"Be not far from me, for trouble is near..." (Psalm 22:11). The closer trouble gets, the louder the knees knock. We want God closest when we feel most afraid.
The church of my childhood was a little Baptist church in southeast Texas. My dad was the pastor and we lived in the house provided by the church. The church was less than a hundred yards from our house. The church parking lot was paved and circled around the buildings making an excellent track for me to ride my bicycle.
One Saturday morning as I was racing around the church parking lot, something spooked me. A window at the back of the sanctuary was opened. To an eight-year-old who watched cartoons all morning, it could only mean one thing: We had a ghost in the church. I was determined to investigate.
Fear told me to enlist fellow investigators. I enlisted my older brother, Mark. He was three years older and three years tougher, so he would be all the muscle I would need.
My second choice was Andy. Andy was my best friend. He was younger than I and would do anything I asked (which may explain why he was my best friend).
Mark and I met Andy in our front yard. Andy was wide-eyed with excitement. It was his first adventure with us "bigger boys." My dad was close by, raking pine needles. He watched with curiosity as we bravely trekked across the field toward the church.
The combined confidence level of the three of us was one hundred percent when we left our driveway. By the time we stood in front of the sanctuary, our confidence registered at about eleven percent.
Rather than crawl through the open window at the back of the sanctuary where the ghost had apparently made his entrance, we decided to go in through a front window that we knew was always unlocked.
An argument ensued as to who would enter first. Mark and I endorsed the "survival of the fittest" approach and shoved Andy through the open window. As soon as Andy was in, I looked at Mark and knew I was going in next.
I no more than straddled the window sill, when Andy said, "Did you hear something?"
Time stood still and I sat still, listening for something I hoped I would not hear. Then I heard it. A ghostly voice floated from the back of the sanctuary, "Who-o-o-o's in my chur-r-r-rch?"
The fear of that moment completely erased a small portion of my memory. From the time we heard the voice until we reached our front yard is blank history. Somehow, Andy reached our front yard first.
He used all his blood for fuel to escape the ghost because he was as white as the ghost he imagined was chasing him. We searched for my dad to tell him about our close encounter. He was no longer in the yard.
His rake leaned against a pine tree, but he wasn't there. A few moments later, we saw dad emerge from the back of the sanctuary, bent over in laughter. Our "ghost" was all too familiar.
The story continues tomorrow...