An afternoon with Richard

Posted by seanho on Sun 04 March 2007

Ah, another refreshing, unplanned Sunday afternoon! It always amazes me how quickly church empties after worship service and Sunday School -- within half an hour the foyer at KS is pretty much empty, save for those who have meetings or other responsibilities. What ever happened to church as a family, being deliberately un-busy for each other, spending time together even when we don't "have" to? Ah well.

So I figured, hey, I'm free to explore around town a bit on my own for lunch! This time I didn't go quite as far as Horseshoe Bay, just around UBC and back into the Kitsilano area. After lunch, while strolling down Broadway, I noticed this cute little bookshop, and something inside me nudged me to go in. It's been probably a dozen years since I've set foot in a real mom-and-pop bookstore, not a mega Borders or Barnes&Noble. It was so quiet inside, and I spent about ten minutes browsing through their classics shelf before I heard the word "Gnostic" from behind a few shelves away.

A man's voice was asking the shopkeeper, "Do you know anything about these Gnostics?"

"Nah, I ... I really don't know much about them", replied the young college girl, as she continued filing away books. I started to wonder if God had had a reason for me to visit this particular bookshop.

The man persisted, "I'm really wondering what they're about: if what these Gnostics are saying is true, then that really changes everything about Christianity!"

I had an internal struggle -- should I strike up a conversation? Listen more? Quietly walk out? Maybe he would just drop the subject, and then I could continue browsing in peace without the guilt of having "shirked my duty" -- after all, we shouldn't be judgmental or confrontational, right?

"So you don't know anything about Gnosticism? 'Cause man, if these guys are right, ..."

My curiousity finally overcame me. Slowly coming around the bookshelf, I saw the inquirer: a thin, gangly man in his upper forties, with short, scruffy grey facial hair, sitting on a chair with his legs tucked under him like a teenager. He exhibited that geeky, quirky chic of someone who's lived alone with his own rules for many years. I made eye contact, then slowly started describing the Gnostic religion and its unique beliefs.

Once I got to the mystic gnosis and the Archons, I could tell he was getting really confused -- and that's when I finally noticed the paperback in his hands: "The Gnostic Gospels". Ah, that really has nothing to do with the Gnostics ... and more to do with "The DaVinci Code". I gave a bit of background on the Gnostic 'gospels' and how very different they are from canon.

He fired back, "But Jesus claimed his was the only way -- what a power grab! And, 'here are my chosen disciples' -- how convenient for them, so they can setup this hierarchy!"

Yes, religion over the centuries has often misused Scripture in order to position human leaders as intermediaries between people and God -- but Jesus came to abolish that and give us direct access to God, through himself.

"But Jesus is the only way? Uh-uh! OK, maybe I'll grant that Jesus was sent from God, but I'llnever accept that he's the only way!"

We spent the next hour in deep discussion: me leaning against a bookshelf, a paperback in hand; him on the chair, constantly shifting positions, half getting up, now pulling his legs under him, now bouncing his knee -- evidently incredulous and deeply disturbed by my responses and by the claims of Scripture.

He asked me, "How can you believe in a Creator? Don't you believe in evolution, ape-man, and all that?"

So I launched into an explanation of the second law of thermodynamics, information theory, and creation as originally "very good". I was part-way through describing Java Man when he stopped me mid-sentence:

"Hold on here, let me just ask you this."


"Are you for real?"

:) Heh, I had to laugh a bit at that -- yes, I'm very much for real!

"So you believe in Adam and Eve?!"

Yes sir, I do. Consider just one aspect, population -- before the advent of antibiotics, the world population was doubling about every 125-150 years. Even with occasional epidemics like the bubonic plague, extrapolating back from our current population of 6 billion, we get to two people in just a few thousand years.

"Adam and Eve!?" He got up, all the way this time, and turned away from me.
"But they're just fairy tales! This is the new millenium, man! You're educated; even if I weren't educated, I still wouldn't believe in them!"

I gently reminded him of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". But he was overcome with incredulity, and finally walked out to leave the bookshop. I momentarily regretted not having asked his name, so that I could continue to pray for him, but just as he opened the door, by God's providence, another store employee called after him, "Take care, Richard!"

What an energizing and joyful experience to have the chance to talk with a random stranger about Jesus! Thank you, Lord, for this divine appointment: for bringing me to Kitsilano, to this bookshop, and to this man Richard. I may never get another chance to see him on this earth, but may Your Word and Your love strike his heart powerfully: disturb him, shake him, until he finds that there is no peace without Jesus.

(Postscript:) I had stayed quite long in the little bookshop, so it was only reasonable that I purchase the paperback I'd been holding. While ringing me up, the college girl laughed, "So after all that, the book you're getting is 'Jane Eyre'?" :) OK, that and Plato's "Republic". "That's more like it!"