(Mal 3:16 KJV) Then they that feared the LORD
spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a
book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD,
and that thought upon his name.
(Submitted by "Louise")
John Powell, A Professor at Loyola University in Chicago
writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:
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 first day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and
mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which
six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I
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
in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions
flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange ...very
>> Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my
Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked
whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father-God.
We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although
admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.
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
I let him get five steps from the classroom
door and then
called out: "Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find him, but I
absolutely certain that he will find you!" He shrugged a little
left my class and my life. I felt slightly disappointed at the
thought that he had missed my clever line: "He will find you!"
least I thought it was clever.
Later I heard that Tommy had graduated and I was
grateful. Then a sad report, I heard that 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
fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright
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.
very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it, Tom?" "Sure, what would you
like to know?"
"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?" "We'll, it could
worse." "Like what?" "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
try to reject by classification God sends back into my life to educate
"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "
something you said to me on the last day of class." (He
remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever
God and you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said, 'But
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
that a lot!)
"But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin
told me that it was malignant, then I got serious about locating
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 anything 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
throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall
to a God
who may be 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
to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally
to go through life and leave this world without ever telling
loved that you had loved them.' "So I began with the hardest one: my
Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him." "Dad".
"Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper. "Dad, I
like to talk with you." "Well, talk." "I mean. .. . It's really
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 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
remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me.
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
each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for
many years. I was only sorry about one thing: that I had waited
long. Here I was just beginning to open up to all the people
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
three days . . . three weeks.' Apparently God does things in his own
and at his own hour. "But the important thing is that he was
He found me. You were right. He found me even after I stopped
"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying
something very important and much more universal than you realize.
me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not
make him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant
consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love.
the Apostle John said that. He said God is love, and anyone
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
up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith
and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the
thing it wouldn't be half as effective as if you were to tell
"Oooh . . . 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 Tommy called, said he was ready
for the class,
that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled
However, he never made it. He had another
far more important than the one with me and my class. Of
his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He
great step from faith into vision. He found a life far
beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has
ever heardor the mind of man has ever imagined. Before
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
you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven:
"I told them, Tommy . . . as best I could."
University of Alabama
Comments, testimonials, submissions welcome.