"He Will Find You"
By John Powell
(Rev 3:20 KJV) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear
my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him,
and he with me.
John Powell, A Professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about
a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy...
Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file
into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That
was the first day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked.
He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders.
It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.
I guess it was just coming into fashion then.
I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head, but what's in it
that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped.
I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange . . . very strange.
Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of
Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about
the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father-God. We lived with
each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit, he was
for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.
When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam,
he asked in a slightly cynical tone: "Do you think I'll ever find God?"
I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically.
"Oh," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."
I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out,
"Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find him, but I am absolutely certain
that he will find you!" He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.
I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever
line: "He will find you!" At least I thought it was clever. Later I heard
that Tommy had graduated and I was duly grateful.
Then a sad report, I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I
could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office,
his body was very badly wasted, and the long hair had all fallen out as
a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm,
for the first time, I believe.
"Tommy, I've thought about you so often. I hear you are sick!"
I blurted out.
"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it, Tom?"
"Sure, what would you like to know?"
"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"
"Well, it could be worse."
"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty
and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real
'biggies' in life."
I began to look through my mental file cabinet under "S" where I had
filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by
classification God sends back into my life to educate me.)
But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you
said to me on the last day of class."
He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and
you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said,
'But he will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my
search for God was hardly intense at that time.
(My "clever" line. He thought about that a lot!)
But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it
was malignant, then I got serious about locating God. And when the
malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists
against the bronze doors of heaven. But God did not come out. In fact,
Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with
no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then
you quit. Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile
appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there,
I just quit. I decided that I didn't really care ...about God, about an
afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left
doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and
I remembered something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to
go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go
through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved
that you had loved them.' "So I began with the hardest one: my Dad. He
was reading the newspaper when I approached him."
"Dad". . . "Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.
"Dad, I would like to talk with you." "Well, talk."
"I mean. .. . It's really important." The newspaper came down
three slow inches. "What is it?" "Dad, I love you. I just wanted
you to know that."
Tom smiled at me and said with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt
a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him.
The newspaper fluttered to the floor. "Then my father did two things
I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me.
And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.
It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his
hug, to hear him say that he loved me. It was easier with my mother
and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other,
and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things
we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about
one thing, that I had waited so long. Here I was just beginning to open
up to all the people I had actually been close to.
Then, one day I turned around and God was there.
He didn't come to me when I pleaded with him. I guess I was like an
animal trainer holding out a hoop, 'C'mon, jump through.' 'C'mon, I'll
give you three days .. . three weeks.' Apparently God does things in his
own way and at his own hour. But the important thing is that he was there.
He found me. You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking
"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very
important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you
are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make him a private
possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need,
but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He
said God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God
is living in him.
'Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you
were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would
you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you
have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as
effective as if you were to tell them."
"Oooh . . . I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your
"Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call."
In a few days Tommy called, said he was ready for the class, that he
wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date. However,
he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the
one with me and my class. Of course, his life was not really ended by his
death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He
found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the
ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.
Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to
your class," he said.
"I know, Tom."
"Will you tell them for me? Will you. . . tell the whole world for me?"
"I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best."
So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple statement
about love, thank you for reading. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the
sunlit, verdant hills of heaven: "I told them, Tommy . ... as best I could."
A true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.