“I was looking for answers.” That was at least a part of the truth. “I didn’t find any. I read the whole thing. I think I’ve read it two or three times, but I don’t believe any of it.”

“Because of what happened to Bill.” She said it as gently as she could given her tone, but talking about Bill was always a way to get Paul angry. 

“Yes.” Maybe by being curt, she’d know to change the subject.

“We can’t accept just part of the Word,” she emphasized the capital. “It’s all true. It’s true that he’s sovereign. It’s true that he’s loving. It’s true that he’s the righteous judge, and it’s true that he calls us when it’s our time. We don’t get to pick when, and, to be honest, I don’t know that we’d ever accept the explanation even if he bothered to give it to us.”

“That part is for certain,” Paul muttered. 

“I’m going to ask about this girl now to shift the subject.”

Paul laughed. She could have just done it.

“I’m not doing it because I’m afraid or unwilling to debate or discuss this with you,” she explained. “I doing it because I’m trying to be patient. You’ve been patient, hearing what I’ve had to say. I think any more on this subject would just be an argument neither of us wants.”

“Yeah,” Paul admitted.

“I imagine Stacy is willing to allow you this chance to change,” his mother said. 

“But why? If I’m capable of doing what I did tonight, what else am I capable of?” And there it was. The last part of his question came out in whine of agony. He was a monster. He should be locked up before he hurt anyone. He wouldn’t be sorry if a bolt of lightning struck him down.  He needed to be punished. He needed to be stopped before he became that man.

“We’re all capable of horrible things, Paul,” his mother said. He couldn’t know for certain without activating the holographic feature of his PID, but he thought he heard a smile in her voice. “But you’re every bit as capable of becoming a kind, loving, patient man. If she’s ever willing to talk to you, maybe ask her why she was so willing to give you such precious gift as her own body. Why was she willing to be your girlfriend? I imagine it’s because she saw the man you could be, the other man you could be. I just wish you’d focus on becoming that man instead of avoiding the other.”

Paul glanced out the window as he ran a hand down his face to dry his tears. He caught the exit to his school from the corner of his eye, but he needed to admit something to his mother. “I’m so afraid of being him.”

“But if you focus on him, so that’s your target,” she said. “You have so many better options to focus on.” 

“Bill is the only better option I have, maybe Jordan or his dad,” Paul said. “I don’t know about so many other options.”

“I do,” his mother replied. “You’ve read the Bible. You have Enoch and Noah, Moses and David, the apostles and, most importantly, Jesus.”

“I thought you were changing the subject.” Paul muttered.

“I did, for an entire minute.” She sounded pleased at her quip. “And before you argue about it for the sake of arguing, go back and look at just one of those people. Would it really be so bad to be like them?”

Paul opened his mouth to say, “yes,” but that lie wouldn’t form on his lips either.

“Then there’s Paul,” his mother said. “Now there’s a case I think you could study. You could ask yourself why he called himself the foremost sinner, and yet he was still chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles.”

Paul didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t either start an argument or get more Bible references. His contemplative moment turned into a period of silence.

“I’ll leave you to think on it now, but I hope you will,” his mother said. “We didn’t name you after the apostle, but you seem to focus on the punishments people deserved. It would do you some good to see the value of what mercy can do.”

“Ok,” Paul said.

“Thank you.”

Wait? Did she take that as a promise to look into it? “Mom —”

“I’m sure you’re near the school now, and you should see if Stacy is willing to talk to you,” his mother said.

“Mom, I —”

“I’ll talk to you later. I love you always, my son.”

She hung up. That was a dirty trick! She hung up before he could explain he was only acknowledging that he’d heard her. He shook his head. He didn’t actually promise her anything, and she knew it. He wasn’t obligated to study any of that stuff.

The car indeed pulled off the exit and started to pull around to one of the campus’s entrances. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 20

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 20

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 //

Paul looked at the highlighted verse. For all he knew, Nobody was listening upstairs when Paul argued with his mom. That didn’t seem right though. Arguing with his mom didn’t seem so right at the moment either. 

