I sat in silence as the second hand strained to reach the markers around the circle of numbers. The clock in the wall was encased in cheap aluminum and hung a bit too high. I wouldn’t have noticed the poor placement if the hour hand was moving like it was supposed to. I studied the standard issue numbers and couldn’t find anything amiss, but if I hadn’t studied the numbers, I wouldn’t have noticed the relationship between the minute hand and the second hand. Like brothers, they were close in size, but it was still easy to pick out the younger one. I guessed they were supposed to be working together, but the older minute hand was making the second hand do all the work.
I’m not sure what I pictured when I thought of his waiting room. I guess I didn’t really picture a waiting room. The stale, boring surroundings were definitely not what I would’ve thought. It’s like a doctors office that hasn’t been updated since the eighties. The waiting room is full, but not of the type of characters I thought would be in there.
I had so many preconceived ideas and as I sat there, I started to question myself and my motives.
I wrote him a stack of letters asking him to let me work for him. I knew a lot of people who were asked when they were kids. Most of my friends worked full time for him and they hired me to help out all the time, but I wanted my own job. I didn’t care what it was and after months of writing letters, I finally got a response.
I pulled his letter out of my purse and stared at the three words, nine letters, that were scrawled on his letterhead. ‘Come see me.’
I drug the toe of my right shoe along the floor and tucked it under my chair. I refused to sit back as I squeezed my stack of letters between my fingers. Sometimes when you write to him, he doesn’t get the letters. Or, if he does, he doesn’t respond. I didn’t expect a meeting with him, but since I have no credentials, I guessed he needed to take a closer look.
I showed up twenty minutes early and wondered if I should have. My heart was pounding, my eyes were darting and every time the door opened my stomach jumped.
Finally I heard my name.
I jumped up so fast, it scared me and my letters went flying. I didn’t even look at the other sets of eyes in the room. I just stared at their feet as I bent to gather them. I was embarrassed. I kept my eyes low and curtained behind my hair. Just as I was reaching for the last one, I saw a wrinkled old hand pick it up and slowly hold it out to me.
The skin on his hand was a translucent, creamy pale. It’s the kind of old that you can picture positioned across the abdomen in a coffin. I moved my hair back to find his eyes and met a crystal blue. There was something deep and knowing and before I knew what was happening I was sucked in like the vortex of a black hole through the layers of what he knew. Despair illuminating peace. Evil bowing down to good. Lions, lambs, blood, shame, smoke, tears, sacrifice, keys, ….. the strobe light of disconnected information made me nauseous. I pulled my letter out of his hand and moved my feet into the waiting hallway.
The lights were bright in his office. I had a hard time adjusting my eyes. I could only see his shape and every time I tried to focus in on him, visions started filling my view and I couldn’t keep my thoughts in line with the confusing, wonderful terror and expectancy I felt in his presence.
I had my speech planned, but suddenly felt very small and ill prepared for the reality of who he was.
‘How can I help you?’ His voice startled me. I’m not usually so jumpy, but considering… His voice was so normal in contrast to the rest of what I was experiencing.
I cleared my throat and started to speak. My voice sounded so foreign. Foreign to me, foreign to the room. It’s like hearing yourself speak in a microphone for the first time. It scares you into not speaking and you’re almost ashamed that your voice is the one making all the racket.
‘I want to work for you. I don’t care what it is.’ My hands are shaking and I’m thinking that my shoes looked too wore out for such an important meeting.
He didn’t respond, so I figured he was waiting for me to go on. I explained about my letters, my desire to work full time. I knew what he required and I was ready. I knew I wouldn’t have a life, but I didn’t care.
‘Do you know what you’re asking?’
I thought I did. I’m asking to be used by him. I’m offering my life and practically begging to be given something to do.
‘What if I give you a purpose that you would never agree to, had you been asked?’
I don’t think he understands. I’m submitting to him, I don’t have an agenda. I just want to be used.
‘What if it costs you your relationships?’
All my friends are Christians. I don’t have any non-‘related‘ relationships, so it’s inconsequential.
‘What if you don’t get to pick the terms?’
I’m a clean slate. All of his questions don’t even apply to me….
‘What if you lose your good name? What if you lose your reputation? What if I really need someone to be a good door mat?’
Yikes. He digs deep.
I said yes. I thought about it and I understood that I could be completely forgettable, but I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t working for him.
I still couldn’t quite see him, but somehow I could feel him studying my face for a few minutes. It was like a father about to let his sixteen year old drive alone for the first time.
His breathing was intoxicating and the long silence was heavy. I tried to sit still and seem confident.
He took a deep breath and when he spoke, his voice was different somehow. I don’t know how to explain it. There was something new in it. Something more connected.
‘Okay,’ he nodded, ‘okay.’
So premonitory. If I could move under his scrutiny, I would have laughed at the weight of it all. I was clueless. It didn’t’ occur to me that he knew something I didn’t. It didn’t enter my brain to consider that he may be looking into the future and seeing things that give him this sense of serious knowing. Of course he’s not going to tell me the specifics, but he did give me a few instructions.
I’m writing this after the fact, so as I look back on this particular day, I can stand back in the room and look at myself, so naive to the way this whole thing works and watch as I agree, with everything in me, to be used and still have no idea what I’m getting myself in to. Even now, as I think about that and watch myself worry about my shoes and my letters, I wouldn’t change that day. And I most certainly would not tell myself what was to come. If I knew, I don’t think I could have done it.
I gathered my things and he started to speak.
‘Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
‘I know,’ I say. I pause because he looks like he wants to say more.
‘I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.’ (John 16:31)
He’s so ominous. I tell him I’ll be fine. I mean, with him on my side, who can be against me, right? I head to the door and when I have my hand on the door knob I hear him stand. I turn, just slightly and catch a look on his face in my peripheral. I don’t know what that look is, but it’s interesting that I can see him better when I’m not looking directly at him.
The world was waiting and I was ready to take it on. I turned the knob and took a deep breath when I heard him call me.
I turned toward him.
‘Don’t let your faith fail.’ (Luke 22:31-32)
I smiled at him, trying to show my courage, and walked out the door.