I’m not certain where you stand with Jesus Christ, and that concerns me. I read the things you write and I hear you say things about God, but then you say things about dying and coming back to earth as a squirrel? Uh, what?
That is paganism, sir, and mistaken beliefs like that tell me that we probably aren’t going to spend eternity together. I know where I’m going, do you?
If you’ve got questions, I want you to know I have the answers that your heart is searching for.
I HOPE SEAN OF THE SOUTH REPENTS
DEAR I HOPE:
This comes as no surprise to me. I’ve always suspected I’d be going to hell.
The first time I realized this, I was working part-time in a Southern Baptist church—long ago.
I spent my days doing construction. On Sundays, I helped lead singing at church.
One Sunday, I brought three of my Mexican coworkers to service. Let’s call them Shadrach, Meshach, and Vincente Fernández.
The boys wore tattered jeans and paint-splattered T-shirts. They sat front row, watching me sing.
After service, the pastor asked me not to let those boys sit up front again—he thought their appearance was disrupting.
I never sang in that church again.
I’ve got missionary friends, too. My missionary compadres spent three years on a Native American reservation. My friend was there to help a poverty-stricken, heathen tribe.
He was a seminary grad, with answers—all twenty-nine years of accumulated wisdom.
His first weeks, the elders of the tribe showered him and his wife with gifts.
The women brought hot breakfasts, homemade casseroles, fresh vegetables. They brought handmade jewelry, blankets, clothing.
My friend asked the elders why they were being so gracious.
The elders said, “Because we want you to know we love you, even though you tell us we are going to hell.”
I know a man named Jim. He’s almost eighty-three today. He’s been attending A.A. meetings since 1976—he’s been sober for that long.
He once met a man at a group meeting—a young pastor.
One night, Jim found the pastor in a drunken stupor before a meeting. He sponsored the man.
And when the fertilizer hit the fan, Jim was there to make sure the pastor didn’t go hungry or homeless.
One night, Jim rescued the man from a beer joint across county lines. The young Baptist was facedown in his own vomit.
The intoxicated man said, “Jim, why’re you helping me, you aren’t even a Christian.”
Jim answered, “Because someone did the same thing for me once.”
That minister has been wearing a sobriety ring for twenty-two years.
So thanks for the letter. I’m glad you have answers.
I have no answers. And I don’t want any. Because people who are fortunate enough to know it all tend to act like it.
Subsequently, I think you might be right about my eternal destination.
I might not end up sitting in the front pews of a clean, white afterlife.
And I wouldn’t want to, either. I want to eat at an eternal potluck table with the unkempt, the lonely, the shut-ins, the meek, the tax-collectors, recovering drunks, A.A. sponsors, prostitutes, Mexicans in ratty clothes, and a carpenter who was kind enough to invite them all to supper.
Unless I come back as a squirrel.