Paul turned and walked out his door. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard his mother crying. He took a deep breath and continued down the stairs. 

“I said go to your room!” She must have heard him.

“I did, and I will,” he could tell she was about to shout again, so he just spoke as quickly as he could, “but I wanted to apologize.”

He finished walking down the stairs, wondering if she would just send him upstairs. Instead, she said, “I’m doing my best.”

“I know. Look, I was a jerk, OK? I should have done my homework first.” Come to think of it, if Paul had done as she’d asked, would he have managed to avoid Dorney? How about the would-be bullies at the arcade? “I’ll try harder to listen from now on.”

She looked at him skeptically. “Not sure how many kids tell their moms that only to ignore them a second later.”

Paul shrugged. “Fair point, but you’ll be there to ground me if I do, and I know I’m still grounded.”

She cocked her head. “What shifted your mood so quickly?”

My possibly-imaginary guardian angel wrote me a stern letter. “I just had a few seconds to think. I know I still have a temper, and I know I still try to ignore you, and it’s wrong.” He thought for a few moments. His next words seemed to surprise him. “Can you forgive me.”

She chuckled and wrapped her arms around him. “That I can do.”

“What if I mess up again?” he asked, hugging her back.

“Then I’ll forgive you again.”

“What if I mess up another time?” He looked up at her and realized he was afraid. He was terrified that she’d get tired of him. He realized he never wanted to go back to the days she just let him do whatever he wanted. It made him feel so alone. 

She smiled at him. “No matter how many times you mess up, I’ll still love you, and I’ll still forgive you. Every time you come to me.” 

He gripped her harder, snuggling his cheek into her arm. 

“But you’re still grounded.” 

He looked up to see her smiling. “I know. I’m going to do my homework now.”

He darted upstairs, but she stopped him by calling out, “When you finish …” 

He froze and looked back. 

“Maybe you can play one of your games,” she said. “I’ll watch and cheer you on.”

“You’ll watch?” he asked.

“If you like.”

He smiled. “That’d be cool.” He turned and rushed back to his room. When he got there, another letter was waiting on his desk.

Paul again looked around. He searched through his closet and under his bed. He even looked out his window and around the hall into the bathroom. There wasn’t even a new wet spot on his carpet. Maybe he teleported back to the exact same spot. But how did he know when to do it? Why didn’t he just talk to me?

He looked at the note. 

“You’re mother has one of the most beautiful concepts of forgiveness. John 6:37.”

Paul tisked. He went to the Bible and rummaged around until he found the book and chapter. Then he used the new letter Nobody had left to scan the page until he found the right verse.

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.”

Paul cleared his throat and blinked his eyes. He’d be dammed if he got all teary eyed just because he read a verse that made him think of his mom. 

“You’re right,” Paul said. Maybe Nobody was listening. “It’s wonderful to know she’ll always be there.”

Paul closed the Bible and set the letter face down. That’s when he saw more words. 

“… and so will Christ. You just have to go to Him.”

Paul froze. His heart seemed to pound in his ear. Nobody didn’t just travel through space. He seemed to know what Paul thought and felt. And, somehow, he knew what Paul would do and say even before he did it.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 13

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 13

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 //

Paul gripped his mother harder. “I don’t hate you!” He didn’t realize it was true until he said it. The reason it hurt so bad to feel abandoned by her was because he loved her. 

“I’ve been trying to think of ways to make it up to you, to earn your forgiveness, but everything I do just seems to make it worse.” She kept talking as though she didn’t hear him. “I’m not going to stop trying though. You were braver than I was. What you did probably saved both our lives, and I forced you to it. I let him …”  

Her breath caught and she couldn’t manage to say anything else for short time, but she did manage to eventually compose herself. “I don’t deserve your forgiveness. I never deserve to be loved by you again, but I’m going to try.”

He looked up at her, and it may have been the first time in years he looked into her eyes, though tears made it hard for him to see. “Nobody deserves forgiveness,” Paul said. 

The anger in his heart fell quiet. A part of him knew it wasn’t gone, but no longer felt overwhelming to him. 

