Henry, patriarch of a large family, is upset because his wife has gone off for a month long junket of painting and crafting. He discovers that he can’t keep the house clean, he doesn’t know how to shop for groceries, and he can’t feed himself. He starts going to the local diner for lunch. He meets another old guy there. Call him George. Henry doesn’t take to him at first but over time a friendship blossoms. Even after his wife comes home Henry continues to go once a week and hang out with George. Over time it becomes clear that George is a Christian, not by any overt means but just idle conversation makes it clear that God and Jesus color every part of his life.
One day Henry is particularly despondent. He says, “George, I think I’m losing my wife.”
“What makes you think so?”
Henry toys with his coffee cup, looks at the dregs in the bottom. “She has ‘other interests.’ Running off to who knows where to paint and craft. Always busy here and there.” He looks up at George. “It’s like I’m not enough anymore.”
George shrugs. “She can have other interests, can’t she? It doesn’t mean she doesn’t still love you.”
Henry looks vacantly at the area behind the counter. “Actually it’s my whole family. Youngest daughter’s marriage is coming apart. Youngest son is irresponsible. Won’t grow up. The other daughter… Well, her life is a constant train wreck.”
He turns to face George. “Of course you don’t have any problems.” A hint of sarcasm creeps in. “You’ve got this God that fixes everything.”
George says, “Sure, He’s been good to me. He’s answered prayers. But it’s not been all rainbows. One of my kids lives in Portland. Another one in Texas. I’m lucky to see them once a year. I have grand-kids but I never see them. We talk. Father’s Day, birthdays. holidays. I call them more than they call me. They say I can see them on some electronic device but heck if know how to do it. Oh, they’re good kids. Just busy. I know that. I just miss them.”
He turns back to his plate and fiddles with the remains of his salad. “My wife died thirty years ago. I still miss her. Every day I miss her. Sometimes I still find myself wanting to tell her about something that happened. Something funny. Something sad.”
Henry waits for him to continue. The silence grows. Henry says, “So what’s the deal? This religion thing. Pearly gates? Get out of hell free card? A family tradition? Habit? What’s it for?”
George lays down his fork and sighs. “I suppose there was a time when it was about heaven and hell. Maybe there was a time when it was more about answered prayer, what He could do for me in this life. But now…”
He pauses. Henry waits.
“Sometimes I get lazy. Don’t pray. Don’t read my Bible. Just kind of quit hanging out with Jesus, you know? But then I catch myself and get back on track, not because I want to go to heaven or I don’t want to go to hell or I want my prayers answered. No, I get back on track…”
He turns to face Henry, eyes glistening with the beginning of tears.
“…because I miss Him.”