He used to call me on nights like tonight.
Before caller ID. Before cell phones. Back in the day when an eleven o’clock phone call made you jump out of bed because you knew something bad had happened. It was THE FEAR. A call that late meant someone in the family was dead, or at least well on their way.
He’d ramble. Slurred speech. Random topics. More drunk than high, but probably a little of both.
I just listened in silence because I never knew what to say. I was raised white bread teetotalling Southern Baptist. I had no common ground to stand on, no experience that allowed me to understand. I was twenty-five years old. Never smoked a joint, never drank a beer.
Just silent. No damned help at all. Useless to him. Useless to me. Useless to God.
He was my best friend. Still is, though he’s been dead for quite a while now.
He was a preacher.
You can make all the arguments you want about theology. You can try to talk to me about “once saved, always saved” or “election versus free will.” I’m not interested in anything you or any of the theologians have to say. I know he was touched by God. I saw it. I felt it. I stood beside it. If it wasn’t real, then it’s all a lie. The biggest lie ever told.
I wish he could call me tonight. I’d say “where you at brother? Hang in there with me and I’ll come over. You need me to stop off somewhere on my way?”
Because now I can see the darkness he saw.
I would go and sit beside him. Put my arm around him. I’d tell him “yeah I see it too, but if we both just sit here together maybe we can still see the light. I know it is dim sometimes, but look hard, it’s still there. Just sit a little longer.”
I’d tell him that today is darkness. Tomorrow, darker still. But if we can just sit here and hold on ‘til that Easter Sunday, there’s still hope.
That’s the Gospel, as far as I can tell.
Rest easy preacher. In all this darkness, I can still see that little light you carried. It won’t go out. I won’t let it.