I've been bamboozled, I thought to myself as I stepped into my boyfriend's new house. There were several young people sitting on the floor of his unfurnished living room. They all smiled and said hello as I walked in. Some even greeted me by name.
When I saw Tim, I grabbed his arm and growled, "We need to talk."
I pulled him into a back room and laid into him as soon as the door was closed. "What is this, a Bible study?" I accused. "I thought you were just having a few friends over to play some games!"
"I am," he calmly replied. "We just finished vespers, and now we're going to play."
I didn't have any idea what vespers was, but I didn't want him to know how completely clueless I was about all things religious, so I continued on my rampage. "They look like they know all about me. What have you been doing, praying for me?" I spat.
"Well, actually, yes," he said without apology.
I couldn't believe it. My boyfriend of more than a year had started going to evangelistic meetings his grandmother had told him about, and now everything had changed. He was a completely different person-his entire lifestyle had changed. Even his friends were different. And now they had the nerve to pray for me!
"Don't get so mad. It's not a bad thing," he said. "Look, I love you, and I want you to share this new happiness I've found. What if I found a peaceful lake in the woods and I wanted you to see it? Wouldn't you come check it out?"
"Well, I guess I'd come and look," I responded hesitantly. "But I wouldn't jump in and go swimming."
"That's all I ask. Just come look."
Had he really just talked me into going to church with him? Well, they can pray all they want, but they aren't going to convert me, I decided right then and there.
That evening I met several very nice people. Some were single, some were recently married, and there was even a young couple that was expecting a baby. The woman talked a lot about her family and the new little boy they were looking forward to meeting very soon. She said they were going to name him Michael.
All in all, it was a pleasant evening. No one judged me or made me feel like an outsider because I wasn't one of them. Maybe checking out this church wouldn't be so bad after all.
The next Saturday I met Tim at his church. I purposely arrived a little late, hoping I could slip in the back door unnoticed, but Tim was waiting for me by the door. He ushered me into the sanctuary, and I quickly slipped into the last pew before he could pull me farther into the giant room.
Despite my best efforts, I found myself actually interested in what the pastor was saying. I tried to follow along in the Bible Tim handed me, but found I was embarrassingly ignorant about Christianity. I decided that I should probably try to read a Bible just so I had an idea what everyone else in America seemed to know.
Sometime in the middle of the sermon a man in a suit slipped a note to the pastor. I didn't know that was unusual, so I just continued reading ahead in the Bible. The pastor looked up at the congregation with obvious concern on his face. He announced that baby Michael had been born that morning and was not doing well. He was not expected to survive. He then asked the entire church to join him in prayer for the baby and his family.
As I looked over the sea of bowed heads, I felt so much pity-for the baby, for the family, but also for these poor people who believed that their prayers could do anything to save that child. I thought of how disappointed they would be when he died.
When the church service was over, I made my exit as quickly and quietly as I could. I didn't notice that I was still holding the Bible Tim had handed me until I got to my car. I decided I'd read a little bit of it and return it later. The church was full of Bibles-no one would miss one.
On the way home I found myself thinking about baby Michael and how such a devout family could have such trouble. If there was a God, why wasn't He taking care of His people? It made me want to find answers, and the only place I could look was in the stolen Bible.
At first I read it from a purely academic perspective-until I came across a verse in a book called James* that talked about faithful prayers healing sick people and taking away sins. For the first time in my life I thought that maybe there was something to have faith in besides myself.
It took me several weeks to muster up the courage to return to Tim's church, but when I finally did, I saw a small crowd of people standing around a woman with a tiny baby. I was shocked to find out that it was baby Michael! He had survived. The doctors were baffled by his miraculous healing, but for some reason, the family and church members weren't that surprised. I started to think about all the praying these people had done for him. God really did listen!
Since becoming a Christian, there have been times when I have felt as though my prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling, but then I think about baby Michael, who is now a healthy, happy 9-year-old. I've always known that evil exists in this world, but now I know that God can take even our hard times and use them for good.
You may be going through a difficult time right now, but who knows? Maybe God can use it to strengthen your faith, and maybe even the faith of the girl sitting in the back pew.
* "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven" (James 5:15).
Tracy Morgan writes from Holly, Michigan, where she and her family attend the Holly Seventh-day Adventist Church. She is married to Tim (yes, the Tim in the article), and they have two sons, ages 6 and 3. Tracy homeschools the boys and also enjoys scrapbooking, reading, writing, and church activities.