I was twenty years old in the autumn of ’96 and the South Georgia air was starting to cool. The Doobie Brothers’ Jesus is just all right with me played over the radio of my ’87 VW Jetta while I sat behind the wheel. I was a mess. Emotionally.Mentally. A mess.
My world was turning upside down because of dinner. A free dinner. I was a young airman and my roommate told me about a dinner at the home of a couple he knew. Young airmen do not turn down free dinner, even when it’s at the home of total strangers and I was in a phase of my life when I didn’t like people. Any people.
For nine years, I had turned a burning anger against a god I thought had killed my grandma into a cold fury against the world at large. I mainly kept the seething to myself, but most people picked up on the vibe that emanated from me. They got the hint and left me alone.
But, not that night. Not at that dinner. These people showed me something that I hadn’t seen in a long time, or at least I wouldn’t let myself see. They accepted me and loved me that night. And through them, through their love and kindness, I saw something else. I saw love from the one I hated more than anyone or anything else.
And my heart burst open from it, and I found myself in that car raging at Jesus. And when I quieted, he didn’t speak. He let me rage, and then sat quietly with me. I looked into his eyes. There was love and compassion and something I couldn’t quite understand.
I wanted desperately to fall into that love, to have it envelope me and consume me and fill my lungs and be the very air I breathed.
But yet, I wanted nothing to do with Jesus at the same time.
Then I understood what it was that I had seen in his eyes. It wasn’t something in addition to the love, but it was there because of the love.
It was truth.
Truth about his love, his compassion, his hand in my life and in the life of my grandma so long ago. He hadn’t killed her. He hadn’t caused her to suffer and die from horrible, nasty, no good cancer. He had seen the suffering that this cursed world had caused her, and he brought her home to him.
There, she didn’t suffer. There, with him, there wasn’t any suffering. I saw all of that in his eyes.
I saw it, and when I had stopped raging in my car, I believed it. I believed it completely, and I fell in love. I fell, and I let myself sink deeply.