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I forced my feet forward, not caring that wet sand was engulfing my converse. The chilled breeze that rolled off the waves of the ocean mingled with my hair and masked my face. I didn’t try to move my hair. I didn’t want anyone to see my face. No one would see me at this time of night, though. They were all in bed, sleeping peacefully; something I wish my mind would allow me to do. I just needed somewhere to think. I’d come to the conclusion that the beach was the best place for that. It was the best place for all the times I needed to think about him, remember him. I missed him more than words could explain and the only place I felt close to him was the beach. We spent countless hours there. Little did I know, those hours were numbered.
A light shone into my eyes and I looked towards the town, finding where it was coming from; the church. I was not a believer. At one time, when I was young and naïve, I was. Not anymore, though. Stopping, I stared at the church, not sure what to do. A voice in my head told me to keep walking. That nothing good would happen for me there, I would just get hurt again. Something else told me to go to the church. After the two voices debated, I said to myself “What the heck?” It was worth a try. Other people found answers by going to church and I was so lost, I was up for anything. Once I verbally sighed to myself, I made the trek over the sand dunes to get to the back of the church. My mind wandered from the thought that I was actually going into a church back to him.
I was standing at the back doors of the church. They were wide open and the salty scent of the ocean flooded in, begging me to follow. An uncomfortable nervous feeling came over me and I didn’t want to go any further. “This is stupid.” I thought. Turning around, I started to walk back to the beach when I heard a humbling voice come from behind me.
“Can I help you?” I turned around and saw a man. He seemed to be middle aged, hair graying slightly and wrinkles etched onto his face. I assumed him to be the new pastor. Who else would be here at this time of night? I also vaguely recognize him from some news paper articles which I didn’t care to read.
“No, I was just…uhm…” What was I doing? Searching for answers I would never find here? “I was just looking.”
“For answers?” He questioned. He was wise, that was apparent, but I instantly regretted going to this place. I wasn’t ready to open up, not yet. And I would especially not open up to him.
“Sure.” Attempting to get my way out of this conversation.
“Usually, when people come here in the middle of the night, they’re looking for guidance. That, or-in my case- their wife kicked them out because they didn’t help clean.” I laughed at his comment, setting me at ease a little bit. “But why I’m here is irrelevant. The real question is; why are you here?” I sighed again, not meaning for it to be as loud as I made it. “Why don’t you come inside? It’s cold out here.” He was right, it was indeed cold. However, I wasn’t sure if I could muster up the strength to walk in, to get answers. I had no idea where those answers would take me or even what to do once I got them, but I needed closure. So I followed him inside, taking in the sight of the pews, stained glass windows and everything else. We took a seat in the first row and sat in silence for awhile. That uncomfortable feeling came back and I felt as though I shouldn’t be there. I didn’t belong there.
He broke the silence that overtook the room, his voice echoing off the walls. “I find that when I feel lost and confused, the most calming place for me to be is this seat.”
“This seat?” I asked, trying to figure out how a seat could calm someone down.
“Yes, this seat. The way the moonlight hits the cross…I don’t know. It’s perfect. It reminds me that I’m not alone.”
“Yeah, well, that doesn’t help me any.” All of this was pretty, but God wasn’t real.
“And why is that?”
“I don’t believe in all this stuff.” I saw him turn to look at the cross. It was obvious that he was analyzing my words, ripping them apart in his head and putting them back together.
“What happened?” He finally asked, facing me again.
“What happened?” He repeated, looking at me seriously.
“I don’t know-“
“-What made you stop believing?” He interrupted.
It was my turn to analyze his words. “How do you know I ever believed in the first place?”
“You wouldn’t be here.”
I sat there for what felt like hours, looking at the cross and contemplating about what he said. “I don’t know.” My voice just above a whisper. I cleared the nonexistent frog in my throat, speaking louder this time. “I guess it was after my dad died.” It hurt me just to say those words. It was like an invisible knife pierced me. I caught my breath, not letting them become shaky, not letting myself cry.
“Ahh…” He said in understanding. “I understand how you’re feeling. I lost someone, too; my daughter.” I felt my heart ache for him. “I hated God.”
“You? You’re supposed to be a good example.” I said jokingly. He smiled but his eyes showed me he was elsewhere, lost in a memory. I didn’t speak. I just sat there and waited for him to come back to the present.
He finally drew in a breath, his eyes were still somewhere else. “I didn’t understand how He could take a child like that, an innocent child. She had done nothing wrong. Before that, when I heard about children dying, I didn’t think much of it. I mean, I prayed for their families and I felt terrible for them. It’s just different when it happens to you. Over time, I realized that I was just taking my anger out on Him.” He paused, choosing his next words carefully. “Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’m undecided.”
“I do. For whatever reason, she was meant to be here for that short amount of time. I don’t know why yet, but one day it’ll hit me.”
I sat there, fidgeting, going over what he said. Everyone says that God has a plan and maybe it’s true. Maybe he is real. My dad has been gone for about a year and it’s not getting any easier. Maybe it would with God. Look at the pastor, he lost his daughter and it seems as though he’s ok with it. Not “ok”, but he’s dealing with it. That would be an improvement for me.
“I think I may give this a try.”
“Give what a try?”
“God.” I knew somewhere inside me that it was worth it. It was worth giving God another try. Rather, letting God give me another try.
He smiled. “I think I know why she was meant to go.” Realization lit up his aged face.
“This. This moment. I think I was meant to have that experience so I could help you now. Bring you back to Him.”
I couldn’t mask my smile. Maybe he was right. Funny, one conversation changed my views. Whether God is real or not, I’ve discovered that it’s easier to go through life when you have a safety net catching you every time you fall.
I got up and he looked at me. “Thank you.” I said.
“No, thank you.”