|Word Count C-6 = 6,459||Montgomery|
Pierce considered himself lucky: Lt. Müller had persuaded a judge to set his bail without much delay. Pierce called Geoff at his office and asked if he would be willing to come to the police station after work and post his bail, assuring Geoff that he would reimburse him. Geoff was more than willing to do so and, in fact, was able to reschedule his last two patients, thus arriving at police headquarters earlier than Pierce had anticipated.
At a nearby coffee shop, Pierce and Geoff sat at a table by a window. “So, you saw that good-looking lieutenant again, huh?” commented Geoff, adding a splash of cream to his steaming cup of house blend.
“Yeah, and she was very helpful,” affirmed Pierce, doing the same. “She questioned me again in the ‘frontal lobotomy’ room. You feel like you’ve had one while you’re in there, ’cause it’s so subdued. As before, I got the impression that she believed me, because she pulled some strings to get a judge to set a quick bail for me.” Pierce stirred in half a packet of sugar. “Oh, when I get my checkbook from my car, I’ll reimburse you.”
Geoff added the remaining sugar to his cup. “What did you tell her?”
“I insisted that I did not own a gun, much less transport one around with me in my car. I told her how sometimes I keep my car windows partway down to provide a cross-breeze, so someone must have pushed the gun through the open space on the passenger side. Then, I suggested that maybe whoever put it there also told the police that it was there.” Pierce paused, taking a long, deep breath. “I guess someone really has it in for me.”
“It sorta looks that way, doesn’t it?” Geoff reached for his cup.
Their coffee began rippling, then sloshing up and out the sides of their cups. For a handful of seconds, dishes and silverware could be heard clattering and clinking around them. Out the window, Pierce noticed a couple on a bench. Seemingly agitated, they looked at each other and jumped up. “That totally unnerves me whenever that happens,” Pierce protested, shaking his head. “You never know whether it’s gonna stop or get worse. Have you been feeling all those little shakers throughout the day and night?”
“Yeah, and that’s the term for it: ‘unnerving,’” concurred Geoff.
“Anyway...,” resumed a more composed Pierce, “Vanessa...that is, Lieutenant Müller...told me they suspect the weapon found in my car was likely the one used against Luke. She also told me that a cop and a detective went to your office this morning to question Tom about his stolen gun.” An aproned waiter brought over two fresh cups of coffee, wiping the spill off of the tabletop with a damp towel. “I’m really sorry Tom had to get involved.”
“Don’t be,” Geoff assured him. “They didn’t stay long, and Tom was OK with it. He’s got nothing to hide. They asked why he hadn’t informed the police that his gun had been stolen. He said he had hoped to be able to talk with Darius alone sometime and try to get it back, no questions asked. But he never saw Darius around and was reluctant to confront him at his house.”
Pierce was curious. “Did they ask Tom if he could identify the gun?”
“They didn’t bring it with ’em, but they had photos of it. Tom recognized it immediately by a half-inch gash in the chrome on the left side of the handle. He said his girlfriend, Liz, had carelessly dropped it once.” He laughed, “Good thing it wasn’t loaded.”
“So it definitely is his gun,” Pierce ascertained.
“Yep. Looks like, anyway. Tom also told me that the detective said their next stop was Darius Frey’s house to ask some questions.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Pierce confirmed. “Lieutenant Müller told me that the detective—I think his name is ‘Turner’—and the officer later spoke with Darius’ uncle. By the way, I’ve met Mr. Frey...decent guy, but he’s kind of unkempt, and their place is pretty sloppy. He became Darius’ legal guardian after Darius’ parents went to prison for telemarketing fraud a year or two ago.” Pierce’s countenance disclosed an internal empathy for Darius. “Anyway, Mr. Frey said that, as far as he knew, Darius went to school as usual this morning. Darius’ room was searched, but no weapon was found. They got the uncle’s permission to search Darius’ truck at school and, again, found nothing. I guess they’re looking for Darius now.”
