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 The Only Thing That Counts

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Only Thing That Counts   Sat Oct 14, 2017 5:48 pm

Chapter twelve –       Revelations    

 

            Rubbing his temple thoughtfully, Steve put the phone down. He helped himself to a milk drink, sat down in his armchair and turned on the TV. After a couple of minutes he had convinced himself that there was nothing on. Steve wandered into the old sitting room. It was a more formal lounge with big armchairs and a floor to ceiling bookcase on one wall while opposite a heavily curtained window took up most of the space. The room was a little musty from lack of use. He peeled back the curtains to see the last rays of a pink sunset catch the mountains across the valley. ‘These should be open more often,’ he thought. Steve rambled aimlessly around the room, looking at the paintings, scanning the titles in the library and looking at old family photos. He was on edge and couldn’t settle his disquiet. After realising that he didn’t know what he was looking for, he turned from the bookcase and soaked in the mood of the room full of memories. 

            He slumped into his father’s favourite recliner, sighing deeply, and conscious of an intense restlessness. On the table beside him was the old family bible. It was a large, black, leather bound tome, well-thumbed but still in excellent condition. Inside the front cover were the words: ‘To my darling Ari, let this Word be a lamp for your feet and a light for your way. All my love, Juzzy.’ He remembered that his father, Ari James, had been an extremely educated man. He once shared with Steve how his political talents were highly regarded and, when he was a young man, he was keenly sought after as a speechwriter. Once he realised his need for God, Ari had become aware of the duplicity he had been involved with ingratiating himself to powerful people in the political world. Steve remembered the smile on his lips as he related his love for ‘Juzzy’, Steve’s mother, and how together they grew in their faith. She taught grade six while he started his plant nursery business. Ari leafed through the first few pages and then examined a prayer list with each family member’s name. There was a page where he listed new people at the church to help him remember names and then the index.

            His father always recommended a good read for the three ‘Cs’. The three ‘Cs’? What were they again? The middle one was ‘Consolation’ ... what were the other two? Oh well, he thought, consolation sounded quite beneficial to Steve, so he flicked through the pages. He steered away from the Old Testament, remembering the struggles he had in his youth when he set himself the task of reading through the whole bible. His father had marked many passages in his study sessions; some were quite familiar while others seemed obscure. The notes in the margin were miniscule, sometimes puzzling, sometimes with a pithy maxim, and often there were alliterative mnemonics. Just turning the pages gave Steve a warm sense of his father’s presence. He was reminded of those short explanations about a sermon that often involved leading questions or graphic analogies, and never became arduous homilies.

            He came to a text about the resurrection. He knew that because above the chapter (1 Corinthians 15) was written in his father’s copperplate script ‘Resurrection’. The text was brightly marked with a number of colours and in the margins were short headings: The Cause, The Conflict, The Consequences, The Confirmation, The Consummation, ‘My father certainly liked his Cs,’ Steve muttered as he smiled to himself.

            He read the whole chapter, turning on the reading lamp about half way through. The passage reminded him about the importance of the resurrection. The words "Death has been swallowed up in victory," were underlined. Steve trembled inwardly as he saw the words; ‘he died instead of me’ written in the margin. Steve himself had used those very words recently. Then he read the last verse about standing firm and labouring for a purpose and he saw next to it ‘Commitment’. The third C! Steve felt a strong sense that there was some unearthly interaction going on here. Just the way his thoughts were guided—the way events coalesced to focus his attention on purpose and direction, and the very unease that brought him to this room. Would the first C also confront him? He wanted to know it the way his mind wanted to unravel any conundrum, but he was afraid of demands made upon him. He was afraid of commitment.

            He breathed a thank you to the knowledge of a presence within, asked for strength and reread the chapter. Verse 19 had a cryptic note: ‘see v31’. Looking down the page another annotation next to those verses referred him to note pages at the back of the bible. On the particular page indicated was a heading in capitals ‘3 C’s CONVICTION’—The first C!

Underneath were a number of comments:      Jn 16:8-11 Sin, Righteousness, Judgment.

                                                                        Rom 3:23

                                                                        1 Cor 15:31&32 what we should do

                                                                        1 Cor 15:20-25 consolation

1 Cor 15:19 I’m not committed enough for this…! See Phil 3:8

 

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ Phil 3:8

            -How can I do this?

 

These cryptic notes gave Steve pause for thought.

 

            Further down were the words ‘CONVICTION®confession®CONSOLATION’

Steve made himself a coffee and reviewed his father’s note page. Conviction! If his father, whom he had always considered an upright and God-fearing man, could see himself as being too comfortable in his faith in not putting enough at risk, then where did he fit?  Steve reflected. He would have to be considered something of a fraud. He hardly even qualified as a ‘hypocrite’; at least they claimed to stand for something, he just went along.

