John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about a student named Tommy in his Theology of Faith class:
Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long. I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head but what's in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under 'S' for strange, very strange.
Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was, for me at times, a serious pain in the back pew.
When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a slightly cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?"
I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically.
"Oh," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."
I let him get five steps from the classroom door, then called out, "Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!"
He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.
I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line: "He will find you!" At least I thought it was clever. Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.
Then a sad report came. I heard Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted, and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy, but his eyes were bright, and his voice was firm for the first time, I believe.
"Tommy, I've thought about you so often. I hear you are sick," I blurted out
"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it, Tom?" I asked.
"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.
"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"
"Well, it could be worse."
"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals; like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life."
(I began to look through my mental file cabinet under 'S' where I had filed Tommy as strange. It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)
"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class."
He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God, and you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time.
(My clever line... He thought about that a lot!)
"But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven, but God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try something for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted; fed up with trying. And then you quit. Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn't really care about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable."
"I thought about you and your class, and I remembered something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.' So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him.
"Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.
"Dad, I would like to talk with you."
"I mean it's really important."
The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"
"Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that." (Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him.)
"The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me.
We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me. " It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing - that I had waited so long. Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to. "Then, one day, I turned around and God was there! He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop; 'C'mon, jump through. C'mon, I'll give You three days, three weeks.'
Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the important thing is that He was there. He found me. You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."
"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather to open up to love.
You know, the Apostle John said that.
He said: 'God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.'
"Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as effective as if you were to tell them."
"Ooh ... I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class."
"Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call." In a few days, Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date, but he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class.
Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard, or the mind of man has ever imagined.
Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to your class," he said.
"I know, Tom."
"Will you tell them for me? Will you... tell the whole world for me?"
"I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best."
So, to all of you who have been kind enough to hear this simple statement about love, thank you for listening. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven - I told them, Tommy, as best I could.
If this story means anything to you, please pass it on to a friend or two. It is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.
John Powell, Professor Loyola University, Chicago
"Be a force for Jesus Christ in the world"
-- author unknown
A Good Bye Kiss
By Thomas Charles Clary (From: Jean Legel)
The Board Meeting had come to an end. Bob started to stand up and jostled the table, spilling his coffee over his notes. "How embarrassing. I am getting so clumsy in my old age."
Everyone had a good laugh, and soon we were all telling stories of our most embarrassing moments. It came around to Frank who sat quietly listening to the others. Someone said, "Come on, Frank. Tell us your most embarrassing moment."
Frank began, "I grew up in San Pedro. My Dad was a fisherman, and he loved the sea. He had his own boat, but it was hard making a living on the sea. He worked hard and would stay out until he caught enough to feed the family. Not just enough for our family, but also for his Mom and Dad and the other kids that were still at home."
He looked at us and said, "I wish you could have met my Dad. He was a big man, and he was strong from pulling the nets and fighting the seas for his catch. When you got close to him, he smelled like the ocean. He would wear his old canvas, foul-weather coat and his bib overalls. His rain hat would be pulled down over his brow. No matter how much my Mother washed them, they would still smell of the sea and of fish."
Frank's voice dropped a bit. "When the weather was bad he would drive me to school. He had this old truck that he used in his fishing business. That truck was older than he was. It would wheeze and rattle down the road. You could hear it coming for blocks. As he would drive toward the school, I would shrink down into the seat hoping to disappear. Half the time, he would slam to a stop and the old truck would belch a cloud of smoke. He would pull right up in front, and it seemed like everybody would be standing around and watching. Then he would lean over and give me a big kiss on the cheek and tell me to be a good boy. It was so embarrassing for me. Here I was twelve years old, and my Dad would lean over and kiss me good-bye!"
He paused and then went on, "I remember the day I decided I was too old for a good-bye kiss. When we got to the school and came to a stop, he had his usual big smile. He started to lean toward me, but I put my hand up and said, 'No, Dad.' It was the first time I had ever talked to him that way, and he had this surprised look on his face.
I said, 'Dad, I'm too old for a good-bye kiss. I'm too old for any kind of kiss.' My Dad looked at me for the longest time, and his eyes started to tear up. I had never seen him cry. He turned and looked out the windshield. 'You're right,' he said. 'You are a big boy....a man. I won't kiss you anymore."
Frank got a funny look on his face, and the tears began to well up in his eyes. "It wasn't long after that when my Dad went to sea and never came back. It was a day when most of the fleet stayed in, but not Dad. He had a big family to feed. They
found his boat adrift with its nets half in and half out. He must have gotten into a gale and was trying to save the nets and the floats."
I looked at Frank and saw that tears were running down his cheeks. Frank spoke again. "Guys, you don't know what I would give to have my Dad give me just one more kiss on the cheek....to feel his rough old face....to smell the ocean on him....to feel his arm around my neck. I wish I had been a man then. If I had been a man, I would never have told my Dad I was too old for a good-bye kiss."
May we never get too old to show our love or to receive love without embarrassment.
The Apostle Paul wrote at the leading of the Holy Spirit:
(Ro 16:16) "Salute one another with an holy kiss."
(1Co 16:20) "All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss."
(2Co 13:12) "Greet one another with an holy kiss."
(1Th 5:26) "Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss."
(1Pe 5:14) "Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus."
Ask the Lord, "Who should I kiss in church this Sunday?" Be obedient to who He instructs you to kiss. Perhaps you might tell them, "Jesus loves you and I do too!"