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Text Illustrations
John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about a student named Tommy in his Theology of Faith class:


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 day I first saw

Tommy. His hair hung six inches below his

shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy

with hair that long.


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, 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. Later

I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report came. I heard 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.


"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?" I asked.


"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.


"What’s it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"


"Well, it could be worse."


"Like what?"


"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."


"But what I really came to see you about," Tom

said, "is something you said to me on the last

day of class." "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.


"But when the doctors removed a lump from my

groin and told me that it was malignant, that’s

when I got serious about locating God. And when

the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I

really began banging fists against the bronze doors of heaven,

but God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened.

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 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."


"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. 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 found me. You were right. He found me even after

I stopped looking for Him."

John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about a student named Tommy in his Theology of Faith class:


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 day I first saw

Tommy. His hair hung six inches below his

shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy

with hair that long.


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, 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. Later

I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report came. I heard 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.


"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?" I asked.


"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.


"What’s it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"


"Well, it could be worse."


"Like what?"


"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."


"But what I really came to see you about," Tom

said, "is something you said to me on the last

day of class." "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.


"But when the doctors removed a lump from my

groin and told me that it was malignant, that’s

when I got serious about locating God. And when

the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I

really began banging fists against the bronze doors of heaven,

but God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened.

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 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."


"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. 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 found me. You were right. He found me even after

I stopped looking for Him."

John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about a student named Tommy in his Theology of Faith class:


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 day I first saw

Tommy. His hair hung six inches below his

shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy

with hair that long.


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, 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. Later

I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report came. I heard 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.


"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?" I asked.


"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.


"What’s it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"


"Well, it could be worse."


"Like what?"


"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."


"But what I really came to see you about," Tom

said, "is something you said to me on the last

day of class." "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.


"But when the doctors removed a lump from my

groin and told me that it was malignant, that’s

when I got serious about locating God. And when

the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I

really began banging fists against the bronze doors of heaven,

but God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened.

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 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."


"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. 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 found me. You were right. He found me even after

I stopped looking for Him."


Contributed by Joey Nelson, Sunman Community Church.

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