The fact is, my friend here is one of the few people who I can really, truly, and completely lay my theology on the line with. Many of my friends are more aggressive - they spot a theological weakness, and they spring for the theological jugular. All well and good, except when you're feeling vulnerable, lost, and perhaps wondering if there's anything to this God stuff after all. Why do Christians shoot their wounded?
We've been chatting most of the evening, and had arrived at the point where you know - where you can just feel it in your gut - that you've hit a vein of gold in the conversation. You folks know what I mean - when it seems like God himself has decided that for a limited time only, the talk and the love will flow from himself and there is no miscommunication, no misunderstanding, only affirmation and truth. Where two or three are gathered, there he truly is. And we've decided that continuing on in this is much more important then getting a good night sleep when a cold is a knockin'.
We aren't complete morons, however. Between us sits a bottle of Vick's NyQuil and a solemn promise - we shall go to sleep once the awesome powers of NyQuil kicks in. For those of you who don't know, NyQuil is a beautiful creation of God that takes away cold symptoms long enough for you to get asleep - and tosses in some truly marvelous sleep inducers as well. The whole effect - depending on how much you take, which will change depending on how used to it you are - is like 3 pints in ten minutes on an empty stomach. Very popular at Bible college, let me tell you.
We toss back a dose and a half each, along with a shot of pure Alaskan vodka - vile stuff that I keep for medical purposes, but the best I could do on short notice. The label on Vick's NyQuil warns away any alcohol, claiming that it will "increase the drowsiness effect" - which is what we're counting on. Colds tend to make me lay awake and fall in and out of a vague, dreamlike state, sometimes leading to amusing midnight outbursts. Amusing in retrospect, that is - my wife has never liked to be awakened by my semi-hallucinations. Very Twilight-Zone-ish.
The conversation continues, and as the minutes tick by the "Golden Moment" seems to be passing. We've been trying to sum up our beliefs, nail it down in a short creed or statement of faith that we can both agree on. Finally my friend says something very profound.
"I hate statements of faith."
"What?" I'm rubbing watery eyes at this point. "What do you mean?"
"These," he indicated a short copy of our church's statement of faith, "are facts and words and - and other stuff. It's not real - it's not alive." He waves his hand at it. "This skeleton, this dead thing, it isn't my faith. It's not what I believe. Jesus is what I believe."
I find that very profound. "But how do you sum that up? Just hand someone a copy of the New testament and say, 'it's in there, trust me?'"
We are both quiet for a few more moments. If you could have looked at us, you would have seen that we were both sitting upright very still, yet swaying very slightly, as though a breeze were coming through the room. The NyQuil is starting to do it's business, and I can tell I've got about three more minutes of coherency left. Finally he speaks up again.
"Just love. That's it."
I want to ask him to explain, but suddenly, I don't have to. It bursts into brilliant, utter clarity in my mind. The heavens are opened and I glimpse the firmament. It makes such utter, painful sense that I think I actually might cry. I'm not even kidding; this is serious stuff. The word 'epiphany' seems inadequate. Something life-changing and world-altering has entered my brain. I must write this down before I forget it.
I stand up.
Like a warm wave, the NyQuil washes over me. I grip the edge of the couch, shaking, as I struggle to remain upright. For a split, crazy second I can see the "blue screen of death" in front of my eyes - but I'm not a computer, am I?
What were we talking about?
It's gone. SO is most of my balance - an unnerving experience, to say the least. I calm down, rub my face, and say, "I think I'm about done for tonight. You?"
He nods. "yeah. Goodnight Dan."
I walk up the stairs. That was really intense - I don't remember NyQuil affecting me like that before. Must be that awful Alaskan vodka. Nobody but the Russians have any business calling what they make vodka. Wait, isn't vodka made from potatoes? What were the Irish up to for all those years? How'd they miss that?
I'm lying down now. Consciousness is an expensive commodity, and I have run out. I hope I remembered to get undressed before bed, then I hope that I'm actually in bed. It feels soft enough, wherever I am.
What were we talking about again?