Geoff read the back of a sugar packet to himself: DID YOU KNOW that the blood vessel configuration within the retina of the eye is unique to each person and that retinal scans increasingly are used as a form of personal identification? “I suppose the police will fingerprint him when they find him.”
“I suppose. I wonder where he is; he wasn’t in class this morning.” Pierce was disconcerted. “You know, I just don’t get it.” He held his coffee cup under his chin with both hands and then drank the last bit. “I helped Darius and his uncle clean up their yard and house one weekend this winter, and a few times I met with Darius after school to assist him with homework or projects. If he was the gunman, why would he want to get...me?”
“Who knows what goes on in the heads of troubled kids these days.” Geoff shook his head. “You want another cup?”
Looking at his watch, Pierce declined the offer. “No, thanks. Actually, I’m gettin’ sorta hungry. I’ve got a lasagna from Price Costco that I’m gonna throw in the oven. Care to join me for dinner?”
The “free meal” button somewhere in Geoff’s brain—maybe it was situated in his hypothalamus—had been pressed. “Sure, man...sounds good to me!”
“By the way,” Pierce added, “uh...Lieutenant Müller suggested that I leave my car parked where it is now...until tomorrow...so they can keep it under surveillance. I wonder if it would be possible for you to pick me up in the morning and give me a ride to school. I really hate to ask, ’cause I know it’s outa your way and would be a real inconvenience....”
“It’s no problem,” assured Geoff, displaying his sincerity with a “thumb-up” signal and an understanding smile. “I don’t mind at all.”
Pierce pulled the lasagna from the freezer and slid it into the oven. Through the open counter top between the kitchen and living room, he apologized, “Sorry...I shoulda transferred it to the ‘frig’ this morning. Plus, the oven isn’t preheated, so it’ll probably take an hour or so.”
Geoff was examining Pierce’s basketball trophies on the fireplace mantel. “That’s OK; I’m still a little wired from all that coffee.” Picking up the last trophy, Geoff lauded, “Wow!...so you were the most valuable player on your college team. Looks like you were quite a star!”
“Oh, not really,” insisted Pierce modestly. He walked into the living room with two frosted mugs of root beer, offering one to Geoff. “I wasn’t tall enough to make a whole lot of blocks or rebounds, so I had to compensate with assists and long-shots. Man...those were the days.” With a longing smile, Pierce gazed intently into the past and repeatedly thumped his mug a few times. Then the reality from which he temporarily had escaped wiped any remnant of contentment off of his face. “But now...well, I’m just having a hard time putting this entire situation in perspective.” He looked at Geoff, as if for some direction. “Sometimes it...it almost overwhelms me.”
Geoff sat down in a wide easy chair and placed his drink on the coffee table, atop a rustic wooden coaster into which “The DALLAS COWBOYS” had been engraved. “You from Texas?”
“No, Minnesota. That’s just one of a set. But it is my favorite pro-football team. I know it should be the Vikings, but I’m just weird.” Pierce sighed.
“So...do you happen to have a Bible I could take a look at?”
Pierce’s eyes turned tellingly toward the bookcase across the room. “Yeah, an old girlfriend gave me one a few years back.” With seemingly renewed anticipation, he retrieved it and handed it to Geoff. “I read a little from it once...you know, the story in the Torah portion about Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob....”
“Yeah...Chapters 37 through 48 in Genesis,” Geoff interjected, “except for Chapter 38. That chapter deals with Joseph’s older half brother, Judah, through whom the promised Messiah would come. Yes, I think Joseph’s story is one that everyone should read. I guess you’re sort of in the same boat he was in, being falsely accused and all.”
Pierce was grateful that someone really understood his plight.
Geoff continued, “This is my favorite translation of the Bible: the New International Version.” He opened it to the New Testament. “I feel that the Holy Spirit has been leading me to read you something, Pierce. Now I can. Romans 5:6–8 says, ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’” Geoff stared at the words for a few seconds and then looked up at Pierce. “Did you know that the word ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek Cristos, which in Hebrew is Meshiach or ‘Messiah’?”