“It’s a gift, like love,” he continued. He understood the words now, but that didn’t make it easier to do. What Paul realized was that he wanted to forgive her. He wanted to be a son. He wanted to be her son, and he wanter her to want to be his mother. 

“I’ve been suspended for two weeks,” he said.

“The principal told me you got into another fight,” his mother said.

“I’m just like him,” Paul admitted.

His mother snatched his head in her hands. It was surprisingly gentle given how instantaneously it happened. “You are never like him.”

“I hit people who make me mad.” Paul gave her a flat look. “That’s exactly what he did, but I don’t want to act like him anymore. I think he always felt weak, so he wanted to make himself feel stronger. At least, that’s how I feel. I feel like I wasn’t strong enough to stop him.” 

It got hard for him to talk. Admitting his feelings seemed to get more and more difficult even as it strangely made him feel better. 

“So now I hit whoever I know I can hit and get away with it. That’s what he did to us.”

His mother opened her mouth a few times and her hands fell away from his face, but she didn’t look like she knew what to say. Paul didn’t want her to make it ok. That would have been the same way she reacted to his father. She’d make excuses for his actions rather than condemning them. 

“I’m going to try a better way though.” Paul wrapped his arms around her. “Mom … “

He took a deep breath. No matter how much he wanted to say the words, it was so hard to say them. Did forgiving someone for what they did mean it was ok that they did it? Did forgiveness mean nobody paid. Shouldn’t someone pay?

“I … “ he froze. He was about to say he wanted her to act more like a mother, and he did, but that wasn’t what he really meant. “I don’t want you to let me do whatever I want anymore, and when I mess up, don’t be afraid to punish me.”

“I’ll never hit you.” The response was so full of anger Paul looked up at her. “I’ll never let you feel pain again.”

“I don’t think it’s the same thing,” Paul said. “I just shouldn’t get away with things.”

He didn’t have a clue why he was saying what he was, but even that was easier than what he really wanted to say. Finally, he took a deep breath. Be strong and courageous. It’s easy to be angry. It’s easy to fight back. It’s way harder to let go.

He sat up straight so he could look at her. 

“Mom, it’s ok.” He pursed his lips. That wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t the same. “I love you, Mom.” That was better, but it was far easier to admit than the last part. “I forgive you.”

Her lips trembled as he spoke, but as he finishes she broke down crying and throwing her face into her hands. “How can you? How can you possibly forgive me!? How can you even look at me.”

The answer seemed to click even as she asked her questions. The funny part is, the answer is what gave him the strength to forgive her.

“I already told you.” He laughed as he said it, and he felt so good. He wasn’t sure he’d ever felt that good before in his life. “I forgive you because I love you. I just want to be your son. I just want you to be my mom!”

It was his turn to weep, but these tears made him feel better. They made him feel free. 

They returned to their embrace, taking turns saying they loved one another and offering their forgiveness. Paul thought back on his life and realized he really had never been this happy before.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 12

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 12

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 //

“I want to make sure I understand what happened.” Mr. Eckleman pointed at Paul. “Trevor was apparently talking about your mother.” He turned his finger toward Jordan. “You hit him for that, but Trevor said Jordan was the one talking about your mother, so Paul hit Jordan.”

Both boys nodded.

Mr. Eckleman shook his head and looked at Paul. “You’ve been warned about fighting, Paul.”

“I know,” Paul said softly. “Am I going to be expelled?” That’s what the principal had said the last time Paul got into a fight. 

“But I said it was ok!” Jordan leapt up from his seat. “Look, I’m fine, and he said he was sorry.”

“That doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything wrong.” Mr. Eckleman just kept staring at Paul. “Why did you come in here to confess?”

Paul thought for a moment. “I don’t want to be that person anymore.”

No one else said anything. The silence grew every bit as uncomfortable as Mr. Eckleman’s stare. 

“I’m angry all the time.” Paul wasn’t sure if Mr. Eckleman wanted him to keep explaining, but he just couldn’t tolerate the quiet another moment. “I don’t want to be angry, but I don’t know how not to be. I think someone gave me a hint, but even then I’m not sure how it works. I just want to change.”

