For part one of this story, see last week’s Serial Sundays.
He paused. “You said you go to a Christian school, right? What kind?”
“Well, I think it’s technically non-denominational, but it’s Protestant if that’s what you mean. It’s just a small, Christian liberal arts.”
He nodded. “I’m Catholic, and I believe in Jesus and all that; but you know, it’s interesting to me how religions work. I mean, a landlocked country having a myth of a flood, so many different religions having a similar salvation story – a father sending his son to save a society that can’t help itself. It’s interesting.”
Jen’s mind was moving fast as he spoke. She was mentally and emotionally exhausted from the past week, but she knew she couldn’t miss the opportunity here…..
– Part Two –
… “Well, God has placed in us a void that only He can fill,” she began. “He has given all of us a hunger to know Him, so man tries to come up with different stories they think will somehow fill that emptiness.”
“Yeah,” Donny continued. “I talked to my dad. He doesn’t believe it, but there’s so much order in the world that, I don’t know, it points to something.”
Jen was happy the term she needed right then came to mind. “Well, just think of the Law of Entropy. All things will slowly disintegrate. It’s impossible for this whole world to be made by chance. I mean, just think about it. You leave a kid’s bedroom alone and don’t clean it, and it definitely isn’t gonna clean itself. Look at it after a few weeks and then try to tell me that evolution – order coming from disorder – is even the slightest bit possible.” She smiled as Donny chuckled at the analogy.
“Oh, definitely. There’s no way. I mean, God played a part in the creation of man. What role He plays now is up to you, and the name you want to call him, well, they all lead the same place, right?” He asked the question in a rhetorical way, never pausing to let Jen answer. She bit the corner of her mouth, praying silently that when she did get the opportunity to speak she wouldn’t falter.
Why is it always this way, she wondered. It’s always harder to speak the truth to the ones who put on the better mask of having it all together, who are highly educated, who seem to know so much more than you do, who’ve lived a longer life and risked more. She watched the handsome young man in his late twenties or early thirties as he continued to theorize on the similarities of Christianity, Buddhism, and Eastern Mysticism. It’s always harder to speak the truth to the guy who’s flirting with you, who really listens when you talk and looks you directly in the eye – looks at you with a half smile and his sparkling, hazel eyes that dance as he talks. It was harder, but she couldn’t use it as an excuse, she determined. Her time to speak came just a moment following. “Well, the Bible says that it’s only by one name that man can be saved, and that’s through the name of Jesus.”
“That’s true, but you know what my favorite Bible passage is? It’s…oh, what is it? It’s the story of the Roman … Roman centurion. Where is it?” Jen strove to remember but her mind was shutting down and her eyes fogging over asking her to take out her contacts and give them rest. She had to be in class in seven hours. “I think it’s in Matthew,” Donny began to remember. “It’s early in the book, like, maybe chapter 8. Anyway, I like what the centurion said about giving commands and stuff. I completely understand. When I say, “Major, do such-and-such,” or “Sergeant, take this from point A to point B” I know it’ll be done; I like how the Bible speaks to people in different walks of life. My favorite part, though, is when Jesus turns to the centurion and says, ‘I haven’t found this much faith in all of Israel.’ It’s like He recognized this guy’s right intentions and his desire to understand even though he wasn’t one of them – he wasn’t Jewish. What I want answered is this,” Donny shifted his weight in the seat, sitting up as the man in front of him repositioned his chair for landing.
Had it been that long already? Were they landing already?
The plane was beginning to descend, and the stewardess was speaking over the intercom. Donny continued, “I want to know what Christians think about, like, those eastern nations or maybe a small country that doesn’t have a lot of international contact or who has never had a missionary”—the plane was landed now, bouncing along the runway and struggling for a complete stop—“What happens to them? They are sincerely living after a religion they truly believe and really want to live to the fullest extent”—the plane was stopped now, and Jen began to fear her opportunity to speak was slipping away—“All their intentions are right. Their hearts are in the right place. They’ve sacrificed their whole lives for this religion and a specific way of life”—the interior lights were on, and Donny unbuckled his seatbelt. He stood up, reaching to get his duffel from the overhead, already holding up the line of passengers behind him wanting to exit. Jen was standing now too, but Donny was still talking. “I don’t know. I can’t believe that when they die God’s gonna turn them away from heaven ‘cause they believed in another name. I mean, – this yours?” He handed her her duffel bag but did not pause again. “I just don’t understand that.”—the line was moving now.—“that just doesn’t seem just to me. They tried. They just weren’t exposed to that truth, so they believed another. I don’t know.” He stopped talking, but it was too late. He had turned away and was already four people ahead of her in the line as the passengers pushed their way out of the aircraft and onto the landing.
Jen looked for him when she entered the terminal; he had paused for a moment to re-tie his shoelace, but was just gathering up his things when she caught sight of him. “It was good talking to you,” he smiled, those sparkling eyes looking directly at her again. She went to speak, but he was already walking away. “Have fun at school, and good luck with skydiving!” Then he was gone.
Jen maneuvered quietly around her room, trying not to wake her roommate Patty and the visitor she’d forgotten had arrived earlier that day. She finally settled on just leaving her two pieces of luggage outside the door to the room, and after a few minutes, climbed into bed to finally stretch out and get some sleep.
Sleep didn’t come at first. She kept thinking about Donny. Did he say Hazeldyne or Henzeltine? Or was it Hazeldin? She rolled over in a vain attempt to get comfortable, the answer she would have given him had she had the chance playing over and over in her mind. It all comes down to what the purpose of our existence is, and what God’s intentions were in saving the world. If it was merely for the good of mankind, then yes, sending those people to hell would be unjust. However, if as the Bible says man’s whole existence is to glorify and point to God and His character, then God’s punishment of evil and His sending some to hell just reveals to mankind another aspect of His character, particularly His holiness.
Jen began to fall asleep, as her body involuntarily shut itself off after almost 24 hours of being awake and almost that long of travel. Before she drifted off, the thought came to mind, He’s just like Larry. He’s just like Larry Darrell in that he knows so much but he doesn’t know. He’s seeking after meaning but he’s not finding. His life is a constant search for the reason for living yet he’ll never be able to accept the Truth until he’s willing to make that step of faith. No wonder it’s his favorite book. He’s just like The Razor’s Edge.