They went out of the side entrance that led to the little garden. As they did Michelle came walking up. She and Sharon embraced briefly.
“They come and got Joley. I’ve come to pray, Sharon.”
“I think you should. And you should pray alone. Open yourself to the Holy
Spirit. He is the comforter. He will give you the peace, and the answers that you need right now.”
She went into the church as John and Sharon went to the garden. Sharon seated herself. There seemed to be a great weight on her right now. John deduced that the events of the last hour had finally soaked into her mind. For a few minutes she just sat and looked at him. Then, she took in a breath and began to speak.
“John, you put all of your faith in a book. The Bible is the Holy Scripture, but it was never meant to be used as a road map. God cannot, will not be reduced to a book. Call it the Bible, or the Koran, or the Book of Mormon, he will not be locked down. He reveals truth to all men. From the Dalai Lama to the Pope. All truth comes from God. You cannot exclude any truth from your life, no matter where you find it. You may find it in your King James, or you may find it in the writings of a priest, or you may find it in the face of a dying child.”
“I tell you the truth, God’s revealed truth was just as much in Joley’s face just now, as it is in your Bible. You know in your heart, that you learned as much from her today as you’ve learned from all of your Bible study. Don’t exclude truth from your life, John. Read the world in the light of scripture. God tells us all about himself, everyday, everywhere. In the sunrise, in the leaves of Autumn.”
“I was taught that the world is evil, and that God had little to do with it.”
“God created the world, John. Satan stole it! Jesus bought it back. Don’t just give it back to Satan after Christ has already paid the mortgage.”
“But didn’t Paul say not to hold to the things of this world?”
“Don’t hold to them, but don’t ignore them either. Enjoy your food, a sunset, a friend. When the time comes for you to leave, go to your Heavenly Father with open arms because what he has in store for you there is much greater than what you have here. That’s what Jesus meant by storing up treasure in Heaven. This world will pass away, but that world will never pass away. Use this world to prepare for that world. If you enjoy the life God gave you for this world how much more will you enjoy the life he gives you for the next!”
“Joley’s life wasn’t very enjoyable.”
“Yes it was. She was surrounded by love, John. Her whole life was love. She always knew the sickness, but the love made up for it. Did you see the little black and white TV in her room. She watched all kinds of things on that TV, John. She went to the Holy Land on that TV. She played games on it. It was her friend. The little set only gets two channels. A network, and the college channel. But for Joley that was enough. Now, there are people living in nice apartments downtown who wouldn’t even turn that little set on. They have to have a projection screen, color set with seventy-two channels, and even then they search the TV guides because they don’t think they have enough entertainment! Joley was entertained every day by her little set in her room. It brought her joy, and the world she would never see. For to those who have, much will be given, but for those who don’t have, even what they think they have, will be taken away!”
“Then you’re saying TV is good.”
“You are forever the fundamentalist, John. No! I’m saying the little girl enjoyed what little she had, more than the rich enjoy the abundance they have. She didn’t put her faith in the TV. She put her faith in God who made the TV. You’re too busy looking at the TV to see the principle behind it. You have eyes, but you do not see, you have ears, but you do not hear. If you had to eat the beans that were her normal meal, would you complain because there wasn’t enough meat in them, or, like Joley, would you look forward to the beans because your mother made them for you, and your mother always made the best beans in the world?”
“There are people, John, who put their faith in the Shroud of Turin. It was supposed to be the burial cloth of Jesus, with images left on it from his body. Many highly skilled persons went to Turin, Italy to examine the cloth, and most came away with the conclusion that it was genuine. They even did ‘autopsies’ on the cloth and rewrote some of the details of the crucifixion. Then, one day, they did a carbon dating on the cloth. You know what happened?”
“The carbon dating said it was manufactured about the fifteenth century. A lot of people lost their faith, John.”
“Do you think that was a good thing, Sharon?”
“The people who were upset by the carbon dating were just like you, John. They were so busy looking at the shroud they forgot the message it conveyed. You’re so busy looking at your Bible, you forget the real message it conveys. All anyone has to do is point out a comma, or a passage that you didn’t quite take in, and your faith is out the window, with the Shroud of Turin. Those people didn’t stop to think that the originator of the shroud conveyed a message of the passion of Christ that is still powerful today! They just wanted a miracle. ‘Give us a sign!’ Surely, no sign will be given this generation.”