Paul realized he wanted to sit down and read Romans. No matter how infuriatingly short Nobody’s visits were, they always left him with advice that helped. Nobody’s questions were infuriating, but the answers gave Paul options he hand’t considered. 

“I want to try something new,” he said. “But I guess that doesn’t really matter here.”

Mr. Eckleman smiled. “I wouldn’t say that.”

“You’re not going to punish me!?” Paul was shocked. Maybe he was going to get one last chance. 

“I didn’t say that either,” Mr. Eckleman replied, “but given what you’ve said combined with Jordan’s desire to help you, not to mention your science teacher, who seems to be the only adult in this building you respect, I’m willing to reduce your punishment.”

Paul nodded. It was already more than he deserved, and he knew that. 

“Instead of being expelled, I’m going to suspend you for two weeks,” Mr. Eckleman continued. “I suggest you use that two weeks to do whatever it is you’re planning to do to let go of that anger. If you’d like access to our counselor, we’ll allow that.”

“Thank you, Mr. Eckleman,” Paul said. Then he turned to look at Jordan. “I’m still sorry I hit you. I’m sorry that I didn’t ask what happened.” 

Even in that moment, a part of Paul wanted to track down Trevor and beat him. It was such a powerful desire. I don’t want to be angry anymore!

Jordan shrugged again. “Like I said, it’s ok.”

Mr. Eckleman smiled again. “I’m not actually sure what happened here, but I’m encouraged by it. We’ll call your mother to pick you up.”

The principal dismissed Jordan and had Paul sit in the waiting area until his mother arrived. While he waited, he used his phone to read Romans, trying to see what Nobody was getting at.

The answer the the question Nobody asked was pretty easy to find. 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The verse was Romans Chapter 5 Verse 8. 

Paul considered the last thing Nobody had told him. “Nobody deserves forgiveness. That’s why it’s a gift.”

It only took Paul about 45 minutes to read Romans. With nothing better to do, he started reading it again.

His mom appeared after Paul got about halfway through his second pass of the letter. She stood in the doorway. Her long black hair flowed over the her shoulders and nearly blended with the purple Lularoe dress she wore. She looked at Paul with brown eyes that shimmered in unshed tears. 

Paul hated that look for some reason. Why did she have to look at him like that? Did she hate him? Was she disappointed in him because he was turning into someone just like his dad? Was he destined to grow up to be just like the man he hated? 

Paul got up and walked past her on his way to the car. He heard her take in a sharp breath as if she were about to say something, but he didn’t give her time. He walked to the car and got in. He wasn’t particularly interested in reading the Bible, but focusing on his phone seemed to keep his mother from trying to talk. 

He was doing it again. He was ignoring her. He was avoiding her. Why was he so afraid? 

“I’m sorry.”

Paul’s head shot up. He hadn’t noticed his mother had pulled over.

“Every time you defended me,” her voice caught, but she kept speaking. “You’d protect me, and all I could do was patch you up, but I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Paul forced himself to look out his window. He couldn’t look at her. He couldn’t watch her bury her face in her hands and cry. 

After a moment, she found the strength to talk a bit more. “I couldn’t keep trying to heal you when I was the reason you were hurt.”

“Let’s just go,” Paul said sharply. He still couldn’t bring himself to look at her. He didn’t want to see her cry. It hurt him, and in strange way it made him more angry. What did he expect her to do? What did he want from her? 

“I shouldn’t have stopped coming in to help you.” She rushed the words out. “But it was worse because I never should have let him lay a hand on you in the first place.” The last word ended in a wail. She dropped her head onto the wheel of the car and sobbed.

Paul could look away all he wanted. He even shut his eyes. But he couldn’t block out the sound of his mother’s weeping.

“I couldn’t stand to hear you crying,” Paul said. “I couldn’t stand to see you hurt.”

He finally turned to look at her, and tears streamed down his face. “That’s why I did it, Mom. I was trying to protect you, and it never worked.”