Pierce elevated his eyebrows and shook his head no.
“Each of those terms means ‘Anointed One,’ describing Jesus.” Geoff paused briefly. “Anyway, I sense that what befell Luke was not mere happenstance. I feel that maybe God allowed it to occur as an example to you of the passage I read. Just as, I suspect, Luke was willing to take a bullet, evidently meant for you, Jesus was willing to suffer the Father’s wrath, via death, in our place...yours, mine, and everyone’s who would believe.”
Placing his elbow on the armrest of the couch, Pierce turned his head to bury the upper half of his face in his hand.
Geoff flipped through the pages to Matthew 18:19,20. “Jesus said, ‘I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.’” He closed the Bible and laid it next to his root beer mug. Then he stood up and walked over behind the couch, laying his left hand on Pierce’s right shoulder.
“Please agree with me in prayer, Pierce. Dear Father...we ask that you somehow would provide a miraculous healing for Luke, that the gunperson will be found, and that Pierce no longer will be under suspicion for the shooting, nor for maintaining a concealed weapon in his car. We also claim your words, in Isaiah 54:17, that no other weapon will be able to be used against Luke or Pierce and that all accusations against Pierce will be refuted. And we ask all these things in the Name of Jesus, Who died for us. Amen.”
Pierce’s voice quavered as he repeated, barely audibly, “Amen.” The intensity of many things—his past acquaintanceship with Luke, his present circumstances, and his newfound knowledge about Jesus—overcame Pierce at once. Deep emotion gripped him, and he no longer could hold back the tears, nor did he want to. “I don’t get it!” he sobbed.
“Get what?" questioned Geoff.
Pierce continued, “How could Luke have attempted to protect me? My own stupid pride prevented me from ever even initiating a conversation with him! I couldn’t count the times I ignored him if his locker was near mine or looked straight through him if he was right in front of me. If we made eye contact and he said ‘hi,’ my instinct would seize me—like when I tipped over my water glass at that restaurant—and I instantly would look away and mumble something inaudible. Who am I that I am worthy of Luke’s being willing to defend me...even die for me?”
Geoff clutched Pierce’s shoulder. “Pierce...the Creator of the universe willed for a portion of Himself to die to save mankind. God sacrificed His very pride for us—something that He alone deserves to feel—to show us that the only pathway to Him is by sacrificing our own pride. You’ve just done that.”
Contemplating this for a few seconds, Pierce wiped his eyes with one forearm and questioned, “So, is that what I need to believe to be...saved?”
Geoff released his grip and walked to the other side of the table. Taking up the Bible again, he returned to Pierce, pointing to Romans 10:9,10, and read, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” He then sat down across from Pierce. “Do you believe that Jesus, literally, was raised physically from the dead?”
Pierce recalled Geoff’s explanation of Jesus’ resurrection on the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits. “He must have been. He was the ‘firstfruit from the dead Who would never die again,’ so that I can have eternal life. It only makes sense. And if He could humble Himself enough to give His life for me—and for all who accept His ultimate sacrifice—then He is my Lord. Yes, I see the undeniable truth, and I cannot help but accept it.”
Tears of joy filled Geoff’s eyes. He even speculated that the hosts of heaven also were rejoicing to hear golden words ringing from Pierce’s lips. “Welcome into the Kingdom of God, buddy!”
“Thanks!” replied Pierce, followed by a smile and a quick sniffle. “You know, I feel almost like God has breathed new life into my body.”
“He has, Pierce; I assure you, He has! You clearly have a healthy body, but it is dead without Him. The Holy Spirit is Life, with a capital ‘L’!”
Pierce took a sip of his root beer, just as the only peace of mind he had had in awhile seemed to evade him. “I wonder if God’s Spirit will help me continue to overcome my pride now. I’m so tired of being enveloped by the turmoil of...‘Pride Island.’ I almost feel like...like I’m ‘shipwrecked’ on it.”