“And yet, you just saw a sign. You saw a Christian die at peace. The end that so many people fear she came to with no fear. And, she wasn’t feverishly turning in a Bible trying to find the right passage, the right verse. She was praying, John. She died at peace.”
“Do you think that I’ll ever know peace?”
“Yes. If you let peace know you. You can literally worry yourself to death. Stop trying to save the world, just save a little piece of it. Just make your life count for something. You don’t have to expand your life much farther than the walls of this church, or any church you choose, but put your life truly in the service of others. Do that, and you will live, for peace will come and live with you.”
“We were chosen from the foundation of the world. You and I. We were put in this particular place, at this particular time, to do this particular thing. We do the best we can, and ask God’s guidance. Jesus took the world back from the evil it had gone into, but he turned it over to us, John. And he trusts us to do his will until he returns. Will he find you working when he returns, John?”
“When do you think that will be?”
“Soon. Maybe today. Maybe before I finish this sentence, or maybe in a thousand years. The point is, when he does return he wants to find you doing his will, as if you expected him all along. Do you know what I’d do if I knew tomorrow Jesus would return? I’d do exactly what I planned for that day, for I always do what My Lord wants me to do. So many people are trying to figure out when he’ll return, so that they can ‘straighten out’ right before he gets here, and he’ll find them doing good and right. Don’t you think he knows what you’ve been doing? You believe your Bible, John? Tell me the only passage where Jesus tells us directly what will get us into Heaven.”
“Well, it’s the one where you must believe on the Lord Jesus to be saved.”
“How about the one in Matthew, John. The one where he says directly, if you treat the least of his people decently, then you are treating Him the same way, and then he will say come into my Kingdom? You missed that one, didn’t you, John. That’s the rule, ‘Little children, love one another. You see? It was right there all along, and you skipped over it.”
John gently reached out and took her hands in his. “Sharon, you have me asking a lot of questions I’ve never asked before. I don’t know if I’ll ever find the answers. I don’t know which way I will go. I may continue right down the road in my bus with my little group, but I’ll tell you this. You’ve illuminated my life. When I first met you I knew I had fallen in love, and I guess I did. Only, I fell in love with God. All over again. I feel like I did when I was ten years old. All things are possible, God’s in charge. I truly feel that you are my sister. I don’t think I could have said that, and meant it five days ago. Now, I don’t see any difference in you, me, or anyone on the planet. But, I still love my Bible, Sharon.”
“You should, John. It’s the word of God. The very fact that the Bible survives proves it has a Divine origin. Read it, but understand it. Love the Author, John. God is the author, and the book is the cosmos.”
She rose from her seat. They walked to the rear of the church.
“You have to go to your services. Tomorrow you will leave town. It may be a long time before we see each other again. I have somewhere I need to be. You are a gifted man, John. And, I do love you. More than you will ever know. Don’t ever doubt that. We will always be friends. Do you remember what I told you about friendship?”
“It is a great honor to be your friend. I don’t take your friendship lightly.”
She held his hands for a moment. Little tears brimmed in her eyes. Sharon was overwhelmed for a minute with emotion. John could tell that she was struggling to speak. Perhaps trying to find the right words. This was a farewell, and she knew it. Somewhere in the dim past he’d seen her at the revival tent. So much had happened since then, all in the space of five days. John began to feel very warm inside. The smell of roses settled around them, and Sharon spoke.
“John, There is no greater love than the Passion and Sacrifices of The Sacred Lamb. There is no greater gift than the Divine Friendship given by the Lamb’s Sacred Heart. May you live in Divine Truths carrying every cross in the light of Divinity. May your life always reflect Christ. My soul shall know you always. In Christ we are one.”
She kissed him gently on his forehead. Then she made a little cross on his forehead with her right thumb
“Love. . . Joy. . . ”
“Peace be with you?”
She smiled sweetly, and nodded, “Shalom.”
He watched as she rode away. And then it was night. He stood there just staring, alone in the empty parking lot. The parking lot wasn’t as empty as his heart at this moment, though. He never knew the night could be so dark. Not a breeze was stirring, not a sound, even from Westend Avenue. Why had he just let her go like that. Five days ago she’d just walked into his life, and now she just walked out again. He got into his car and sat there for a long time. Finally, he started the engine. When the clock lit up it said six-fifteen. He knew he needed to get on back to the hotel. If he was going to become a selfless person now was a good time to start. He would make himself forget about Sharon, and attend services like he’d planned.
The Butcher Shop