Chapter Thirteen (continued)

George healed slowly. The interim pastor was less than inspiring. Earl suspected that he harbored skepticism about the accuracy of the Bible, particularly with regard to the creation account at the beginning of Genesis. One of his sermons was devoted to the violence of mankind on earth at the time of Noah. Earl listened attentively, thinking that perhaps he was being too judgmental about Pastor Steve. But then Steve mentioned the flood, and the way he talked about it betrayed his misunderstanding that the flood had been purely local. From then on, Earl listened to Steve with extremely skeptical ears.

It took nine weeks for Earl and Joyce to get a response to the paperwork on Cathy’s adoption. The manner in which it reached them blew their minds. Mildred Black was a state employee with credentials in social work. She came to their house on a Friday evening for the purpose of interviewing them to establish their suitability, in her eyes, for the proposed adoption. By the time she left two hours later, they had reason to question the fullness of her humanity.

Earl answered the doorbell to face a large, cadaverous middle-aged woman with sparse hair and prominent frown lines on her forehead and cheeks. From her attitude of cynical disappointment, either life had been unkind to her or she had been unkind to it. She stepped past him into the hallway without waiting for his welcome, and snapped out a hasty “I’m here about your desire to adopt. Is the missus in?”

Earl decided to be generous about his first impression of her. “Please come into the living room and make yourself comfortable on the couch. May I take your coat?”

She ignored his question and walked into the living room as if it was hers. She extended a hand in command for him to sit. He called Joyce in from the kitchen and she extended a hand in greeting. It was ignored. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” she asked. The woman pointed a commanding finger in response. She observed Joyce in the process of sitting. “Is there a problem with your legs?” she asked.

“I, uh, well, actually, not really,” Joyce replied, flustered with the lack of tact. “I hardly notice it any more.”

“Notice what? Are those prosthetics you’re wearing?” The question was an accusation.

“Well, yes,” Joyce answered, “but that doesn’t mean. . .”

The woman raised the commanding arm once more, this time with palm outstretched for silence. She opened her binder and began to write. Presently she looked up and scowled at Joyce. “Why do you want to adopt?” Another accusation.

“We’ve been acquainted with Cathy for quite a while,” Earl told the woman in a placating tone. “We don’t have children of our own, and with the time we’ve spent with Cathy, we’ve established a bonding relationship with her.”

The woman stared at Earl in an obvious attempt to assess his appetite for perversion. “Why were you visiting the nursing home? Why were you spending time with Catherine?” she accused.

“We have been conducting a weekly Bible study,” he explained, to which she responded with another command for silence as she wrote in her binder.

“Christians, eh?” she accused. The interview had hardly begun, but apparently she’d heard enough. She closed the binder and stood up. “I’ll put your request in with my comments, but I’ll be honest with you. Taking care of an individual as severely handicapped as Catherine is not only difficult, but requires the kind of expertise that is possessed by professionals in the field. I wouldn’t plan on the adoption taking place. You’ll be hearing from us within the month.” She opened the front door and walked out.

Stunned, Joyce sat unmoving on their double chair without saying a word. Eventually her eyes began watering. She got up and walked into their bedroom. Earl followed her in and attempted to comfort her, but she was inconsolable. She undressed in silence and slipped between the covers. “All I can say is this, Joyce,” he said. “With God, all things are possible. If it is meant to be, it will be.”

Her shoulders continued to shake. Sadly, he walked out to give her some privacy.

Eventually, he came back to bed and they both slept. It was still dark when Joyce awoke to a diffuse light. The beautiful face looked at her in earnest compassion. Her eyes glistened with moisture. Joyce turned to wake Earl, but a gentle hand restrained her. “It’s you I want to talk to, Joyce,” Wisdom told her softly. “Let him sleep. We gave him to you for love and comfort. You should listen to him and you wouldn’t be as grieved as you are about Cathy. It’s true, you know, what he said.”

“W-what did he say?” She was taken aback by the apparition at her bedside. They’d communed like this before, but she still wasn’t used to the intimacy of this exchange with God although she welcomed it with all her heart.