In some random parking lot in the suburbs, a mother and son held each other and wept. 

“I’m sorry,” Paul said between sobs. “I’m sorry I was so mean. I’m sorry I avoided you.”

His mother gently pushed him away to look into his eyes. “You don’t owe me an apology for anything! I did this, understand? I failed you.”

He still wanted to know why. He still couldn’t understand why she never left his father. He couldn’t understand why she ever married him in the first place.

“I deserve it,” she continued. “I know you hate me, and I deserve that, but I still love you.”

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 11

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 11

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 //

Paul scrubbed his hands more fiercely as he thought. There was enough to think about considering he was ditching English at the moment, and he was probably going to be expelled if he got caught. This was his third fight this year. 

He was just. so. angry!

“Who have you become because you choose to hold onto your anger.”

Paul’s mother told him his father was beaten as a child. She said that’s why his father beat them. Did that mean Paul would grow up to hit is kids?

He remembered standing over Jordan.  He already hit kids; he was just the same age as they were at the moment. 

A wave of remorse hit him. He rushed out of the bathroom just as he started to weep. 

I don’t want to be that way!

Even as he hated himself for being a bully just like his father, he tried to justify his actions. Jordan had it coming. He was talking trash about Paul’s mother. 

None of his justifications stood up against his firm belief that no one deserved what had happened to him and his mother. 

Lockers zipped by, becoming little more than a streak of red. He wasn’t even sure where he was going, but something pulled at him. He turned into the principles office just as he realized what he was planning to do. 

The secretary yelped as he blew by her into his office. The principal, a plump bald man in his sixties, looked up, and his face became red with anger. Paul froze, suddenly unsure what he really meant to do. 

After another second, Paul noticed who the principal, Mr. Eckleman, was speaking to. Jordan sat across from the administrator with a bag of ice against his right cheek. 

“I’m sorry,” Paul told Jordan while taking a deep breath and using a sleeve to dry his tears. “You didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that. I’m a monster. I’m just like him, and I don’t want to be. I think I’m cursed, but that’s not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you said. I shouldn’t have hit you.”

“What is he talking about?” Mr. Eckleman’s question drew Paul’s attention.

“I don’t know,” Jordan said. 

“You told me you got into a fight with Trevor,” Mr. Eckleman said. 

Trevor? Paul stood there trying to piece the clues together. 

“You said that Trevor was talking about a classmate, and you stood up to defend him.” The principle pointed at Paul. “So why is the person you said you were defending in here apologizing to you?”

Paul’s head spun. Did Jordan lie? Why? Why lie to protect him? Maybe Paul wouldn’t be expelled. Maybe he’d get away with it. Except, he didn’t want to get away with it.

Paul looked at Mr. Eckleman. “I’m not sure what Jordan said, but I’m the one who him. No one else should be punished for what I did.”

“So, who hit Trevor?” 

“What?” Paul didn’t mean to ask the question out loud, but he really had no idea what was going on. 

“I hit Trevor,” Jordan muttered. His brown eyes shifted to Paul. “He’s the one who said that stuff about your mom. He was really being a jerk about it. I told him to knock it off, but that only made him say something worse, so I punched him.”

It was Trevor? Trevor was the one who called Paul’s mom a whore! Rage filled Paul. He wanted to find Trevor and beat him. He wanted to find him and punch him until he never though to … Nobody deserves that!

Even while standing in the principal’s office, Paul couldn’t help himself. He was somehow every bit as ashamed as he was angry. How could he know something is wrong and yet want to do that very thing so much?

“Trevor told me Jordan had said all that stuff,” Paul whispered. “I didn’t even think about it. I just tracked Jordan down and started hitting him.”

Paul’s voice cracked as he gave the confession. “Jordan defended my mom, and I beat him up for it.”

He really was just like his father. He deserved to be expelled. If anyone deserved to be beat up, it was Paul. Maybe that’s what God was doing. Maybe God knew that Paul was going to grow up to b a monster, so he let Paul’s dad beat him up for it like some sort of advanced punishment. 

“It’s ok.” 

