Crossing the Lines
- Tuesday, July 21, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following excerpt is taken from Richard Doster's novel, Crossing the Lines. ©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands
(1 Thessalonians 4:11)
There was a time when I aspired to only three things in life: to enjoy my work, to love and care for my family, and to take pleasure in the company of a few good friends.
I never coveted fame nor craved fortune. My proper place, I knew, was adjacent to the fray, but never in it. As a reporter I gathered facts and presented them well. With nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives I ushered readers to a ringside seat; I put them front-and-center where they could—without obstruction—witness the drama of life in the world around them.
I prowled at the fringes, hovering where I could keep an eye on the men who moved the world. Like a hummingbird, I flitted from one story to the next, extracting what I needed and then quickly moving on in search of more.
In a perfect world, I thought, I’d do my job and then go home. And there I’d savor the last hours of each day with my wife, Rose Marie, and our son, Chris.
But it’s been some time since the world was perfect.
Our ambition, the Bible says, is to live a quiet life, but none of us will ever know one. If we’re awake in this world, if we breathe in and out, if we put one foot in front of the other, or so much as encounter one other human in the course of a given day—then there’s not much hope for more than a few hours rest.
God has set this goal before us, and then placed it beyond our reach. And that’s a mystery that tangles up my mind. If He is good (and I believe He is), then why does His world conspire against us? And if He loves us (and I’ll grant that He does), then why does everything get stirred up into one mess after the other, depriving us, every day it seems, of the peace we are meant to have?
I suspect that you’ve had doubts, too; that you’ve seen the evidence as clearly as I have. And that we’ve all, in the midst of grief or confusion, built a case against Him, that we’ve proved, at least in our own minds—and way beyond a reasonable doubt—that God has lost control of this world. Even the dullest among us can point to war and communism, or to hurricanes and tornadoes. And God Himself surely knows we’ve had our fill of polio and cancer and tuberculosis.
But the testimony that’s even more disturbing is what we see two feet in front of our own faces. It’s what I have seen up and down Peachtree Street; in Montgomery and Little Rock and Nashville; and even in the hearts of the people I love.
There was a time when I rarely yearned for more than a peaceful life, when I was content with a backyard barbeque, a good ballgame, cuddling with Rose Marie while we watched Ed Sullivan.… And for years the world spun my way. Month after month, life provided more than I asked—until the summer of 1954, until the night my home was bombed, until the lives of my wife and son were threatened, until—in the pitch-black hours of a brand-new morning—our comfortable existence was shattered, and every good thing that I had taken for granted was—in the flash of that single explosion—gone.
Ever since, I’ve been nagged by the thought that God Himself has been plotting against me; that He has—for reasons He hasn’t deigned to share—mined my path with the worst of the world’s problems. There’ve been days that I even thought He hovered above, just waiting for the pieces of my life to come “this close together,” and then Wham! He dusts off some favorite calamity, hurls it my way, and watches as life peels off into some new wreckage, forcing me to sort out some mess I never made.
It’s ridiculous, I know, to think that the God of the universe would trifle with the likes of me, Jack Hall. And trust me, I’ve spent the opening hours of a thousand mornings wondering, Why me Lord? Why, when there are so many deserving creeps in the world, me?
To date, God’s felt no obligation to answer. And by His silence He sets before me the same question He posed to Job: “And exactly who are you, pip-squeak, to question Me?”
Fair enough, I suppose. But like Job I’ve been wounded and forever scarred. An event like that lingers—it’s always there, lurking, and I’m not sure I’ve known a sound night’s sleep in the past six years.
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