I was surprised to get a call from Kirsten on Monday afternoon.
“I decided I want to go to that group of yours after all, but I don’t want to walk in alone. Can you meet me at my room?”
When I showed up Tuesday evening, Kirsten’s room was full of people, mostly boys, who seemed to center all their attention on Lisa.
A few of them made smart remarks: “Have fun at your do-gooders meeting.” – “What a waste of time. Whaddya guys do, sit around and congratulate yourselves on being better than everyone?”
Yes, in fact. Sometimes, we do, I thought. Maybe this year I could use my role as Shepherd to change some of the more undesirable attitudes lurking in the hearts of CSF’s members.
At the Volleyball house, it turned out Breanne’s girlfriend Lori had decided to come along to CSF’s first meeting of the year. On the trip to the Quad, Kirsten spent most of her time talking with Breanne and Lori. I’d been hoping to catch up with Breanne, but was glad Kirsten had found a friend.
At any rate, my mental preparations for the gospel presentation I would give made it hard to keep up a conversation. That morning I had woken up with a headache after a night of fitful dreams. I hadn’t taken a single word of notes in class, instead using the time to write out the speech over and over to make sure it was memorized.
When we arrived at the Student Center, I really started to panic. The place was packed. There were at least twice as many people there as usual. Kirsten and the others moved off to mingle and I found Ian.
Wringing my hands and pacing I complained, “Look how many people there are. I was planning to speak to forty or fifty people, not one hundred! What are we going to do?”
He put an arm around me. “Be still and know, Giselle. It’s all in His hands. Let’s pray.”
A tense nod was my only response as Ian once again talked directly to God in that disconcertingly off-handed way of his, arm still around me. Did it mean anything that he was so touchy-feely all of a sudden? More importantly, how could he be so calm?
The meeting began with praise and worship. Singing and clapping lifted my spirits a bit, but it ended too soon. Ian stood and signaled for me to follow him to the center of the open area at the front of the room. He introduced us and plunged right into the planned presentation.
Inspiration struck as I listened for my cue. “… with your stage experience,” Ian had said. Acting in high school musicals, I never suffered stage fright, and hadn’t I made hundreds of presentations and closed scores of sales during the summer by relying on a script? I didn’t need a spotlight to separate me from the audience then, and I didn’t need it now. I could pretend I was merely playing the part of an evangelist! For the first time in my life, I managed to get through a speech without tripping over my tongue or developing a tremor in my hands. Triumph swelled in my chest as we wrapped up the gospel presentation. It’s all thanks to my training with Velocity Marketing, I decided. Now the worst of it’s over and I can relax.
Ian opened the floor to questions.
“Giselle, I heard you say this Christ is the only way to heaven, yes?” an Indian exchange student called from the back of the room. “In my country, there are many who have never heard this name. What kind of divine being would condemn them to eternal torment for their ignorance? Do you really expect me to worship someone so cruel?” About a quarter of the room rumbled in agreement.
I stammered, not knowing what to say. Since Dachau, similar questions flitted through my mind with some regularity.
Ian jumped in to fill the awkward silence. “I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m not going to pretend I do. God is love—that’s all I know. I trust He has a plan for those people. The God I serve would never be cruel or unjust. Next question?”
“What about gays?” a familiar voice asked. “Does God love us too?” Everyone turned to look at Lori and Breanne holding hands.
“God does love you, Breanne, and your friend too,” Ian said with conviction and compassion. Why wasn’t I the one to say that? Some friend.
Thankfully the clock struck nine before anyone could ask another question. Terry Reynolds, the club adviser and school chaplain, stood and announced that if anyone wanted to talk more about the mystery of faith, they should come see him in his office or at his table at the activity fair on Thursday.
That night, I ruminated over Rev. Reynolds’ invitation. I longed to talk to someone about the doubts that started last spring and gained strength in Germany, but how would it look for a leader to admit such deep misgivings?