Paul’s eyes were closed against the tears, but he clearly heard Jordan speak. 

“What?” This time Paul meant to ask the question out loud. 

“I said it’s ok,” Jordan repeated. “I don’t really know what happened, but everyone knows you went through some bad stuff. I get it.”

“But I hit you! I threatened you.” Paul couldn’t fathom it. All he’d done, for apparently no reason, and Jordan said it was OK? Why?

“It sucks, and I’m mad about it,” Jordan said. “You wouldn’t even listen, but I figure Trevor just lied to you.”

“But why are you saying it’s ok?” Paul shouted the question. It didn’t make sense! What idiot gets beat up and just brushes it off?

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 10

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 10

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 //

“Not once!” It was true, sort of. Sure, since the divorce and that last beating, his mom had given him everything he’d ever asked for. She made what he wanted for dinner. She never told him what to do. But neither did she ever once say the words, “I’m sorry” or “Forgive me.” 

Nobody’s masked head nodded as if conceding the point. “But with all the times you’ve run off or changed the subject, how could she do more than she’s done. And what has that really done for you? Where has your resentment led you?”

Nobody pointed at the mirror. “Who have you become because you choose to hold onto your anger.”

Paul turned to look at his reflection in the splintered mirror. There was that face again. His own face. A face that looked far too much like the face of the man Paul hated more than anyone else. 

“She doesn’t deserve it!” Paul spun back around as he spoke, even if only to hide the all to horrifyingly familiar scowl he knew he wore. 

“Did she deserve the beatings?” Nobody asked. 

“Nobody deserves that!” 

“What about Jordan?”

Paul wanted to lash out, but how could he? Right after declaring nobody deserves a beating, how could he justify beating someone?

“Now we move on to the more interesting question,” Nobody said. He glanced at a black device on his wrist. It would look like a smart watch if it had any sort of light or symbols, but as far as Paul could tell, it was just a black rectangle about the width of a pencil.  “What are the wages of sin?” 

“What?” Paul asked.

“You’ll remember when you think on it. Look to Paul’s letter to the Romans to refresh your thoughts,” Nobody said. He started to make his way back into the stall.

“I never finished it.” Paul said. “I put that Bible away and forgot about it.”

Nobody stopped, standing at the entrance to a simple bathroom stall. “Liar.”

Paul knew it was pretty stupid even trying to lie to a man who could read his thoughts or had some way of knowing everything. How did he know Jordan’s name?  

“Nobody deserves forgiveness,” Nobody said. “That’s why it’s a gift.” 

Nobody shut the door. Paul darted at the door as quickly as he could, but the temperature swung again, and a flash of light forced him to shut his eyes and turn away. Even as his eyes adjusted to the light, Paul flung the door open. His tennis shoes plopped into a small puddle of water. The toilet seemed to be completely unaffected by whatever Nobody had done. 

His science teachers, the only teachers who treated Paul like a normal human being, had talked about experiments and measurements, but Paul didn’t have any equipment. He wouldn’t know what to measure for anyway. Maybe I should start with temperature, Paul thought to himself as he continued to look around the stall. He dropped down to a knee to look behind the toilet.

“What are you doing?” 

Paul’s head spun around to find a boy standing at the bathroom’s entrance. He seemed equally amused and disgusted. 

“I lost something,” Paul said getting up and washing his hands. “Have you seen a watch?”  

Paul didn’t own a watch, but at least it explained why he was carefully looking around a toilet in a public bathroom.

“No.” The answer seemed more like a cough, but he went on about his own business. 

Even as Paul let the water run over his hands, the questions about how Nobody moved around seemed to fade behind the last thing he had said to Paul. 

“Nobody deserves forgiveness. That’s why it’s a gift.”

Paul frowned in confused anger. If nobody deserved forgiveness, why would anyone forgive anybody else? And if people were always forgiven when the didn’t deserve it, why would they ever stop doing things that bothered other people?

Paul scrubbed his hands more fiercely as he thought. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 9

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 9

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 //


Oct. 17, 2024, 2:31 p.m. 

22.9 Years Ago

Jordan Bieliel lay on the grass as his nose oozed blood. Paul loomed over him with clenched fists. 

“Get up, punk!” It was an effort not to leap on the skinny kid and just whale on him. 

The scuffle quickly drew the attention of a crowd of students, who circled around the fight on the school courtyard. Adrenaline surged through Paul, who hoped Jordan would fight back. 

Instead, the younger kid looked up at Paul. “What’d I do?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know!” Paul stalked toward Jordan, who scrambled back while raising a hand to fend Paul off. “Trevor told me what you said!”

“Trevor’s a liar!” Jordan said. “I never said anything!”

Paul stopped, staring down at Jordan. He was a head shorter and had to weigh 20 pounds less than Paul. As the years passed, Paul grew taller and stronger. He looked like a younger version of his father, and he hated himself for it. 

Paul was about to ask why someone would lie when students started scrambling away. 

“Teacher!” Someone shouted. 

Paul didn’t wait to look around. He took off running. He’d been warned about fighting the last time. He knew the risks, but he was so angry. 

He called my mom a whore! At least that’s what Trevor had told Paul Jordan said. Nobody insults my mom!

Paul comforted himself with the thought that’d he’d at least given Jordan a solid punch. Jordan didn’t even run or try to fight back. Idiot! 

Paul ducked into the school’s science building, his favorite building. It was the only place he felt like the world made sense. He skidded to a stop just outside a bathroom and darted inside. He didn’t think anyone had followed him, so maybe he’d avoid getting into trouble. 

Paul looked at his fist where a splotch of blood sat on his knuckles. He deserved it! Paul told himself as he started washing his hands.

Then his hear leapt up into his throat as he felt the temperature in the bathroom shift from normal, to freezing cold, to burning hot and back again in the blink of an eye. The mirror in front of him fractured. Something flashed behind Paul, and he spun around.

It can’t be! I imagined it! 

It had been almost three years since Nobody had visited. It had been so long that Paul had convinced himself that it was all his imagination. Even as Paul tried to cling to that thought, Nobody stepped out of the stall in front of Paul, who noted a small puddle had formed in that same stall.

Even after three years, not a thing had changed about Nobody. It was the same pea coat. The same gray slacks. He even wore the same stupid red bow tie. The opaque mask hadn’t even faded. Almost three years had passed, and it seemed as though Nobody had stepped right out of Paul’s memory. 

“You … you’re not real,” Paul whispered.

“If I’m not real, where’d that Bible in your night stand come from?” Nobody asked. “More interestingly, where’d that note in the Bible come from?

Rage filled Paul, and he charged the man. Nobody caught him in an embrace. Paul didn’t want a hug; he wanted a fight. He wanted to beat Nobody to death.

“You abandoned me!” Paul shouted. As strong as he’d become, he couldn’t free his arms from Nobody, who simply held Paul. No matter how he struggled, he couldn’t gain any leverage. 

Nobody was strong, but he was strangely gentle, only using the energy necessary to keep Paul still. Paul was easily one of the biggest kids his age, but he was still a teenager in the grip of a grown man.

“You’ve never been abandoned,” Nobody whispered. “Just because you haven’t seen me, it didn’t mean I wasn’t there.”

Tears started to fall from Paul’s eyes, and his anger faded.  “I was so angry! I was so alone!”

“We feel alone sometimes, but it doesn’t mean we are,” Nobody said. “You had your mother.”

The comment hit a nerve in Paul’s heart. He managed to shove himself away from Nobody. “But she just let it happen! I called the police! I saved us! What did she do?”

“So were alone because nobody wanted you, or were you alone because you didn’t want to forgive your mother?” Nobody asked. “How many times has she tried to talk about it?”

“Shut up!” Paul yelled.

“How many times has she asked you to forgive her?” No matter how loudly Paul shouted, Nobody’s tone didn’t raise a bit. 

Musings on Christianity 38

Musings on Christianity 38

Why Do We Need to Forgive

In previous chapters, I talked about forgiveness. I think sometimes people feel like forgiveness is only for the offender. Anyone who’s ever been forgiven knows it’s a great feeling, but forgiveness isn’t just for the transgressor.