“That’s an interesting term,” observed Geoff, crossing one leg over the other and interlocking the fingers of both hands over his knee. “What do you mean by ‘Pride Island’?”
“There’s something I haven’t shown anybody, not even the police,” Pierce disclosed. Standing up and walking over to a mirror, he removed it to reveal a wall safe underneath. “When I found Luke, he had an envelope in his hand. Inside of it was a letter. He must have written it earlier that day. Apparently, he had planned to slide it under my office door that night, not thinking I would be there.”
Pierce briefly pictured Luke, but it was not a bloody Luke. It was Luke with a friendly smile and with his hand extended—the day, a few years before, when they had met. Am I finally free of the gory image that’s been haunting me for days? Maybe that ‘peace of mind’ isn’t going to be so elusive after all.
Curious, Geoff observed Pierce as he opened the safe.
“You heard Luke’s tape yesterday,” Pierce continued. “Now, you might as well read his letter.”
Pierce removed the red-blotched letter from its bloodied envelope, which had “PIERCE” handwritten on it. He carefully unfolded it and took it to Geoff. “Luke’s blood stained only the margins. All the words are visible.” Pierce returned to his seat and rested his cheek on his right fist.
Geoff recognized Luke’s handwriting immediately. He read to himself:
Pierce, I feel foolish sliding this letter under your office door, but I’m afraid you might refuse to take it if I were to attempt to hand it to you at the health club. I really hope that you and your Warriors win your game tonight. But, even if you don’t, you’re the best coach they’ve ever had. I urge you to continue your excellent job of coaching the team next year. They need you, and you’re their best hope for a state title.
This should be the last communication you will receive from me, since I’ll be moving away in a week. As I stated in my tape to you, I’m very sorry for letting my own pride impede the progress of what began as a potentially good friendship between us. Unfortunately, I cannot undo the damage I’ve done. But I would like to relate a dream to you that I had just last night.
I dreamed that I was hovering in outer space. Strangely, I seemed not to have a body. I beheld innumerable galaxies of various types. Each was unique and its own intricate design. Each galaxy seemed like an island, floating in the blackness of space. Then I looked toward the earth and observed numerous cottony clouds and weather systems randomly dotting the atmosphere. My attention was drawn to a vast hurricane gyrating silently in the Caribbean Sea. I marveled at how similar its appearance was to a spiral galaxy—not only in the way its giant outer arms curiously swirled inward toward its center, but also in the immense power which seemed to churn within it.
I wanted to float down and touch it, but I didn’t know if I should dare. I felt like I knew better than to approach it, so I refrained. I sensed that if I were to abide for even a moment inside of this captivating but violent tempest, I would wish I were anywhere else but there. I thought it would be far better to remain at a distance and savor its extraordinary beauty.
As soon as I had become resolved not to advance toward the hurricane, I found myself inside a boundless, incomparably peaceful realm. Around me was a myriad of concepts and precepts—some floating, some drifting, some whirling. Each one appeared as a multidimensional, inexplicably attractive, spherical “island.” Somehow, I knew that I was in the Mind of God.
One such “island,” with a very smooth surface, caught my eye. It generated within me a fascination I had never known. As I proceeded toward it, I could not look away from it. I was mystified to discover that a distorted image of my face seemed to have been painted onto its curved exterior. I touched it; then I passed through its outer membrane.
Once inside, however, I sensed that I was being torn apart by violent forces from every direction. I was pushed and pulled mercilessly in the tumultuous environment, unable to gain my bearings. I even noticed other alluring spheres, inside of this storm, beckoning me—enticing me—to take refuge within them. I was terrified. I rebuked myself, “This was a colossal mistake! Why did I choose to come here?” I cried out, “God! Get me out!”
