I sat in a darkened corner of the bar. All alone and stupefied by the things I’ve seen. Nursing my fourth drink, my mind was nearing numbness. Ah, that familiar and welcome place.
My eyes were obliviously staring toward the front door. The door opened and the shadow of a ragged man filled its frame. “Ah, something to watch”, I thought to myself.
He walked straight to my table, and just stood there. It takes a little longer for a fuzzy brain to process information. Eventually I stop staring. The blurry figure took focus. Since he appeared to be in no hurry, and nowhere to go, I let a moment pass before I offered him a chair. With lazy movements he sat down. So the tone was set, an easy-going lazy, easy conversation.
He put his arms on the table, not taking his eyes from mine. With an Indescribably steady voice he said, “What are you doing here”. I told him I was drinking to numb the pain of life.
“Do you know why it hurts?” Kind of a curious question. It made me reach a little deeper than the surface. I told him no. “I really don’t have the slightest clue.” But he didn’t offer anything more. No answers, no reflections, no Nothin. So we sat there in silence for a few minutes.
I was the one to break the silence. “It’s like I live in a hurricane. Everything I do, everything I am, everything I say, gets blown away and tore to pieces. And I can’t seem to find shelter. So I come in here to numb the pain of being tossed against the wall.”
He looked down thoughtfully. It didn’t look like he had anything to say. It seemed he was just waiting for my mind to listen to his words. Like getting used to silence just before the Big Bang. He started speaking before his eyes began to rise.
“Life is a storm from birth to death. Most people prefer the depths of a cave. But there are some who dare to wander about. These are better fed. These are far stronger and more able. Frankly, these are more useful.”
He had set the tone so, again, I followed what he did. I lowered my head and watched the top of the table stay still. I thought about what he said. I thought about how odd it was that he opened the door and came to my table to say these things. I thought about the storm of my life. Then I thought about my weakness; how he came to me in my cave.
“If this is the storm that comes into my cave to batter me against the wall, what is it like outside?” I was sincerely curious about these strong people.
He didn’t pause this time. “Outside is death. What is it like inside?” It seems like my answer came from somebody I didn’t know. But I was sure it was my own lips that said this, “It’s useless, it’s mundane, it’s tedious, it’s insane. In short and in truth, it’s a slow painful death. But somehow it seems equitable, to be distant from the rest.” (A poem? Really!)
Now the conversation took a bit of a faster pace. Without the slightest hesitation he shot back, “Do you want to work?” I really don’t know how, but I understood what he meant. My stomach convulsed and made me say, “Yes”. (Alright, I thought, we’re having a conversation, and I’m really weirdly involved.) “Then go outside and die with me.”
I know my eyes got wide. I could feel it in my soul. Could this man be the answer? There wasn’t a shred of apology in his voice.
“No one has ever stayed with me. How do I know you won’t take me outside and abandoned me in a worse place than this?” His reply shut my mouth. “Because I said so, and I cannot lie.”
Why should I believe him? But look how strong my want-to is. I looked down and thought again. What’s the difference? Die in here or die out there, what’s the difference? Then I knew what to say. Then I knew what to do. I didn’t say anything. I simply got up and put my coat on. Within a few moments we were silhouetted against those in the cave. We left.
I’m writing this, aren’t I. Yes I’m still alive. I have weathered the most magnificent storm my mind could possibly imagine. He has never left me. He has guided every step I took. He has healed my wounds. He has taught me how to fight. He has encouraged me to take risks that men in their caves don’t even know exist. And there ain’t no way I’m going back!
By the way. His name is Jesus.