Sam was a Vietnam soldier, a writer of books and articles, an illustrator and a graphic artist. He also plays the piano and writes poetry.
Charles was sitting in his easy chair watching TV when his wife and son arrived home from Church.
Chucky came running up to him with a piece of paper in his hand and said, “Daddy! I did a special treat for you in Sunday School!”
Charles moved only his eyes toward the paper. He spent about 1/20th of a second looking at it, then turned back to the TV. “Fine, son. Now go take your nap.”
Chucky dropped his paper and shoulders as if his world were deflating. He looked with dismay at his father, then at his mother who was standing in the doorway.
Janice nodded to Chucky who slowly and sadly turned away and headed for the stairs, looking closely at his piece of paper as if trying to determine what was so unattractive about it.
After Chucky disappeared into the stairwell, Janice said, “Charles, you could have at least complimented him on his drawing. He was giving it to you as a Father’s Day present!”
Charles responded, “Father’s Day present from him, or from his Sunday School teacher? I don’t think he wants to wish me well. I think he’s just trying to get me to believe in your god, just like his teacher is doing, and you, too. It won’t work!”
Janice came over to kneel by him. “Charles, they told us in Sunday School that at least we should keep the family in a close knit. Family activities is what will keep the world a healthy place, and give the children a direction in life.”
“So if you want the family to be close, why do you wander off to Church, when we could be together?”
“Because at Church, we learn from Jesus. He teaches us how to live as people, and as a family.”
“Then have Jesus come here. Why try to find him at Church? Anybody ever report having seen him there?”
“No . . .”
“I rest my case.”
Janice thought a moment, then said, “Even if he came here, you would never recognize him! You need to prepare your heart to find him, and accept him.”
“Yah? I thought he had a red beard and long robes.”
“That’s not what it’s about, and you know it!”
“Then what’s it about, Jan? I’ve asked plenty of times for him to come. I’ve prepared my heart hundreds of times. Did he come? Did he answer? No! How many times do I have to ask and prepare my heart? I’ll be dead, by the time he gets around to helping me with my business, and my problems that happen to be plummeting downward into eternal blackness as we speak!”
There was silence for a moment before Charles continued, “Bring him here! Let him come! Let’s ask him why he hasn’t answered my prayers, and see what he says!”
Janice arose and turned to leave. “I’ll tell him you are ready for him to come.”
Charles wagged his head in a shrug as Janice went into the kitchen, then he resumed watching the TV.
Charles had evidently dozed off after things quieted down, because the next thing he remembered was the ring of the telephone.
He looked at the TV and noticed it was off. The telephone rang again. He yelled at no one in particular, as he searched for the TV remote, “Someone get the phone!”
The remote was nowhere to be found as the phone rang once more.
He stood up in one exasperated swoop. “Gads! Where is everybody? And where’s the phone?”
He found the telephone in its charging cradle. He approached it, looking around for signs of life. As he reached for the phone, he concluded that Jan had to be upstairs comforting Chucky.
“Hello!” he said gruffly.
There was a slight pause on the other end, then a soft male voice said, “Charles?”
“Speaking . . .”
After another brief pause the voice said, “I understand you wish me to come to your home, today.”
Charles’ mouth dropped a little. Then he said, “Who is this?”
“I’m the one you told your wife you would invite into your home, today.”
Charles half lowered the phone from his ear and looked around him. Then he looked out the window, as if looking for somebody. Then he said into the phone, “Is this a joke?” He approached the stairs and yelled, “Jan, what kind of games are you playing?”
There was no response from the upper rooms. Charles put the receiver back to his ear. “Listen, Mister, did Janice put you up to this?”
“No; this is your idea. I’m only responding to your invitation. May I come over?”
Charles laughed with incredulity. “Okay; if you want a knuckle sandwich, I suggest you DO come on over, and I’ll prepare you a good one!”
The voice said, “A sandwich would be nice, but I don’t like knuckles.”
Charles laughed again. “Okay . . . . okay, then, I’ll see what I can do! See you when you’re ready!” He listened for a few seconds, until the line went dead.
Charles hung up the phone and went upstairs. Nobody was in Chuck’s bedroom. He went into the main bedroom. Janice wasn’t there, nor was she in the bathroom. Nobody seemed to be anywhere in the house, nor in the yard.
Charles headed downstairs and entered the kitchen. He thought a moment, grinned sardonically, then went to the refrigerator. He pulled out a loaf of bread, some ham and mayonnaise. After putting them on the table, he reached once more into the fridge and pulled out a bottle of jalapeños and a type of tabasco sauce that boasted of “hell-fire.”
He made two sandwiches. The first one was with only mayonnaise and ham, and the second one was loaded with peppers and the tabasco sauce. He put them on saucers, and set them on the table, putting a beer by each plate.
