Investing in Memories

by | May 22, 2005 | Bible, Remembering

The next morning, United Airlines-like a bad saltshaker sprinkled our family throughout a packed L-1011. My wife is across the aisle. Our daughter in front of her. The boys behind us. Beside me sits Mike, a 19-year-old, and his pretty girlfriend. Mike turns to me. “Did you get drunk a lot down there?” He asks. Most people do not introduce themselves to me this way.

“No,” I laugh. “I have too much fun sober. How about you?”

“Man, I love their tequila. I got drunk every night,” he says. “It was cool.”

“How did you feel in the morning?”

“Oh …I threw up a lot,” he winces. “It was awful.” “Not so cool, huh?”

Mike informs me that his girlfriend and he are living together. That they don’t want to marry. Both their parents are divorced. I inform him that my wife and I are celebrating our eighteenth year. That there’s nothing like sticking together through the tough times. And I grin across the aisle at the only girl I’ve ever really kissed.

Overhead a movie flickers on the television screen. A movie I would not have chosen. Beside me the topic turns to religion.

“I’m sort of a Buddhist, but sort of, like, a Christian, you know,” says Mike. “I kind of like Hinduism too. Most of the big religions are sort of cool. They all have trinities, our professor says.” His girlfriend nods and twirls her necklace-a cross.

“Whatever works,” she says.

Mike turns to me. “So what religion are you?”

We are flying over Salt Lake City now. I smile. “I’m not into religion,” I say. “I used to be. See out that window? That’s the capital city of Mormonism. It’s like the others. You follow a long list of rules, you’ll be okay. You mess up, you’re in trouble. What about you?”

“Well,” he says, squinting out the window. “…I’m a combination. We’re studying religion at the University. My prof says there’s good in everything and we need to be tolerant, but most of all I guess I’m really getting in touch with myself lately. I guess I just believe in myself.”

“Did you ever let yourself down?” I ask with a grin.

“Ya,” he smiles reluctantly, “but I’m getting better. I only disappoint myself about 20 percent of the time now.” I laugh, but he is serious. “I just think that whatever path you choose, that’s cool. You just need to respect yourself. So,” he asks, “are you an atheist?”

“No,” I laugh, noticing that my daughter is peering back at me with those golf-ball eyes. “There’s too much evidence to the contrary.”

I am strangely comfortable sitting there. You see, one of the greatest stresses in my life has always come from something Christians call “witnessing.” I would sit on an airplane knowing that if it crashed and the guy beside me went to hell, it would be my fault alone. When I told others about my faith, I was as clumsy as a carpenter with ten thumbs. I took a personal evangelism course once to try to get over it, then I tried preaching on the street. A little girl threw rocks at me. I decided to throw Four Spiritual Laws booklets from a moving car, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew the authorities might throw me in jail for littering, and I’d have to witness there. In those days, I operated out of guilt, not love. Finally, I realized that a closed mouth gathers no foot, so I kept mine shut.

A few years ago I made a surprising discovery: When I simply tell others what I have seen or what God has done, they listen. When I incorporate some humor, their faces light up and sometimes their hearts do too. I used to count conversions, now I count conversations. I don’t have all the right answers, but I know and care about the questions.

“So what are you?” Asks Mike, jarring me from my thoughts. “One of those …what do you call ’em…?” “Agnostics?” “Ya.”

“No …I just have a relationship with Jesus. He’s changed everything.”

“Oh,” he says, “Jesus is cool. He was a good teacher. So was Mohammed.”

“Well, I used to think that too. But Jesus can’t just be a good teacher.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, is your religion professor a good teacher?”

“He’s okay.”

“But if he came to class one day and said, `I have an announcement to make: I’m the Son of God. I’m the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to God except through me,’ what would you think?”

“I’d think he was crazy.” Mike pauses, considers for a moment, then sees a light come on: “Oh,” he says softly, “I see what you mean.”

“Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, Mike. Either He was lying, or He was crazy, or He was right. You have to choose. They didn’t crucify Him because He was a nice guy or a good teacher. Either He was a liar, a lunatic, or He’s Lord.”

Across the aisle my wife’s head is bowed. I find out later that Rachael is praying too.

“I think I know the answer.” Mike is nodding his head. “He must be Lord.”

Down through the centuries, millions of others have come to that same conclusion. That Jesus Christ, God’s Son, lived a sinless life, was crucified in our place, and was miraculously raised from the dead. That He defeated death so that we might live with Him forever-and live abundant lives while we are here.

That day, before exiting the plane, we exchanged addresses so I could send Mike and his girlfriend a Bible. And I told them that if my wife starts praying for them, they won’t have a chance. They laughed and said they wouldn’t mind at all if she did. When Jesus walked the earth He seemed too busy to be bothered with trivial pursuits and minor issues and the quest for stuff. But He did have time for the two things that really matter. The two things that last forever: God’s Word and people.

Callaway, Phil. Who Put My Life on Fast-Forward? Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2002, p. 209-212.


Investing in Memories