Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)
TITLE: Of Churches and Signs
By Sharlyn Guthrie
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Last night Jaydon had been introduced to a new Father, Savior, Friend. Today he reveled in his new identity, flexing unused spiritual muscles, squinting as Heaven’s unfamiliar light permeated his being.
Not only was it the dawning of a new life, but also of a new week. “Find a good church,” Jaydon had been instructed. “Fellowship with other believers will help maintain your focus and keep you strong.” Visions of the grandiose cathedral in the center of town filled his mind.
He maneuvered his compact car toward celestial spires reaching high above the city’s skyline, then parked and approached the massive structure. Immense windows patterned in deeply hued patches of glass allured him. Mounting the broad stairway, he passed between marble columns before grasping the door’s gleaming handle.
Light dispersed as he entered. A handful of parishoners sat scattered across the enormous sanctuary like balls on a pool table. Jaydon took a seat near the back. All eyes stared straight ahead as the liturgy was recited. Although the words were meaningful, his fellow attendees appeared unmoved.
Fresh air and sunshine greeted him afterward, along with a sense of relief.
“Try Hallelujah Hollow,” a co-worker suggested. “Nearly everyone I know goes there.” So the following Sunday Jaydon navigated the fifteen miles through heavy traffic, failing to account for traffic snarls and the church’s mega-maze of parking lots. Uniformed attendants directed him to a distant lot from which he was shuttled.
He sat in the upper tier of the amphitheater and counted six giant screens positioned throughout the room, projecting the morning’s activities. Professional-sounding musicians played before the enthusiastic crowd. Both the music and the message were impressive, but Jaydon somehow felt lost and insignificant. The service was impersonal and seemed like a staged production. Were these Christians for real? More importantly, could he ever admit his sordid past in the midst of such obvious perfection?
Discouragement hounded Jaydon throughout the following week. Maybe this business of being a Christian wasn’t for him. Maybe it was simply a change of attitude he’d needed, not a personal relationship with God. Besides, if the relationship was so personal, was fellowship even necessary? “God, if church is really important to you, please lead me to the one you want me to be a part of,” he prayed. “And if it’s not too much trouble, please give me an unmistakable sign when I’ve found it.”
Jaydon’s finger crept through the churches listed in the yellow pages: Baptist, Bible, Brethren…Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene…Saint John’s, Saint Paul’s, Saint Stephen’s. He closed his eyes, touched the middle of the page, then eyed the spot where his finger had landed. Parkway Presbyterian was five miles away. He’d better get going.
Jaydon’s car complained, however, and refused to start. After the fourth attempt he slumped against the steering wheel. “Well Lord, I asked for a sign. At least I know you were listening.” A new plan for his Sunday began taking shape.
Stepping onto the sidewalk he brushed against someone and turned abruptly. “Excuse me.” He nearly fell into the widest, bluest eyes he had ever seen. “I didn’t see you. See, my car wouldn’t start, so I wasn’t really thinking…” Why was he rambling on about nothing?
“Are you on your way to church?” Was she speaking or singing?.
“Why, yes. How did you know?” He was obviously flustered.
“Well, it’s Sunday, and you’re also carrying a Bible.” She giggled, and Jaydon blushed.
“I’m Cynthia, and I’m on my way to a little church on State Street. It’s a short walk. Would you like to join me?”
“Uh, sure,” answered the utterly defenseless young man.
Late that afternoon Jaydon returned home with a smile that wouldn’t stop. How could he have doubted God’s goodness? The church was small, but intimate. The preacher doubled as a service station manager, and had promised to look over Jaydon’s ailing car. His hand had nearly been worn out by handshakes. He even accepted an invitation to lunch with Cynthia and several of her friends. With great ease he revealed over sandwiches the path that had led him to the Savior, ending with today’s events and finding the perfect church. Only one cherished detail was withheld: his unmistakable sign named Cynthia.
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