It wasn’t long before a knock was heard at the door. Charles went to the front door and opened it. Standing on the porch was a man whose back was half-turned toward him. The man, wearing a suit, was looking over the front yard. On hearing that the door was opened, the man turned to look into Charles’ eyes.
Charles was a bit surprised to see that the man had a very humble look on his face. At the same time, there was apprehension, as if the man wondered if Charles was going to accept him. His eyes bore a soberness that hinted of a history of great sadness, and of a great passage of time.
The suit was very clean and well-tailored, but not showy. The tie was conservative, and the shirt was white. The man’s build was a bit frail, and he appeared to be in his thirties. He was clean-shaven and his hair was sandy with strands of gold that occasionally seemed to reflect a faint sparkle of white sunlight. He smiled ever so weakly, and said, “You have a nice yard, Charles. You take very good care of it.” It seemed to be the most sincere compliment Charles had ever received. And the look from his eyes appeared to show the utmost respect for Charles.
Charles stepped aside, not sure of what to do or say. He simply held the door open while this man entered his house.
The man that apparently claimed to be Jesus, the God Almighty who created the world and everything therein, looked around as he entered the home of Charles Simmons. Charles closed the door and lead the way into the living room.
But his guest moved slowly as he examined the intricate woodwork of the doorway’s side windows. He ran his hand down the carvings, as if appreciating them from a carpenter’s perspective. While he did this, Charles thought he saw something on the back of his hand. He looked closer, and it appeared there was an old wound there!
There was also a wound in his wrist!
Charles sat down, his knees beginning to weaken. He wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. As he thought about this, he decided that perhaps this man put those there, to add drama to what he and Janice were planning.
As the man approached, Charles motioned him to another chair in the living room. After he sat down, the two looked at each other for a while before the man said, “I believe you have some questions for me.”
Charles squinted his eyes as he said in a challenging tone, “Yes! But where do I start? How about this? Why do you, if you are God, allow war and suffering?”
The man answered, “Have you ever burned your hand in a fire or on a hot stove?”
Charles nodded. “Yes . . . .”
“The first time that happened: before you burned yourself, did you know what it felt like before you got burned?”
“I knew what pain was.”
The man smiled. “But what is it that I’m trying to say?”
Charles smiled back. “Okay! I know where you’re coming from. I didn’t know what pain was until I experienced it. But what kind of excuse is that, for allowing war and great suffering? And death of innocent people?”
“A child falls down and suffers. To him, it is great suffering. No real harm done, but it is suffering. Hunger is suffering to a child. Diaper rash is unbearable suffering. All suffering is relative. I see suffering from all perspectives. The prolonged suffering of adults in wartime experience, and of innocent children - no matter how terrible or unbearable it may seem - is later to them but a dream and a memory, and serves as a comparison to the reward that awaits them. The more they suffer, the more they appreciate its opposite - their final reward. In addition, great lessons and progress come from wars. Some wars ignite the fires of compassion in those who see the death and suffering of the victims. That compassion blossoms into other charitable attributes in men, and the results are more improved souls than those who died. Wars come in all sizes and shapes, Charles. Mastery and excellence in the arts come through much trial and suffering. Athletes endure much sacrifice, agony and discomfort in order to win the gold and silver of the Olympics. I did not ordain wars, Charles, just like I did not establish competition. But how much control over man's environment has come about through competition?”
The man continued with tragic soberness: “I have suffered the worst agony of all mankind.” After a reflective pause, he continued with a brighter tone, “It is now nothing, and has served to help me understand all suffering, and to know what men go through.”
Charles thought for a moment, then said, “But the death of innocent children?”
“Charles, death is not the end, but the true beginning. Those who die are returned to me, and together we rejoice in the peace and exultation that comes from being pain-free and without limits. The more you read of near-death experiences and the more you study the Bible, the more you will see that death is truly sweet to the one who is dying, even though it appears gruesome and painful to those looking on. The suffering of victims is lessened by the ministrations of angels. As we look on from the outside, we cannot see how the angels are doing it in their bodies, in their souls. Therefore it may seem to us who are looking in from the outside, that their suffering is unbearable. But on the inside, it is lessened by the help of those angels. Please remember, Charles, that when a person suffers the pains of death, this is a natural reaction of the body -- not the soul. While the body is screaming and writhing in pain, the person himself -- the soul -- is apart from the body and looking on with peaceful wonder and a sense of adventure.
“My suffering was so alleviated with the help of angels.”
After a moment of silence, Charles said, “So you created suffering?”
“No. People bring suffering and wars upon themselves by sin, and by choice. Verily, there are those who do not sin or make evil choices, but they are in the path of those who bring on the destructive works. These innocents will be protected from the fullness of suffering, and will have their unimaginable reward.”
