Tuesday, November 06, 2007

He That Is in You

This is a short story. It may appear to be fictional, but it is a true story. However, it is not the story of one specific event, but of all such events demonstrated in this one little story.


James and John are two very ordinary men who meet through a set of very ordinary circumstances.

James is a man struggling to be free. He has been drinking abusively for many years. His life is one of fear, fear of losing all that he holds dear. Because of his fear he drinks. He often wishes that he was never born. Yet he looks for hope in the world. He once was married, well, actually more than once. But now he lives with a woman and one of his grown children.

John is a businessman, at least he has a business. It is a small business. He is a handyman. He does not advertize his business, but from the first job that he did, word has spread. He works very hard. He always gives people more than they bargained for in the bid that was approved. Doing things part way just is not John’s way.

One day James sees John at work and stops to inquire further. He explains that he has little money but needs to have some work done on his trailer home. He shares about his dreams of building up his property and living happily. He tells a tiny bit about the setbacks that he has faced in life. He tells about some of the disappointments that he has experienced. Then he asks whether John can work on his trailer, asking how much it would cost to repair the steps to the entrance and to repair the lighting. John says that he needs to see the job before giving a price.

James explains again his sad situation and says that he only has a hundred dollars to spare. John explains that this would not even cover the full expenses, let alone pay for his labor. But James pleas with him to help him. He assures John that he only needs to have a few boards replaced on the steps and that only minor wiring needs to be done on the lighting. So John agrees to come later that afternoon.

John finishes his work late that afternoon and cleans the area and loads his tools and equipment. Then he drives to the lumber yard to buy some supplies. On the way a lady with a cell phone in one hand and cigarette in her mouth and a cup of coffee in the other hand swerves from her lane and cuts him off with her car.

“Argh!” John exclaims. “How on earth is she steering? Thank God we did not have an accident! What is wrong with people? Oh well.”

As he comes near to the parking space, another man pulls through from the other side and parks in John’s space, forcing John to lock up his brakes. “Argh! What is wrong with you? You selfish jerk!” These words fly from John’s mouth before he even realizes how angry he is. Realizing his anger he tells himself, “Calm down, John. Calm down. Getting angry isn’t going to help. Just drive to the other side and use that space.”

John backs up the truck, drives around to the other side, and just before he gets to the space, a lady with two children in the car whips into the space in front of him. “Calm down, John. Calm down.” John gasps as he drives around again, this time parking out, way out from the store.

Finally John begins his way to James’ home, having purchased the supplies that he expects to need to do the repairs. Unfortunately the directions that James wrote down left out a few names of streets and had the turns reversed on occasion. John tried calling the number that James gave him, but no one answered. But John kept searching till he found the correct place.

By now the sun is very low in the sky. The grass is tall and the weeds are taller, except for the large bare spots in the lawn. John makes his way to the front steps and finds that the steps are metal steps that have completely rusted through. “Oh boy!” John thinks. “This is going to take much more time and materials, but I think that I have enough to make a new set of steps.”

John presses the doorbell. It does not work. He knocks on the door. No answer. He knocks again and again. He knocks on the window, again and again. Finally James’ girlfriend comes to the door. She explains that James went to the store for cigarettes.

Finally James returns with a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes. “Oh great,” John thinks, “He can afford beer and cigarettes, but he can’t afford to pay me. Oh well. I’d better get started.”

Now it is dark. John asks where he can plug in his lights so that he can work. James says, “What, can’t you come back tomorrow?”

“No, I can’t come back tomorrow! I have other work to do and I’m trying to do you favor.” John’s frustration is growing.

“OK! OK! Go ahead then! The plug is under the steps.”

John sets up and constructs a new set of steps. He was right, he had just enough materials in the truck to accomplish the job. The steps are complete. A very sturdy set of steps, constructed of pressure treated two-bys and four-bys. John made a sturdy set of hand rails, too, something the previous steps lacked.

John knocks on the door. James’ daughter answers. “Where’s James?” John inquires.

“Oh, he and Sherrie went to bed.”

“What? What do you mean they went to bed? Tell him to get out here and turn off the breaker so that I can work on the lights!” John exclaims.

Kerrie, James’ daughter, continues, “I don’t think that they want to be disturbed.”

The veins in John’s forehead felt like they would burst. “Fine!” he shouts, “I’m outahere!” as he begins to pick up his tools.

Moments later James flies out the door, descending upon his newly constructed steps. “Where do you think you’re going you . . ., you haven’t finished.”

“Oh yes I have!” John shouted. “You lied to me and I’m outa here.”

“You calling me a liar? Well I’m not paying you a . . . thing. Not one . . . penny! You haven’t finished your work!”

“I’m not charging you anything. I’m just leaving. You lied to me about the steps. You lied about the conditions and the amount of the work. You lied about helping me. You lied about the lights. I rebuilt your entire steps and now I’m out of here!”

James gets right in John’s face, “You called me a liar! You . . .!” Many curses and names spew from James with great volume and anger.

John repeats with vehemence, “You lied to me. I’m out of here!’

James picks up a hammer and begins waving it with profuse cursing and screams, “You can’t call me a liar. I’ll kill you!”

John spins and flies at James, grabbing him by the skin of his chest and throws him to the ground with a single move, while flashing down upon him like a lightning bolt. John’s fist is raised to the point of full force, the same fist that earlier demolished a two by six to make it fit in the trash can. This silhouette remained motionless for what seemed like an eternity, with John’s sweat dripping from his face and falling in James’ eyes. Sherrie and Kerrie stand frozen in the doorway like a pair of ice statues.

“I can’t. I can’t,” John softly mutters, slowing rising from James’ trembling torso. “I can’t. I’m leaving now. The steps are complete. I’m not charging you anything. I just want to leave in peace. You’ll have to get someone else to fix your lights. I just want to leave in peace.”

James slinks off, back into the house, where Sherrie hands him a beer and a cigarette, saying, “Ah Baby, Baby. It’s alright.”

Kerrie quietly slips out the door and comes cautiously to John. “I thought he was dead. I thought that he finally picked a fight with the wrong man.”

“I’m sorry,” John says, “It was wrong for me to become so angry. I’m sorry for frightening you.”

“I thought he was dead. You looked like the devil himself. And he certainly deserves it. I thought that you were going to kill him.”

“I can’t. It’s not in me. I’m sorry for the way that I reacted.”

“What do you mean it’s not in you? I don’t understand.”

“You see, Jesus lives in me. Jesus is love. I can’t hurt someone that I love.”

“You mean that you love James?”

“Yes. I love everyone. Jesus loves everyone, and He is my life. Jesus loves me. He loves James. I love James, too. That’s why I need to leave. Here is the name of someone who can fix your lights. I’m sorry for the way that I acted. Please forgive me.”

“What? Forgive you?”

“I’m sorry for the horrible way that I acted. I’m sorry for frightening you. Good night. God bless you.”

John never saw or heard from James again. But from time to time he remembers James and prays for him, in addition to the usual prayers of the Church and of the Our Father. When he remembers that night, He gives thanks to God for keeping him from following through with the unrighteous anger of his heart and for the forgiveness that is poured out freely in the Sacrament. He often remembers the promises of John 16:33 and 1 John 4:3-4:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

. . . and . . .

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.


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