For a long time, I had a lot of trouble with forgiveness. I didn’t want to let go of what my biological father had done. I didn’t want to let go of things that were done to me. I really felt like if I were to forgive them, it would have made it like it had never happened. Forgiving these things would mean I was ok with what was done.

I’m not so sure of that anymore. What I know though is that I needed to let go. I held on to anger and bitterness, and that doesn’t do anything to anyone but me. That anger, that resentment, builds up. It calcifies on a heart and makes it hard. It made me hard. It made me unreasonable and uncompromising. When people agreed with me, they found me a wonderful ally because I would fight tooth and nail. However, when people were in opposition, I was inconsiderate, unloving, and unkind.

I did it wrong. A lot in my life, for my whole life, I did everything the wrong way. I withheld forgiveness for reasons I’d believe anyone would support me for having, but all that ultimately did was corrupt my heart. Even now, I have a tough time letting go of offenses. I have a tough time forgiving even though I know I’m every bit as guilty as the next human being.

Withholding forgiveness doesn’t do anything to hurt the offender. But what it did to me was deprive me of a heart unburied by resentment.

We’re instructed to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Ephesians 4:31).

This instruction makes us more like Christ, who died for all of our sins, but it’s for our benefit. It empties our hearts of things that poison and corrupt.

Bitterness takes root in a person and only causes that person trouble (Hebrews 12:15).

I didn’t know what it was doing to me when I was younger. I was just an angry kid who grew up to be a grumpy man. Even now, I’m argumentative and bossy. I don’t think I’m the most overbearing man in history. I don’t think I’m more obstinate than anyone. However, I’ve come to realize that the bitterness I held on account of truly wrong things only bred myself into being a bitter person.

I trained my body and heart to be unforgiving and resentful. But if we as humans only practice withholding forgiveness and embracing anger, we only become more a part of the problem. I go back to that young, angry kid, and I wish I could tell him:

I wish I could tell him you’re not forgiving him for his sake, though it is kind to him. You’re forgiving him so that you can have peace in your own heart. Your forgiveness isn’t justification for the wrong that was done. Your forgiveness doesn’t mean it wasn’t wrong; it means that even though it was wrong, your heart holds onto peace. You’re heart chooses love and peace over resentment and bitterness.

I’m not saying there isn’t true injustice in the world. Obviously this world is surrounded in injustice. This nation is opening its eyes to the injustices it’s practiced for 244 years. But there are some who are embracing the outrage and resentment, and as a human, I can understand and sympathize. But I look at my sons, and I look at the students I teach, and I feel it’s a far better lesson to teach love and kindness. I feel it’s much more beneficial to work on one’s own heart.

We should seek and pray for justice. We should redress our grievances. Yet even as we cry out for justice, let us do it out of love for those who deserve it rather than against the offenders who commit atrocities.

I mention that because of the times we’re in, but I still understand I don’t really know the first thing about persecution or injustice

What I do know is what it feels like to be wronged in a horrible way. I know what it is to hate someone.

But I grew to pass that hatred into myself. Hatred breeds hatred. Anger breeds anger. The only cure for evil is good (Romans 12:21). The only cure for hate is love.

In this chapter, I’m not speaking on the behalf of transgressors. I’m imploring those who were like me to let love rule your hearts. I know what it is to despise a person. But that anger brought me nothing but pain. I know what it is to be angry, but that anger brought me nothing but scorn.

Don’t choose my path. It’s long and dark, and it’s so hard to turn back from. By the grace of God, I have seen the light. I want to type that I’ve found a heart of love, and I am more forgiving and patient, but I have so far to go. I don’t want this in my heart. I don’t want this thorn in my side, and I would save anyone that pain.

For our panel: What can someone do when they realize they have so much resentment in their heart? How does one find it in their heart to forgive something that was truly terrible (abuse, assault, murder)? What are some other benefits of letting go of anger? Why is it so hard to let go of anger? What Bible verses can one turn to for help in these matters?