Charles asked, “Why is my business failing? No matter what I do, it turns sour. I seem to have the Medusa touch; opposite of Midas.”
The man said, “If what you touch - or look at - turns to stone, then touch only those things that are beautiful. They will make wondrous sculptures, and then you can sell them.”
Charles grinned sheepishly. As he reviewed his business practices, he now realized that he was trying to appeal to the baser side of men in trying to gain power and riches. And this man seemed to know it, for he was addressing it in a metaphoric way. Charles wasn’t sure he wanted to coninue this line of conversation. To change the subject, he could only think of the food he had prepared: He said, "I’ve gone ahead and prepared a sandwich. Without knuckles.” He stood and motioned to the kitchen. “You ready?”
The man stood, smiling. “I am.”
Charles motioned for his guest to sit by the sandwich with the spices. After they sat down, Charles picked up his sandwich. Just before he took a bite, the man said, “May I offer a blessing?”
Sheepishly, Charles lowered the food and nodded.
The man said, “Father, for what we are about to eat, I ask a blessing and give thanks. May such food be abundant in this household. Amen.”
Charles felt a twinge of guilt because of the last phrase, “May such food be abundant . . .” He briefly pictured himself forever eating food always cursed with tabasco sauce.
The man now picked up the sandwich and took a bite. As Charles absently chewed his own bite, he watched his guest.
The man suddenly stopped chewing, looked into his sandwich, then grinned. He swallowed, looked up at Charles and said, “I think I see what you have set out to do.” He looked at Charles one more time, grinned more freely, then took another bite. He chewed with a closed mouth, nodded approvingly and swallowed. He said, “My compliments to the chef!” He took even another bite, showing no type of discomfort. He then lifted the bottle of beer, but only to show it to Charles. He said, “I promised I would no more drink of the fruit of the vine until I sat down with the elect in the mansions of the Father.”
After he put down the bottle, he swallowed again, reached over and held out his hand to Charles’ sandwich, as if asking to borrow it. It still had the one bite out of it, and Charles was acting as if in a daze. He turned his sandwich over to the man, wondering if he was now going to receive the wrath of God, with the same power used to create both heaven and earth.
With fingers bearing exquisitely clean and perfect fingernails, the man opened the sandwich, grabbed the pepper shaker nearby and readied it for sprinkling into Charles’ sandwich. Then he looked at Charles with a grin and said, “I challenge you to a sport: It is to see which of us will endure the most spices. Are you ready?”
The only thing Charles could do now, was utter a brief laugh through the nose. This interchange - right from the knocking on the door down to the control over the spice - mixed with the apparent forgiving nature of his guest, caused Charles to relax. The friendly challenge, as opposed to a severe punishment, disarmed him completely, and a small fire of friendship for his guest was kindled. This caused his heart to open ever so slightly for this man. The result was the entrance of a spiritual witness into his soul.
The Spirit, once inside, flooded in as if a gate were lifted. Charles felt an immense love, and great warmness, and untold happiness. At the same time, he received insight into the things this man had told him during their living room conversation. He also received insight into the importance of familial relationships.
All he could do now, was to cry, and attempt to show gratitude. As he looked up to Jesus, he saw he wasn’t there. Instead, he saw the television on the same channel he always watched.
He found himself sitting in the living room easy-chair, his eyes slightly moist. He arose from the chair and went into the kitchen. Sitting on the table was a bottle of tabasco sauce, keeping company with a bottle of jalapeño peppers.
He grinned slightly, then turned to leave the kitchen. He bounded up the stairs, skipping some steps, and headed for the bedroom of his son. He knocked on the door.
After a pause, the door creaked open, and his son was standing there, a worried look on his face. He briefly noted that the look reminded him of the man who visited him in his vivid dream.
Charles bent down and gave his son a hug. He said, “I’m ready, now, to see the gift you prepared for me.”
Chucky’s eyes first showed surprise, then they lit up, and he rushed over to his nightstand. He picked up the paper sitting on it, turned to show it to his father, and said, “It’s a picture of you, and me and Mom in our yard, and it says Happy Daddys Day Daddy, with the D’s fallen down to look like P’s.”
Charles saw another person standing by the sketches of himself and Chucky. He asked, “And who is this?”
Chucky said, “That’s Jesus. I put him in a suit.”
“Why a suit, Son?”
“Because sometimes when you wear a suit, you look like Jesus.”
With a shakey voice, Charles said, “Can I hang this in my room?”
Chucky laughed, nodding.
Charles then said, “Why don’t we go downstairs and play a game together?”
As they descended the steps, Chucky said with effusive gratitude, “You’re the best Dad in the world!”