Suddenly, I was in the tranquil, awesomely beautiful realm of God’s Mind again. I entreated, “Dear God, what was that place?” A still, small voice responded, “That was the perilous archetype of Pride, my son.” I asked why it had been so incomprehensibly frightening inside. The soft voice answered, “It is one of the chambers which should be entered by no one but Myself. I am the only One who can control its vast power. I alone am worthy to delve into its fullness—I, and I alone. I allow everyone to touch it; but only the wise turn away and retreat from it. It ruins all who embrace it.”
Again, I inquired, “Can I not have pride even in the things I do for You?” The Lord replied, “Many think they do actions in my Name, when they actually are doing these things for themselves. Such deeds are worthy of shame, not pride. The things they do genuinely for Me, and in my Name, are worthy of my pride, not theirs. I do all good things through those who are mine. The pride they feel and express must be in Me alone, not in themselves.” I also asked Him about the smaller spheres I saw inside the larger one. He told me that pride has many toxic facets. These were sub-regions—such as self-righteousness, arrogance, and conceit—which, themselves, are deceptively appealing realms in which many people hopelessly exist. At that point, I woke up.
Pierce, I want to apologize to you for my inexcusable self-pride over the years. I feel this was a major cause of your rejecting my friendship. I clearly see that the Lord created you so that He could utilize you in a prodigious way for His own glory, but I also see that it was not my duty to pressure you into being aware of this fact. Had I approached you differently, using patience and restraint, I might have been able to present the gospel message to you without your sensing any undue “coercion” from me.
I admit that I felt pride in believing I could persuade you that God had something special in mind for you. What I did, though, was to invade your private space. Your resultant rejection of my friendship caused feelings of frustration, futility, and defeat in me—similar to the turbulent sensations I felt within the “Island of Pride” in my dream—which I erroneously blamed on you, but which I had only myself to blame for not resisting my own self-pride. I wanted you to know the Lord for my own satisfaction, rather than for His.
Let me conclude by saying that I hope I have not prevented you from discerning that you have some important missions ahead of you. And, whatever they may be, I know that God eternally will be proud of you if you complete them. I wish you all the best in life. The Lord bless you, Tank.
Luke had signed his full name on the letter and had dated it. Geoff refolded the letter. “Wow...pretty heavy. How come he calls you ‘Tank’?”
“I dunno; he never told me. I wish I knew.” As Pierce stood up, he asked, “So, do you know if Luke had other momentous dreams like that?”
“Actually,” Geoff shook his head, “I don’t recall his ever having told me about a dream or a vision or anything like that. No, wait...come to think of it...on Friday night, as he and I walked to the concession stand at halftime, he briefly mentioned that he had had a bizarre dream the night before.” Geoff handed the letter to Pierce. “He said he had written it down and would tell me about it another time. That was the dream, I guess.”
Pierce replaced the letter and envelope in the safe. “Remember that weird dream I had?...you know, in my office, right before Luke was shot.”
“Mmm hmm,” Geoff nodded, writing “T A N K” with his fingernail in the thin layer of frost on the side of his mug.
“Well, there were a few notable similarities between Luke’s and my dreams.” Pierce took a big chug of soda. “First of all, on the ‘surface’ of Coach Young—after he had changed into a ‘cornea,’ that is—I distinctly recall seeing the reflection of something...whirling. It had to be either a spiral galaxy or a hurricane. It’s almost as though...”—Pierce shook his head in disbelief—“as though God caused Luke and me to dream about similar things.” He looked at Geoff, fully expecting to see his eyes rolling upward.
Smiling, Geoff scratched a spiral on the side of his mug. This notion was not incredible to him at all. “What other similarities were there?”
Pierce sat back down. “Well, Luke described that before he entered the spherical ‘island of pride,’ he viewed a likeness of himself on its surface. People have commented how much Coach Young and I resemble each other, and I was facing him in my dream...as though I were looking into a mirror. Also, there’s the similarity in Luke’s and my both being strongly attracted to something in our dreams. Luke refrained from touching the hurricane, but he did go into ‘Pride Island.’ Likewise, I wanted to touch the pit or hole....”
