Choose, what you lose; you don't always get a 2nd shot [rating for brief, intense imagery]
|Which Dream is Alive?|
"Good morning, everyone. I know you're all expecting to hear the conclusion to last week's topic - What Should I Do? - and so you shall. While I was reviewing my notes in preparation for today, though, I became convinced I needed to completely change the direction of what I'd intended to say. When I'm finished, I trust you'll agree with me that what you will have heard today more than answers the question posed by our topic.
"I want to tell you about a fellow named Michael," he continued. "When he was a teenager, many of the kids called him Mikey, much to his disgust. 'Life' cereal was very popular back then and, although he liked the cereal, he thought that the kid in the commercial was just a little too cute. Also, according to the commercial, the kid would 'try anything'. Michael was actually pretty introverted and easily embarrassed; when describing him, the word 'daring' didn't normally come up. The most daring thing Michael did was to play trumpet in the high school band, where he occasionally had to play a solo. He got passing grades in gym, but wasn't athletic, and he got decent grades in most of his subjects, but wasn't on the Dean's List. He wasn't a troublemaker and didn't run with any particular crowd so, generally speaking, he was pretty much invisible to the entire school population. All in all, he was just a generic teenage, suburban kid."
The speaker paused a moment, appeared to consult his notes, then went on.
"He was a young man still shy of adulthood, just a teenager, really, when he joined the Army with some vague notion of serving his country, of making his mark in the world. After Basic Training, he was sent to a school for specialized training near Washington D.C. One Saturday, he decided to ride his bike to Arlington National Cemetery, intending to visit JFK's gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As he rode west on Constitution Avenue, just past the Washington Monument, the crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalk became so dense, he had to stop pedaling. He straddled the frame and just kind of walked the bike along. His little excursion came to an abrupt halt, though, when a man stepped in front of him, grabbed the middle of the handlebars with his left hand, and told Michael to get off of the bike, or he'd put "this"--and here, he gestured menacingly with his right hand, which was concealed in his jacket pocket--right through Michael's head."
He scanned the faces before him, and was pleased to see that everyone's gaze was fixed on him, even those whose attention usually wandered. He continued with the story.
"Now, the fact that his assailant was an African-American didn't particularly concern Michael. He'd known some in school, and there were several in his unit. What bothered Michael was the man's right hand. The pocket looked fairly deep, so almost any handheld weapon could conceivably fit; anything from a screwdriver to a knife was a real possibility. The confrontation went back and forth, the man punctuating his demands for the bike with menacing thrusts of his jacket pocket, and Michael--inexplicably--refusing to yield unless he could actually see the supposed weapon. Eventually, the man decided that, between Michael's stubbornness and the slowly growing crowd of onlookers, he would do better to find another target. With a final gesture, he turned and disappeared. At that point, Michael swung around and pedaled back to the barracks, deciding that Arlington could wait for another day - perhaps with a tour group."
There was a ripple of light laughter. The speaker let it die away, then continued the story. His voice now held a sense of urgency.
"That night, he had a dream. Although things seemed to be vaguely pleasant, the surroundings and general context were fuzzy and indistinct, even for a dream, and Michael couldn't really tell what was going on. Suddenly, a menacing shape appeared right in front of him. A powerful handgun was slowly raised and aimed squarely at his head; Michael could see the finger tighten on the trigger. An eternity passed, then another. An ugly gout of flame exploded from the end of the barrel - and Michael woke up, heart racing."
The place was completely still. No one spoke, no one restlessly adjusted their position in their seat.
"He thought about that dream for a long time, and finally decided it meant that a change needed to be made in his life. He'd been just drifting aimlessly along, going with the flow, wasting his life, instead of making his mark. He realized he could have died that day, but had been given a second chance. He finished his training and served out his enlistment, taking some college classes along the way. He received some very wise counsel, and he began to seriously contemplate and nurture the conviction growing within him. He was glad to graduate from college but, when a Pastor Search Team invited him to lead a new church, he was filled with an unexpected feeling of completeness."
Pastor Jeffrey Michael Davis looked across his congregation, the love and affection he had for his flock evident on his face.
"And so I stand before you today, my friends, because I took advantage of that second chance," he concluded. He surveyed again the faces before him. There were looks of amazement on some, and smiles on more than a few. "Let us close in prayer. If anyone here believes today is your "second chance" and would like to talk, our Evangelism and Discipleship Team will be available after the service."
[WC = 948]