I must be dreaming, Fred thought.
[If you haven’t read it, this short story begins here.]
But with a sense of creeping wonder, he began to untie the ribbon and open the gift. He looked inside the box and saw a very old book. “A book?” he asked, “Is this really for me?”
The old man said, “Yes, but that book isn’t really the gift, it’s just the instruction manual.”
Now Fred was sure he was dreaming, but he said, “Where is the gift?”
A voice, behind him said, “Turn around, Fred.” Don’t ask how he knew, but he when turned around he was looking at Jesus. Holding up his hands, Fred said, “I don’t know how you knew my name, or how you pulled this deal off – and I want you to know that I really appreciate your kindness and offer of a place to stay for the night – but I’ll be honest with you, I’m not interested in religion right now. But thanks, anyway.”
Jesus smiled at him and said, “This isn’t about religion, Fred, this is a gift. Don’t you want to know what it is? This is about fixing that lonely, empty, dead hole in your heart.”
Fred said, “I’m going to be all right. I’ll find a new home, get a new job and turn my life around. I don’t need sympathy – I’m a “can-do” kind of guy and I want to fix this by myself.”
But Jesus said, “Fred, if you will simply trust me, I can fill up that empty place inside you. You have convinced yourself the only safe place in this world is to be all by yourself, with no one close enough to hurt you. But, no matter how much you fight to ignore it, no matter how much money you make, or how many fun things you find to do, deep inside, Fred, you know you are lonely. You are empty inside. Dead. But, if you will trust me, I can fix that. Not just for tonight, but forever.”
Fred started to work up a rebuttal. He told himself he wouldn’t let this guy get to him, that it wasn’t safe. He wanted to grab his coat and run back out into the night, where at least he knew what was going on. But despite all of those thoughts that were pulling on him, when he opened his mouth to reply, what came out surprised him. He said, “I’m not sure I know how to trust You. Can You help me with that?”
Before he had even finished saying the words, he felt a warm rush of something filling his heart. It was like a hot-spring had begun bubbling up inside him. It was like a candle had been lit in a dark corner of his heart and now the light was getting steadily brighter.” He tried to hold it back, but began to cry. All he could say was “Thank you, thank you.” For a long time he just closed his eyes and wept as the most amazing and confusing emotions swept through him. He felt as though he was coming to life in a way he couldn’t understand.
When he finally pulled himself together and opened his eyes, he was alone with Papa. With a smile, Papa said, “Let me show you where that bed is. You’ve had quite a night.” Bewildered, but grateful, Fred followed up the stairs and down the hall. Before long he was sleeping as he had not done in a very long time.
(To be continued…)