“Or abyss?” Geoff suggested.
“Yeah, OK...‘abyss’...that formed in the iris freckle I saw,” Pierce agreed. “I was drawn to it and mesmerized by the mysterious combinations of glimmering orange lights and black shadows within it. I feel certain that if the gunshot had not awakened me, I would have gone into it.” Geoff was going to say it, but Pierce said it first: “Do you believe in hell?”
“Yes, absolutely,” affirmed Geoff without hesitation. “And I think you may have been shown the entryway into it.”
Pierce stared at Geoff. “So...do you think I am...or was...going there?”
“I don’t think you’re going there now.” Geoff paused. “As for whether or not you once were headed there...”—he looked down at the glass tabletop, in which he could see Pierce’s reflection—“well, let me put it this way...I believe we all deserve to go there. Only the blood of Jesus saves anyone who accepts His sacrifice from an eternity away from God’s presence.”
“But...how can it be that good people go there?”
Geoff again picked up and opened the Bible. “In Psalm 14:2,3, Israel’s great King David affirmed, ‘The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.’” He laid it open on the table. “Numerous other passages in the Bible, by different authors, state the same thing. It is clear from these passages that no one is innately good, as many philosophical ideals today might mislead us to believe. Each of us has an inherent, rebellious tendency to lead our own life rather than to turn it over to the One who created us. If we don’t like one of His rules...we just disobey it. This is sin, and the Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death...physical for everyone, spiritual for anyone not protected by Jesus’ shed blood.”
Pierce contemplated Geoff’s words. “Another root beer, bud?”
“Not now, thanks, but I might have one with dinner.” Geoff wished he could read Pierce’s mind. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
Pierce looked upward and outward, as though viewing abstract objects that only he could see. “What if...what if hell is an ‘island’ within the Mind of God?” He glanced at Geoff for a reaction, but there was none. Geoff was staring at him in anticipation of what he was going to say next. “What if it’s a realm that seems appealing from the outside but is pure torment inside?”
“Hmm...I’ve never thought about it that way before.” Geoff stroked his well-trimmed beard. “You know, Second Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan masquerades as an angel of light. I’m sure you have heard of out-of-body or post-death experiences, after which people describe having seen a beautiful bright light. Often they say they’d felt compelled to go into it.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that and similar descriptions.”
“Well,” Geoff related, “I have heard and read many accounts of people who went into the light and suddenly were faced with the most horrible nightmare they could imagine. I distinctly remember a description in a book by one guy who was astral-projecting. His spirit was roaming the far reaches of a so-called ‘heavenly light.’ He was surrounded by an almost overwhelming luminosity, as if he were looking straight into the sun. Waves of bliss radiated through his spirit, and he was totally captivated by its power.”
Pierce sat on the edge of his couch, hands folded, glued to every word.
“Suddenly,” Geoff continued ominously, “another force stepped in, taking him by complete surprise. In the twinkling of an eye, he discovered that he had been taken behind the outer covering of the dazzling luminosity. There, he claimed, he saw something that left him literally shaking for a full week.”
“What was it?” exclaimed Pierce, with the inquisitiveness of a boy.
“He said he saw the face of devouring darkness.” Geoff’s face contorted. “Behind the glittering facade of beauty lay a massively powerful, wildly churning face of absolute hatred and unspeakable abominations...the face of demons filled with the power of Satan. Horror filled him like a consuming fire. Then, when all seemed hopeless, a supernatural ‘hand’ delivered him from the jaws of the all-encompassing darkness. He later realized that Jesus had allowed him to see this domain and then had snatched him from it”
“It sounds sorta like Luke’s encounter with ‘Pride Island.’” Pierce’s mouth remained open for a few more seconds before adding, “So...you really believe that evil spiritual forces can cause something ‘evil’ to appear ‘good’?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Geoff maintained. “Satan and his host of demons are expert counterfeiters; they can cause darkness to look as light, falsehood to seem as truth...and, as you said, evil to appear as good. You see”—Geoff picked up the Bible and turned the pages—“Ephesians 6:12 affirms, ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood’—that is, against other people—‘but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ Of course, people still must be held accountable for their actions, because they choose to do the things they often are persuaded by external forces to do.”
