Was it real? What was it like? And we had life to live. It never occurred to me that he might be in heaven and that he might be a whole lot happier there than he was here. Over the following days I discovered death. There was the sickly sweet smell of a funeral home, the disturbingly shiny casket, and the frantic numbness. I felt nothing, so all I could do was to watch others. Some mourned and grieved with such desolation that it seemed the world had ended. It was a grief with pain but no balm. When God or Jesus was mentioned, some spat at the names with their words or glances. On the other hand, there were some, like Jeff, who were crushed but not destroyed. His eyes were red and his pain was clear but it was as if he were moored to something that kept him from sinking.
When it was all over, I went fishing. As I did, I kept coming back to the contrast -- desolation versus grieving with hope. Of course, now I realize that people grieve in many different ways. Still, the difference in someone like Jeff was undeniable. It seemed to me that if "accepting Jesus" mattered, it had to show itself as something more than words that purportedly delivered someone to heaven. If this faith thing was real it had to show up as real at the most unexpectedly difficult times -- the times when your true nature is revealed unedited; when you stub your toe badly and want to scream great expletives, when someone cuts you off in traffic and flips you the bird, when horror visits. In Jeff I saw that difference. It made me want to be like him, and I knew the best part of him was Jesus.
One day, after more time with Jeff, I went home and ended up sitting in the bathroom. The bathroom had the only door in the house that locked and I didn't want anyone seeing what I was about to do. I told Jesus that I wanted him in my life and I wanted my life to be about him. I said that I couldn't make it without him. I needed his sacrifice and life to take me back to God. I waited for the smile to cross my face. I waited for tears or tingles or emotion.
I didn't feel anything. I tried it again. Did I do something wrong? Was it real? Was I good with God?
I went about the rest of the day and then tried again before sleep. I still didn't feel anything. The next morning, the same thing. Still there was nothing. I kept this up for several days before telling Jeff about my experience. He was thrilled and excited for me and told me not to worry, I was now officially a Christian. I had been born again. Christian faith wasn't about emotion, he said. It wasn't devoid of emotion but it wasn't based on it. Faith shouldn't ebb and flow based on how happy or sad or grumpy or sneezy we are. Faith in Jesus is rooted in something deeper. Then he pointed me to Jesus' parable about the man who built his house on a rock versus the man who built his house on sand. A storm came and the man housed on the rock remained firm. The guy with his house on the sand was blown away into nothingness. Building on rock was harder than building on sand because it took more time, required more work -- motion was the sand, faith was the rock. In the end, though, it would be worth the work because when storms like Christian's death arrived, I wouldn't get swept away. I liked that.