This I Believe

Gordon - San Antonio, Texas
Entered on February 13, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I will never know exactly what Jesus said, how he said whatever he did say, or what he meant when he said whatever he said in whatever way he said it.

You see my problem.

What I have are the tattered words, songs, and gospel remnants from twenty centuries of people jumping two-footed into hope. That’s all I have, and I am keenly interested in these things.

I’m like a rag picker, rummaging through a mountain of moldy prayer books, old hymnals, triptych art, candle stubs, ancient texts, and other things. I crawl all over the pile, poking here and there with a stick. When I find something that interests me, I sit down and take a closer look. I flip through the pages. I look at the pictures from every angle. Sometimes my head will tilt to the right, like a dog that has just heard something very interesting.

My friend watches me with great interest. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” he asks with the purest heart in the world.

The question stops me, and I look him right in the eye. This is THE question, of course. It is the only question, the starting place of all questions. Where exactly will you look for your answers? Why follow the yellow brick road unless you hope to see the Wizard?

I do not have an answer for him. I’m not sure what draws me to old books and ancient voices.

Later we’re sitting together in a booth at a diner drinking diet cokes. He’s working on the New York Times Crossword Puzzle while I look over my latest finds. A 1920 edition of “The Meaning of Prayer” by Harry Emerson Fosdick, a pre-World War II “BBC Hymn Book” with the older wordings to many of the hymns, “The Way of a Pilgrim,” and a beautiful, leather-bound copy of “The Journal of John Woolman.”

I’m flipping through the Woolman journal, and I speak without looking up. “I have an answer to your question.”

He is delighted and immediately slides the crossword puzzle to the side. He puts his elbows on the table and leans forward, giving me his full attention.

“I’m searching through all that has ever been hoped, in praise of what can never be known.”

He thinks for a moment, sucking on his straw until the loud slurpy sound comes at the end. We love each other. We both know it, and it doesn’t need to be said anymore.

“That’s cool. It sounds like a lot of work, though. Will you have time to talk to me when you’re on break?”

This cracks me up. My laughing infects him, and he starts laughing too. Laughter begets laughter until we are out of control. It’s hard to say what we are laughing at. Just everything, I think. I don’t care really, because it’s so much fun to laugh like this.

In between bursts of giggles, I manage to say, “You dumbass!” but this only makes us laugh harder.