Pierce scanned the room. “Do you believe demons are in here?”
“Yes,” replied Geoff decisively. “Evil angels and demons, as well as good angels, are all around us. They’re all around everybody. They can affect our thoughts and our actions. Of course, most people have too much pride to allow themselves to believe that they might be influenced by supernatural forces. Yet, indeed, they are.” Geoff paused for several moments, surmising that Pierce might have heard as much about the supernatural as he could be expected to absorb in one sitting. “So...what about that lasagna?”
Geoff’s question seemed to travel through the air like molasses. Finally, Pierce responded, “Oh...yeah...I better check it. It smells done.” Pierce took the steaming lasagna out of the oven and set it on top of two stove burners. Cutting two hefty pieces, he transferred them to plates, after which he obtained two more frosted mugs from the freezer and filled them with root beer. Serving Geoff first, he inquired, “Could you attempt to answer another question I have on my mind, unrelated to what we’ve been discussing? By the way...I usually sit on the floor to eat; I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all. In fact, I do the same at my house. What’s your question?” Geoff sat down on the floor and placed his paper napkin on his lap.
Pierce got his own meal and joined Geoff. They sat on the floor, on opposite sides of the coffee table in the livingroom. “Would you agree that there are two main theories about how this universe began...either with a ‘Big Bang’ billions of years ago, or else via a creative miracle by God a few thousand years ago?”
Geoff swallowed a big bite of lasagna. “This is good! Yes, basically, I would agree with that, although there are variations of each hypothesis.”
“Well, with my scientific background,” Pierce explained, “I have a hard time accepting the idea that all of this came into being as recently as several thousand years ago. Advanced astronomical measurements seem to demonstrate conclusively that there are galaxies, quasars, and other things in the universe at distances of billions of light years away from us. If so, then it would have taken billions of years for their light to reach us.”
“I’ve seriously contemplated this myself,” admitted Geoff. “First of all, let me say that an age for the universe of billions of years does not, in itself, give credence to Darwin’s theory of evolution of one species into another one. Unlike what much of the general public believes, not one bona fide transition state between two species ever has been proven to exist.”
“That is true,” Pierce conceded. “So then, I presume you believe that the so-called ‘missing link’ between ape and man will never be found....”
“Because it doesn’t exist,” Geoff finished. “I believe that Adam was the first human. His body was created out of dirt, directly by God, Who then breathed His Spirit into Adam to give him life.” Geoff wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Furthermore, just within the past decade or so, scientists have discovered that there are a great many more factors, than they ever considered possible, which must be in precise balance for life to begin spontaneously—on its own—on any given planet....”
“Such as that planet’s distance to its sun, its axial tilt in relation to its sun, the size and color of that sun, the planet’s electromagnetic field, the location of its solar system in the galaxy, and a host of other parameters.” Pierce smiled, “I try to keep up with the latest scientific discoveries and theories.”
“Good for you. I hope you pass on these things to your students.”
Pierce nodded. “Sometimes I do, yeah.”
“Anyway,” resumed Geoff, “being that there are innumerable variables which all must exist in perfect equilibrium, it can be shown that the chance of life beginning anywhere in the universe, by itself, without an external agent...that is, an Intelligent Designer, whom I call God...is so minuscule as to be considered, essentially, impossible.”
“In other words, you’re saying that the chance that God created life here on the earth is greater than the chance that it began independently.”
“Precisely...immeasurably greater,” Geoff nodded. “Many scientists who are aware of these things, in my opinion, simply prefer not to acknowledge either the existence of God or His capacity to perform creative miracles. By the way...do you happen to have any hot sauce to go on this?”