 

            Well, he had his ‘C words’ and he saw how the response of confession fitted in. He eventually found those words that Paul had mentioned, quoting Paul the apostle. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” He read on.

 “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” Had he ever run a good race? Not like Jodie, or even his brother John. And he couldn’t blame anyone but himself, could he?

It was time to act and so Steve spent the next ten minutes with his head bowed. In his mind he agreed with his God about his minimalist commitment, his preoccupation with himself and his business, all previously justified by necessity, now seemingly empty of meaning; these past pursuits paled in significance to a life dedicated to a purposeful God.

            His personal crisis seemed to be allayed, but the upheaval of his life brought on by the viral threat was still in the back of his thoughts. Returning to the kitchen and with a renewed appetite, Steve went about preparing baked potato grilled with cheese, coleslaw and grilled fish. It had been a while since he’d cooked for himself and as he cleaned up he remembered that it gave him too much thinking time. Dishes time in his childhood was a social time, now, still with the same ‘primitive’ sink, it reminded him that he was alone.

            Although his sleep was deep and more restful than any he had had for a long time, there was upon waking a situation presenting itself. He lay in bed indulging this growing perception. It wasn’t clear cut or defined in his mind, but it was evident that his thoughts were turning to two particular women.

            The consternation that was caused by these two attractive women in his life gave him conflicting emotions. There was Jodie, who he had only just seemed to have noticed even though it was as if she had always been there. He felt he had to explain, but he wasn’t certain how, or even what to explain. And now Kelly; she was someone who was self-confident and very proactive in her advances to him. His original motivation was to ascertain why there seemed to be anomalies in her sudden appearance and involvement. Even though he had met her only twice, things had progressed. He was in some trepidation at the speed at which their relationship was developing. He was unused to the attention and he was flattered by it; and wary at the same time.

            After breakfast Kelly called Steve on the phone. She wanted to meet up again. Her comment was, ‘Maybe they could do something to help him take his mind off Pete’s death’, so she suggested she pick him up and they go for a drive. Steve thanked her, but excused himself to Kelly, saying that he needed some time out. She sounded taken aback, even a smidge petulant when he didn’t elaborate about his plans, and she couldn’t alter his decision with her compelling charm.

            Steve visited Pastor David that morning and spent a long time talking. They talked about interests, sports and Steve’s work. Over coffee they speculated about the direction of genetic manipulation of plants and then Steve got around to the point of his visit and discussed his faith journey. They talked of his father. How he seemed assured in his beliefs and Steve said that that was what was missing in his life. He felt such a fake, so inadequate. And David determined, in response to his comments about Pete, that maybe he felt so guilty because it was he that was still alive; that an explosion meant to eradicate him, took Pete’s life instead.

            David assured Steve that he was right where God wanted him to be: convicted, humble and searching for answers. They spent time praying together and the pastor promised him that God would always be with him in his endeavours, irrespective of what he felt.

            Leaving Pastor Dave at the door, Steve was putting on his helmet when a familiar blue Volkswagen pulled in the driveway. Jodie stepped out and gave a muted ‘hi’ before greeting David and passing from his sight. He stood for a minute trying to assess the tumble of emotions going through him. He wanted to bridge the growing gap between them, but again he didn’t know what to say. What he did know was that he disliked the fact that she was upset, perhaps even angry at him.

            Steve went to work and borrowed Jimmy’s Ford to collect some equipment that he and John had organised. It took him all afternoon to gather the things on his list and pay Professor Eric a visit. He returned Jimmy’s car and found John had left a car for him. Jimmy was still there closing up.

“Your girlfriend dropped by this afternoon.”

“What?” Steve was at a loss to grasp what Jimmy had said as if he was speaking another language.

“Kelly, Kelly Wilkerson, she said her name was.”

“What makes you think she’s my girlfriend?”

“I guess I just assumed,” he grinned, “A beautiful girl turns up and asks for you. She says you are taking her to church tomorrow.”

“So, what did she want?”

“…said she was just dropping in to say hello, and then she asked what she should wear to church tomorrow. I told her it was a very casual place.”

Steve mulled over what was said, wondering, when Jimmy probed.

“Well is she?”

            Steve was cued in now. “I only met her on Thursday. That’s two days ago, and she was asking questions for a news story for the local paper.” He refrained from agreeing with Jimmy about how attractive Kelly was, though there was no argument from his point of view. There were issues with Kelly though—questions about her that failed to gel within his mind. Somehow she was linked to this thing and it may be possible for Steve to use this knowledge of her involvement if she didn’t suspect anything. Then again, if he was wrong he may be ruining a genuine friendship, or even more.

 
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