“He told you that with Us all things are possible. Mildred thinks she has you wrapped around her thumb. Know this for certain, Joyce: she doesn’t have the control over matters that she thinks she does. By the time she comes to face Us, she’ll have a better understanding of where she fits into the scheme of things. In the meantime, you need to have compassion for her, because her life is not very pleasant. Can you do that, in the face of her rudeness to you?”

“I-I guess so. I didn’t look at life from her perspective, did I?”

“No. She’s had her share of personal issues, but right now she’s attending a slew of meetings about policy changes. Dark changes, and they’re affecting her conscience. She’s knuckling under to them because she fears for her financial survival, but she knows in her heart that they’re evil. Dealing with darkness is part of your learning. You’re coming along, so don’t fret. Now about Cathy. Whatever happens, we do control the situation. Can you believe that?”

“Yes, of course.” She spoke with more confidence. “But I have a question about that. Why are You so real to me when others never have a chance to see You? And it’s not only about seeing You personally, but any sign of Your presence. A lot of people don’t think You even exist.”

“There’s a reason for that. It’s called faith. It’s of the utmost importance to Us that those of you with whom We’re going to have an everlasting relationship see Us through the lense of faith. For that faith to be anything but trivial, the question of Our actual existence must always hang in the air. Give yourself a helping hand. Go back and reread Hebrews Chapter 11. Burn it into your memory, so you’ll be able to stand fast in opposition to attacks from the world.” She smiled warmly to soften the lecture.

“Beyond the faith issue,” She continued, “We generally leave it up to the individual as to whether or not that person sees Us or Our works. We’re closest, Joyce, to those who wish Us to be. If some people don’t want to see Us, and there are a lot of those people about, we usually oblige them. On the other hand, there are many others whom we cherish, who are simply plain, meat-and-potatoes Christians. For them, dear as they are to Us, life is more of a spectator sport. We’ll be happy to welcome them into heaven, but We don’t have any particular objectives for them to accomplish while they are on earth. But there are yet others, much fewer, whom We have selected for special tasks. We communicate far more directly with them. Jesus pretty much said it all as Luke recorded in Chapter 12, verses 47 and 48:

“’And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of his shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.’ Are you okay with that answer?”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Good, because you’ll be helping, from your own love toward them, to bring some of the more reluctant ones into the fold. I’ll reinforce that understanding in your mind as to what We expect of you, maybe have Earl help out with that. Remember that we love you. Deeply. Whatever takes place in the future, everything will work out for your good.”

“Oh. So we will get Cathy.” She gave Wisdom a bright smile.

“Maybe. Maybe not. What happens may not be what you expect or even think should happen, but you must trust Us that everything will work out to the Glory of God in the long run. I’ll repeat: as you’ve obviously guessed by now, you and Earl aren’t of the meat-and-potatoes variety. We’ve given you much to hang your faith on, but We’re also asking a greater faith from you in return. Have faith that we do is done in love, even if things get dicey for you in the near term. Remember what Jesus told you in Luke 12: ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.’ Also take to heart the Scriptures that Earl read to you and Laurie about the character of people as you approach the end of this age. You got a dose of that nature tonight, but it’s for your good. You need to grow into the ability to handle that without breaking down, because you and Earl are going to be two of our front-line fighters. Your greatest battle is ahead of you, but you’ll have plenty of joy to go with it. Do you know what your greatest strength is going to be?”

“No,” Joyce replied in a subdued voice.

“It will be your ability to live outside of self. And to do so in love toward others, even your enemies. It will take lots of effort to get there, but you’ve come a long way since We brought Sam into heaven with Us. We’re looking forward with great joy to seeing you and Earl continue to grow together. Tomorrow I want you to read Luke Chapter 6.” Wisdom put a hand on her hair and stroked it gently. “Good night, my darling, and sleep tight,” she whispered. With a kiss she faded from sight. Joyce turned to Earl and went back to sleep. She had a smile on her face.


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