Pierce chuckled. “Yeah, some generic brand.” He hopped up, dashed into the kitchen, found a bottle of CALIENTE OLÉ! inside the refrigerator door, and returned with it in seconds.
Dousing his food with the liquid lava, Geoff contended, “In essence, it takes a whole lot more faith to believe that life on earth began on its own than that God simply created it...and, in fact, more faith to believe that we’re not alone in the universe than that we’re the only ones. But I digress.”
Pierce smiled. “That’s OK...it’s all very fascinating.”
“Anyway, let me get back to your original question,” Geoff asserted. “As for which theory I believe concerning the beginning of the universe, my answer will surprise you. Personally, I tend to believe that both views are correct...at the same time.”
“Huh?” Pierce’s face revealed his skepticism. “How could that be?”
“Let me explain...right after I contain the firestorm in my mouth.” Geoff sipped a little root beer. “OK. I’m sure you’ve had enough physics to know what happens if two identical clocks—let’s say, atomic clocks—are synchronized. Then one of them is sent speeding into space, orbits the earth for a set period of time, and is brought back and compared with the other clock.”
“Yeah, of course. The clock that traveled at a high rate of speed through space will record a lesser passage of time than will the stationary clock.”
“Correct. So you are aware, Pierce, that it has been proven that time actually passes more slowly relative to a moving object than to a fixed one.”
“Yes...a case of Einstein’s theory of special relativity.”
Geoff splashed a little more hot sauce on his last bite of lasagna. “All right, now. What are acceleration and deceleration?”
“That’s an easy one. Each is a change in velocity over time. More?”
“Yeah, about a third again as much, please.” Geoff used his fork to scrape off of his plate all of the red sauce he could detect before sliding it over to Pierce. Then he licked his fork. “Well, I suggest that there are two ‘points of view’ when speaking about the age of the universe: God’s perspective and man’s perspective.”
“That’s interesting,” observed Pierce.
Geoff continued, “After the creation of the universe—which I do believe occurred with the ‘Big Bang’—matter was traveling at such a great velocity that time passed ‘slowly’ relative to that matter. Thus, from God’s viewpoint, back then, it could have taken only a handful of days, approximately as we measure them now, to reach the point when Adam was created. Incidentally, I also do believe that since the time of Adam, only several thousand years have passed. On the other hand....”
“Let me conjecture,” Pierce requested. “From mankind’s point of view now, when objects in the universe—like the earth, for instance—have slowed down and time relative to them has accelerated dramatically, we look back in the past and see that billions of years have gone by since the ‘Big Bang.’”
Geoff nodded. “That’s the way I see it. So...until the time when Jesus returns to settle the dispute, there will be heated arguments over the correct age of the universe...even though, I suspect, both major theories are true.”
“Very fascinating, Geoff. Now...when do you think Jesus will return...?”
Geoff’s beeper sounded, and he looked at the number on it. “I think this is the hospital’s number, Pierce. Could I use your phone real quick?”
“Sure thing,” obliged Pierce, pulling out the antenna and handing Geoff the cordless receiver.
Geoff called the number on his pager. A nurse answered and asked Geoff to hold while she called Dr. Cohen. After a minute or so, Geoff said, “Yes...yes...what?...oh no, that’s terrible! Was Luke hurt? Oh, that’s a relief...I’m here at Pierce Nevin’s house, and we’ll leave as soon as possible. Thanks...good bye.” Depressing the “off” button, he stared at Pierce.
“What?” Pierce demanded. “It sounds serious. Do we need to go to the hospital?”
“No, we need to go back to the police station. Doctor Cohen informed me that the police have apprehended someone who entered Luke’s room in the ICU...carrying a gun.”
Pierce was noticeably stunned. “Not Darius Frey!”
Geoff took a long, deep breath and exhaled before answering. “Yes....”