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Do You Love Me?

I was in my very first days as a minister when my senior pastor asked me one Sabbath morning to visit someone who had called the church earlier that day in crisis.

The pastor informed me that the caller was a man who had been fighting with his wife, a former Seventh-day Adventist, and she had left him. The pastor asked me to visit him after our morning church services. I‘d only been in the pastoral ministry for a few months on the day I drove to this man’s house unsure what to expect.

A disheveled-looking man I judged to be in his sixties greeted me at his back door and invited me into his colonial-style house. He was short, about 5’5” tall, and wearing the attire of some-one who worked with tile, linoleum, and Formica. I introduced myself and could see from his bloodshot eyes and overall appearance that he’d been drinking and likely still was. He told me his name was Harry.

I hadn’t ventured more than a few steps into his house when this man suddenly flung himself into my arms weeping. He called out his wife’s name repeatedly and asked me to help him find her. I told him I wasn’t sure how I could do that. I had no idea where she was and little knowledge of why she’d left him, though I was beginning to have my suspicions.

Sobbing uncontrollably, he continued to cling to me. Picture me patting Harry on his back, trying to console him, when suddenly he grabbed each of my arms, shook me somewhat violently, and asked me if I loved him.

The pastor hadn’t prepped me for this kind of situation. As you’d expect, I was praying silently. I didn’t want Harry to get more upset than he was, so I told him I loved him.

Not the best idea, it seemed! Because at those words, he threw himself into my arms for a second time and continued weeping. I tried unsuccessfully to calm him and found myself breathing through my mouth rather than my nose because the smells coming from his body were so unpleasant as was his alcohol-laced breath.

I was wondering how I could escape when Harry fell into my arms for a third time, again asking me if I loved him. When I told him I did, he glared at me and said, “But you’re a (bad word here) Seventh-day Adventist and I’m a (two bad words) Roman Catholic. Do you really love me?”

I looked him straight in the face and said, “Harry, I know you’re not yourself just now. But because of Him” (pointing upward), I said, “I do love you.”

Later when my senior pastor debriefed me, I asked him, “How could you send me over there? He was drunk!” The pastor just laughed and said, “Welcome to the ministry, my boy.”

What happened next was that I got angry. Not at my senior pastor nor at Harry, but at the devil who so often makes the lives of those on this planet a living hell. About a week later I went back to see Harry and his wife after she had returned, determined not to give up on them. I prayed for them, began Bible studies with them, and introduced them to Jesus.

A year later I had the incredible joy of baptizing them in a new church I’d been asked to pastor.

Harry and his wife became active members of that church and went on to live transformed lives in a wonderful relationship with Jesus. Among other changes, Harry’s speech became pure, he quit drinking, his wife stopped smoking, and the couple stopped fighting.

In a last letter I received from him after I had moved to another Conference, Harry wrote: “No one who has experienced the beauty and joy of the spiritual rebirth can adequately express the peace and happiness that comes with that experience. Furthermore, no one can do this alone. And so I thank you that back in my drunken state when I asked you if you loved me, you did.”

Mike Jones is a celebrated writer who has published many stories in magazines and journals. He has also authored several books including, Snakebite

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About Mike Jones

Mike Jones

Mike Jones

writes from Gresham, Oregon.

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