I shuffled through the snow and ice back to my apartment that night. I had to stop putting my foot in my mouth while talking with Emily. But how?
And what are my motives? Emily? Myself? Clara?
I stopped with my hand on the door to my building. Or should it be for God above any of us?
My mind spun as I tramped up the stairs. There was God in this picture again. It was becoming apparent to me that I was going to have to make a decision about Him sooner or later; He kept showing up in everything, making even more of a mess.
How could Emily have honored her parents and kept Ema? Wasn’t that an impossibility? So how could God require that?
What was I supposed to do to bring my parents back into the picture? Was God ever going to make any sense to me?
And then Clara. Could I prove myself to her?
What would happen with Kate? Was the Café going to make it past the New Year?
I collapsed into my bed.
I turned onto my other side and shoved my face into the pillow for what seemed the hundredth time. But in the brief seconds that my face and the pillow were separated, I caught a glimpse of light from the window. Four days until Christmas, I thought. Ten until the soiree.
I sat up and couldn’t remember falling asleep. I blinked and rubbed my eyes.
Oh, right. All those thoughts.
I shoved a stale bagel into my mouth and chewed while I checked the mirror to see if I needed to change my clothes.
I’m going to see Jerome.
As I biked to the hospital, one thought was at the forefront of my mind: I can’t do it. There was too much going on, too many messes with too many people. I didn’t know where to begin and whenever I tried to begin I couldn’t think straight.
I dashed up to his room and waited outside until the nurse finished checking his vitals and said I could go in.
“Good morning, Walter,” Jerome said, nodding in his usual, calm manner. Today it just irritated me – how could he be so serene all the time?
He gave me a look and told me to sit down.
I did, still breathing heavily from my trip across town.
“That mind is racing as fast as your heart,” Jerome said.
I nodded. “I can’t do it, Jerome!”
“That’s right, you can’t,” he said.
“What? Then why did you tell me to? What has all this been about if you knew I couldn’t do it?”
“Remember our discussion about peace with God?”
“When we’re at peace with Him we receive His help, because we can’t do what He wants on our own – otherwise we wouldn’t have had to deal with a broken relationship with Him in the first place.”
“So people who have peace with Him just automatically can do it all?”
“No. Think of it as a father helping his child do his homework. God is our Father, and He doesn’t always just give us the answers, but He will help us know what to do. It takes time and work on our part, and doesn’t always end up the way we hope or think it will. You can’t do it, Walter, because you’re not supposed to be able to on your own.”
I sat in silence.
“God brought me to a similar place, you know,” Jerome said after a long while. He nodded to himself. “That’s how I came to know Him. My family was falling apart, and with it my life was, too. I was in a bad place and my friends were taking me to a worse one. And then one day we were mocking a street preacher, but I couldn’t help but listen to him. He was talking about what we’re talking about right now – how everything here is messed up and broken. And then he said ‘you need Jesus.’ I didn’t know who Jesus was. I didn’t even know Jesus was a person, but he had mentioned my problems and seemed to be offering a solution, so I listened. My friends all laughed and left me there, but I stayed, and talked to the preacher after, and that day I met Jesus.”
I kept listening.
“It wasn’t perfect after that, by any means. My life and my family were still struggling. But I had His help. His help is only a lesser gift, though. Knowing Him and that relationship being fixed is the greater one. Everything else is just an added bonus. He can heal our people problems, just as He healed our God problem when He was punished for my sin.”
“So I guess I have to come to terms with God before I can with Emily or Clara.” I said when he had been quiet for a few minutes. “But not to come to terms with them,” I added. “I get that. God is the end, not a means to an end.”
“I still don’t know if I’m ready, though.”
“You don’t have to be yet. But don’t let it rest until you know where you stand.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to,” I said.
“Tell me about the world outside,” Jerome said after a while. “It’s awful being cooped up inside when there’s snow and crisp air on the other side of that glass.”
I told him about the practice with Clara, Emily’s phone call to Kate, Ema’s questions about kissing, and any and everything else I could think of to brighten Jerome’s day and give my mind a break for a little while. We laughed and kept talking until nurses came to kick me out.
I went back to the café and pulled out my computer, but had no plans to work. I wanted to sit and watch Emily, and think, uninterrupted and I knew that if I didn’t have my computer out Ema would have a thousand questions to ask me.
Things were starting to make sense, however knowing you’re absolutely helpless to change a situation on your own can make sense. But it was becoming clear that I had way too much on my plate and needed help with it. And just like Jerome’s preacher had had the answers to his problems, it seemed like Jerome might have just given me the answers to mine.
Somehow, it didn’t seem to matter that I didn’t understand yet how God could say that being disobedient to parents deserved death, or exactly how God would help me.
There was just something inside me that said He was the only way anything would ever change.