I’m sitting in bed thumbing through the pages of an ebook. I must’ve read this passage a dozen times over the last half hour, but nothing seems to be sinking in tonight. My mind is somewhere else, scampering here and there with the rest of me lagging behind. What am I going to do?
Luke will be home soon. He texted earlier this evening that he and his buddy would be grabbing a few drinks before coming home. I’m not worried. Luke’s never been a heavy drinker, and he’s been even more vigilant since donning the uniform. He hates corruption and hypocrisy and couldn’t stand himself if he were ever hit with a DUI. It’s one of the many things I love about him.
Gabe, on the other hand… I wouldn’t trust him with a grocery list, and much less in a scenario where alcohol were present. He and Luke have been friends for a while now, and though I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly why he makes me so uneasy, I can’t shrug off the feeling. Call it a woman’s intuition. And there I go again, letting my mind dance around what I’m supposed to be focusing on.
Baptism. Am I really ready? Just thinking about it makes my pulse quicken.
Today wasn’t the first time Chelsea asked about it. She wants to know what’s holding me back. I could think of a few reasons at the time, but the longer we talked, the more I began seeing them for what they were: excuses. The fact is, I know this is the truth, and this is what I want.
I first met Chelsea and her husband, Walter, in a park. It was the anniversary of my mother’s death, and even though we were never really close, she left a big, gaping hole in my life. I had tried to distract myself with some TV, but that only led to a depressing new marathon that convinced me more than ever that the world was on the brink. I might’ve actually lost my mind had I not forced myself to get some fresh air. You know what it was that got my attention? Their smiles. Such a simple thing, really, but it was like two twinkling stars in an endless, black sky. Just seeing their smiles gave me hope. We started talking, and we connected. In a world where most of my ‘friends’ were avatars that simply commented on my social media, what I had craved most was some actual human contact. Chelsea and Walter were so genuine and happy and carefree. As cliché as it may sound, they were a breath of fresh air. I asked them what their secret was, how they were so happy. ‘Studying the Bible,’ they said.
I didn’t know how to react. No one really talked about the Bible anymore. I hadn’t even seen a copy in years. Though wary at first, my curiosity was piqued, and we set a time to meet again. We saw each other a few days later in a coffee shop and talked for almost four hours. I call it The Day That Changed My Life, and it’s no exaggeration. I don’t mean to say that I believed everything I was hearing right then and there, but it was like suddenly new doors were opening in my mind and heart. Questions that I’d wondered for years were getting answered. Why was the world spinning out of control? What was behind it all? Had we really killed God with science? What was going to happen next?
The next time we met, we looked at Bible prophecy. Wow! I could’ve never imagined the richness of detail and impeccability of fulfillment. Here was a book that I thought was all wizards and magic, and now, actually opening it and having it explained, I was finding out it was anything but! Why weren’t more people reading this thing? We could fix the world’s problems in a snap!
But no, they explained, fixing this was beyond mankind’s reach. The solution to our problems had to come from a higher source. Just as a computer with a virus could not fix itself, but had to rely on a greater mind–that of a software engineer–to restore its original functionality. That was Walter’s illustration, of course. A little technical for a simple girl like me, but I got the picture, and it made a lot of sense.
And it just got better and better. Each week, more and more questions answered. Where are the dead? What’s God’s plan for it all? Why hasn’t he done anything sooner? Et cetera.
That was nearly a year ago, and I feel like a different person now. I have a hope and a purpose. Still, I’ve got plenty to be anxious about. There is still Luke.
We’ve been together for eight years, and he’s still in the dark about my study and my newfound faith. I know I’ll have to come clean eventually, but it’s complicated. When Luke responded to the fire at the Kingdom Hall, I thought it might be an opportunity to talk to him. Back before we started meeting in homes, I was at that exact building at least twice a week. I know the couple he saved from the apartment: they used to be our circuit overseer and his wife, back before everything went underground.
I frown and close down my iPad, unsure of what to do next. Chelsea and Walter have been after me for months to sit Luke down and explain everything, but I haven’t found the nerve. Luke is a good, honest man, but there’s no telling how he’d react if he found out I was studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially with the current social climate. Is this the beginning of the foretold Great Tribulation? Chelsea seemed to have hinted at it the other day. The thought is both exciting and terrifying, like climbing a roller coaster.
A knot of anxiety winds in my chest and I close my eyes to pray, asking once more for the courage needed to speak to Luke. Maybe he’ll be fine with it after all? Maybe he’d even join me, one day? The sudden expectant hope jostles me away from my prayer, a smile forming on my lips. If only!
I nearly leap from the bed as a loud sound shoots from the kitchen: the deadbolts opening. Luke is home. I swallow hard, forgetting all about the prayer, the thoughts in my mind a furious and incomprehensible jumble.
“Hey, babe,” Luke yawns as he lumbers into the bedroom, hanging his jacket in the closet and disassembling his complicated wardrobe. Hours seem to pass as he strips off his utility belt, armored vest, and various velcroed patches and pockets. I frown slightly as he removes the clip from his sidearm and flings it onto his desk.
“How was your evening with Gabe?” I ask. Luke turns to give me a brief glance and shrugged.
“Same old. A couple of beers at McCann’s.”
“No bar fights?” I joke, trying to keep the atmosphere light. “Nah, it was pretty quiet. Thin crowd.”
“Oh,” I say, desperately looking for an in. What am I supposed to say? Oh by the way honey, I’m studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and I’ve decided to become one?
“You watch the news tonight?” Luke asks as he moseys into the bathroom and peels off the last of his clothes.
“No, anything big?” I say above the roar of water spilling into the tub.
“Not sure yet, but the news seemed to think so. Congress passed a bill. Something about the restriction of religion.”
I freeze, my heart about to erupt from my chest.
“Wh-what?” I gasp, throwing the sheets off my legs and leaning into the bathroom as Luke steps in the shower.
“Yeah. It’s supposed to go to the White House tomorrow, and if the president signs it, well, that’s that I guess.”
I cover my mouth, feeling suddenly both cold and hot all over.
“I guess it’s about time,” Luke says from behind the curtain. “If it passes, it’ll help keep people safe.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, with all these church burnings and religious terrorism. Maybe it’ll help clamp down on some of that, make it safer. It’ll make my job a whole lot easier, that’s for sure.”
I feel myself wither inside and move slowly back to the bedroom. The ball of tension I’ve been holding inside melts in a puddle of sorrow and disappointment. Back to square one.