I really treasure my close friends. That’s because we know each other well. We dive below the surface when we talk. It’s intimate and fulfilling.
The first time I really noticed going deep was in college.
I was a freshman a long, long time ago… and I mean a LONG time ago. It was back in the latter days of the hippies, 1970 to be exact. We didn’t have laptops, or tablets, or cell phones. We wrote our term papers by chiseling on a rock..
But I digress.
I had a roommate. I’m not going to tell you her real name. Let’s just call her Bess.
Bess and I were complete opposites. She was short, tough, and smoked. I was shy, a “straight freak” (my label, which meant “moderate hippie”), and with no obvious vices – yet. Despite these noticeable differences, Bess and I got along well enough to room together for two years until I transferred to another university.
Almost every night, after the lights went out, we’d lie in our beds on opposite sides of the room and talk about everything. I mean everything, even theology. Of course, at that point, I had no idea that I would end up serving a church when I hit my 30s. God didn’t start even messing around with me until I was 19. Hmm… I got nudged at 19 and ignored it until my 30s. Let’s just say I am very good at avoidance, and God is very good at persistence.
One night, Bess and I had finished a deep theological discussion and I prepared to go to sleep.
It's funny. I don't remember the discussion but I remember what happened thereafter.
“Janet…” called a spooky voice across the dark room. “Jaaaanet….”
I ignored Bess.
“Jaaaanet, this is God, Jaaaanet…”
“Shut up, Bess!”
Bess chortled, rolled over, and went to sleep., Mission accomplished.
Bess was amazingly prescient. Either that, or God was speaking through her. And if God can speak through your roommate... mind blown.
But back to my real point. There are occasions when we open up to another person. There are times when we talk about our hopes and dreams. Times when we share our fears or our pain. Maybe we even share our philosophy of life and our ruminations about God.
That kind of sharing and diving happens in my contemporary romance, Heart Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll. It occurs after Neil’s store is broken into by someone who is close to him. He shares his anxieties and anger with Lins and then… she tells him she’s a minister. (Cue the huge, discordant chord played on a pipe organ.)
Hey, it’s a big deal to tell another person that you are in vocational ministry. Like Lins, I also find it difficult sometimes to talk about what I do. Churches have a bad reputation these days. Others might be aghast that you work for “those people” or mock your belief in God. Or they might ask you all sorts of questions that they’ve saved up for years.
Fortunately for Lins, by this point in the story her relationship with Neil has grown and they have established a certain amount of trust. So, she takes the leap.
And that is how a minister and an agnostic end up going deep about God.
By the way, Neil and Lins make references to several other characters: So, let me explain who they are for clarification’s sake.
Here’s the excerpt:
“So you really believe in God and Jesus and all that stuff.”
“Well, maybe not all of that stuff.” I smiled faintly. “There’s a lot of stuff to believe.”
I stared into my glass. The wine sparkled under the kitchen’s light. “I sense that something bigger than me is out there. That’s God. As for Jesus, he’s love on two legs. And if he’s love and if God is love then he and God are one. At least that’s the way I see it. Besides, if we all took our cues from the way Jesus lived, the world would be the place God meant it to be. And if we understood the resurrection, maybe we’d see it as God’s way of saying ‘do your worst, but my love and forgiveness tops your worst.’ We’re loved no matter how stupid or angry or awful we are. We’re already forgiven, but we just don’t get it. So we keep doing the same things over and over until it dawns on us that we can be another way.”
Neil smiled a little as he twisted his wine glass around in thought. “If that’s the case, then I’d like to think…” He paused. “I’d like to think, if there is a God, he sees my sister the way I do – as an incredibly messed up human being, but someone who has a core worth saving.”
“He would feel pretty crappy about Claire.”
“I think God does.”
“And he cries his eyes out over her, too.”
“I’m sure of it.”
“If he has eyes, that is.”
I laughed. “Can’t answer that one, Neil.”
He watched me for a moment. “Corn Flower’s church said I won’t go to heaven if I don’t believe in
“My take is God makes that judgment, not me.”
“It’s not a dodge. I’m a human being. How can I make a judgment call about where another human being is going after that person dies?”
“Point taken.” He smiled wryly. “That is if we go anywhere at all.”
“Well, I hope and believe there’s something else after this.”
“And if I don’t believe in God?”
“The good news, Neil, is that God believes in you.”
He sat back and regarded me. “You’re not like those people in Corn Flower’s church. You’re nice. In fact, you just might be too nice.”
“Thanks. I think.”
“If I were a religious man, I’d take your God over theirs.”
“Well,” I said quietly, “it’s not my God versus their God. I think it’s just that people see God different ways. And I’m convinced no one has it completely right. I mean, we’re talking about the Creator of the universe, right? We can’t even understand each other, so what makes us think we can nail God down?”
“I just wish I knew what God wants from me. I had been thinking I was called to something beyond the church, and then along you come with your band. So what was that? A coincidence? An answer to prayer?”
Neil’s eyes lit up. “But it’s good no matter what, right?”
“But I gave up my college band to go into ministry.”
“Yeah. I don’t get that one, Lins. How could you give up something you loved?”
“For someone I loved even more.”
“And then me and my band came along…”
He sat back in his chair. “If I were Kenny, about now I’d be saying, ‘interesting.’ Ever think you were meant to rock on?”
“Yeah.” I chuckled. “Maybe God wants me to rock on.”
He looked surprised. “Seriously?”
“Well, why not? Ministry isn’t just about church, it’s about life.”
Neil thought about it for a moment. “So,” he began slowly, “does this God want you to be with a guy who doesn’t believe in God?”
I laughed. “That’s just so insane the answer has to be yes. Patti told me she thinks God’s specialty is making no sense.”
Neil whistled. “Wow! That’s one funky deity.”
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder