July 10

Steve’s Grace: Excerpt

BookCoverPreview (1) front

Steve’s Grace tells the story of a distinctly nonreligious man and his path back to faith.  He doesn’t plan to become religious.  But then, he doesn’t plan to lose four days in a blackout in Las Vegas, either.  Stranded and broke, burdened with shame and guilt, and certain he’s about to lose everything important to him, he winders whether he’s been too quick to dismiss God.

I’m already a day late getting home, and I’m sicker than I can ever remember being. My chest feels like there’s an elephant sitting on it.

I don’t know when I showered last. I probably reek of sex. I know I stink of sweat. And, with no money, I don’t see how I can clean up before I get home and face Susan.

I wonder how much longer I will have a family.

I cough again, a hacking death rattle that lasts for more than a minute.

I wonder if I am dying. Have I killed myself with this latest debauch?

I wonder if Vanessa is out running up my credit card, and how I will explain that to Susan. I should call Susan and have her cancel it.

But I can’t. In my compromised state of mind, I don’t dare even hint at the truth of what’s happened for fear that Susan will read whole story from my voice.

I unzip my bag and stare at the Bible sitting there. I can’t believe I have it. I’ve never owned a Bible, and have never read the Bible. I have never possessed one any longer than necessary to remove it from a hotel room and deposit it in a trash can.

Yet there it sits, like a hot coal in my bag that I’m afraid to touch. Will it burn me for all the disrespect I’ve shown it over the years?

I pick it up, and it does not burn me. I feel the gold inlay of the cover, as if reading it in Braille. I flip it open at random, and find myself reading Psalm 119:

My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word. Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously. I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.

The way of lying, I think to myself. Is there any way out of that for me? After what I’ve done these past few days, how can I possibly be honest?

I can’t even call my wife and ask her to cancel my credit card!

But here’s the real kicker. I’ve been berating myself because, one way or another, my wife is going to find out. I’ve been berating myself not for what I did, but for not lying well enough.

“Oh, shit,” I murmur, as I begin to realize how selfish my thinking has been.

I flip to another page, and find myself reading Isaiah:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

I slam the book shut, close my eyes, and lean my head back, holding the book in my hands on the table. Is it possible that God forgives even the worst sinner? Is it possible that there is a way out for someone like me?

“I can give you a ride,” says a gravelly female voice.

In my present state, she sounds to me like an angel, and my eyes flick open.

She doesn’t look much like an angel. Fiftyish and overweight, her mousey-gray hair is pulled back in a pony tail. She smiles, revealing bad teeth that have seen too many years of smoking.

Still, I smile.

“Seriously?” I ask.

“Yep,” she says. “I’m headed for Long Beach.”

“That’s closer than here,” I observe.

She gazes at me appraisingly.

“You don’t have any money, do you,” she says.

I hang my head.

“No,” I admit. “It was a bad, bad weekend.”

She reaches in her pocket and pulls out a wad of bills. She peels off a few and hands them to me.

“Go take a shower,” she says. “Pay at the cashier, and they’ll give you a ticket. I’ll be right here in the food court when you’re done.”

I stare at her for a moment before taking the money.

“Thank you,” I say, gratefully.

“Oh, I’m not doing his for you,” she says, and chuckles. “We’re going to have five hours together in the truck cab. I’m doing this for me.”

Of course, the path to faith is rarely quite that simple. Steve’s doubt runs deep, and so does his denial. He’s quick to rationalize the events in Vegas as “not that bad.”

But as his memories begin to return, he realizes they were indeed that bad, and worse. He’s committed an unforgivable sin, something he never thought himself capable of. Unable to deny the horror of his actions, his brain shuts down, and Steve enters into a period of psychosis.

As he gradually heals, he explores what it means to follow God. But sometimes, the line between faith and insanity is not quite clear.

Steve’s Grace is available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

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Posted July 10, 2016 by mitchmaitree in category "Writing

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