“It is not enough to save you.”
Teresa heard the words with horror. She had heard the entire conversation and she trembled throughout it. Each utterance was burned into her mind so that she could recount it accurately in her mind. She remembered the man’s demeanor before he entered the room. Cool, calm, confident. In the quiet conversation between those that remained in the waiting area it was shared by all that this man of all would go on through the great wooden doors. The great wooden doors. These doors were visible to all. There was a pleasant incline shaded by tall oak trees leading to the doors. A narrow path, bounded on both sides by soft grasses, led to the door. A sparkling pool of water was about two thirds of the way to the door. But barring the path at its entrance was a man like lightning and in the man’s hand was a sword of lightning. He was too marvelous and fearsome to look at, so Teresa couldn’t help but glance frequently at him.
The chamber doors opened and the man that had received the bellowing decree emerged. He was no longer the self-assured man they had all spoken with earlier. He was visibly shaken. On his left and his right were two more awesome to behold men, but these did not have swords. They led him towards another chamber. Teresa overheard someone ask them, “Where is he going?”
One of the men replied, “He is going to reflect, re-think, recall. Then he shall be examined again.”
An air of relief spread through the crowd. It was not all lost for the man. Yet, if such a man had not been permitted immediate access through the doors, what was to be their lot? Teresa knew their fear.
She recalled the man’s interview in her mind. The chamber doors had been closed, and though it had been silent for a time, the interview escalated so that the whole of the grassy waiting hall could hear both sides.
“I have devoted my life to God!” the man was exclaiming in exasperation.
“But not your whole life,” came the answer.
“I have experienced God many times,” the man countered.
“It is not enough to save you.”
“I did not marry. I did not divide my interests!” the man rejoined.
“You did not marry, but you did not give up women. See here. Here is the record of every lustful thought that you have had. You’ll note that here is where you became a priest, and yet a record of such thoughts continues until your death.”
“But those… what man can control his thoughts with such skill? You’re being unreasonable. I did not act on those thoughts, did I?” the man asserted with all confidence. The man had taken the tone of a defense attorney, expecting the rhetoric to take effect.
“Of course you acted on those thoughts. Here are seventy thousand, six hundred and fifty two times recorded where you turned your head to gaze on a woman,” the other returned.
“Well that is nonsense,” the man cried out. Then he continued, “I turned my head a few times. But I have not looked at pornography. Surely that counts for something.”
“It does. But see here. Here are thirty-three times you have looked upon such material,” the other replied.
The man blurted out in exasperation, “Those were in movies! Look. See here in this one, how was I to know they were going to put that scene in?”
“It is not enough to save you,” the other responded with all finality.
And then there was silence. The great waiting hall shook with the trembling of those waiting in it. Teresa wiped her eyes. At last, the interview continued.
“Have I nothing? Is it all nothing? What was the point?” the man inquired. Though it was still loudly shouted, there was clearly a wavering in the man’s voice.
“No one is saying it is nothing. It is not enough. The things are different.”
“I was a professor of theology. I taught thousands the pure doctrine of the church,” the man cried out, gaining new strength.
“Your doctrine was not pure. See, here is the record of your errors, some deliberate and defiant, others sincere but mistaken, and some wrong though you did not know it.”
In this silence Teresa presumed the man was looking at the record. Sure enough, the man spoke up to protest.
“Why, some of these are so nuanced. You say this one is wrong, here? I think I know my Scriptures well enough to know that a better interpretation is not possible. These are so nitpicky. Where is the harm? It seems to me that it was good enough.”
“Behold the consequences of the doctrinal deviations you taught to others,” the other declared.
The man began making all sorts of noises. Apparently here he was not just reading the record because he started making comments as though he were seeing the consequences with his own eyes.
“No! Please stop! How was I to know? How can I be responsible? I gave them the doctrine, perhaps it was slightly off, but they put it into action! Oh my. No, how could this have led to that? My God, that was fifteen generations later!” And so it went on for what seemed like a long time with the man getting increasingly desperate. At last the man blurted out, “Didn’t I get anything right?”
“One, perhaps. More or less.”
There was the sound of muffled weeping, and Teresa guessed that the man had inquired as to which one, because the other replied,
“The one you need now.”
“Which, which is it? Surely if I got the one doctrine right that I need right now that is enough to save me?”
“Here it will help you not to have it, but to do it,” the other responded with earnestness.
“But it follows still that I would have taught this one, too!” the man blurted out, nearly broken.
“It is not enough to save you.”
It was here that the man was finally ushered out of the room.
A man poked Teresa in the ribs.
“That one did it all wrong,” this man stated. Teresa did not say anything. She was still comparing her own life to the description of the man’s life she had just heard. The man apparently took this as an invitation to continue, for that is what he did.
“You see, it is unfair to have to be held accountable like that. He should have stood his ground right from the get-go. I know I’m not going to play their game. Nonsense.”
The man was silenced, suddenly, when the two glimmering men that had escorted the priest now returned and put their hands on his shoulder. He winced momentarily, but then regained his composure. He winked at her, and was led into the chamber.
Teresa again noticed that at the beginning, hardly anything could be heard. It did not remain this way.
“I tell you,” the man was protesting, “I listened to their arguments. I examined them carefully. And they were rubbish.”
“But here you see that they were substantially correct.”
“Be that as it may, I can’t be blamed for using my intellect- which I will remind you, they say was given to me by God- to evaluate arguments. The arguments were not sound. How can I be blamed?”
“But now you see that they were substantially correct. You see it now with your own eyes.”
“And unlike that other chap, I did get married. I was faithful. And I didn’t watch any movies, so I know I didn’t see any pornography that way. Check the record. Did I ever look at porn?”
“You did not.”
“See, how many of them can say that?”
“You didn’t watch any movies because movies hadn’t been invented yet. See the record. You were guilty of the equivalent. About the same amount of times.”
“This is nonsense. Of course, but then I never agreed to the standard, so how can I be held to it?”
“It is not enough to save you.”
“Why should I have agreed to that standard? Not enough evidence!”
“That was not for you to decide.”
“You know what, I want a hearing. I want my day in court.”
“You are having it right now.”
“I want to speak directly to God.”
“Did you not listen to their theology? There is never a place where you couldn’t speak to God.”
“If that is the case, God would be here right now, but I don’t see him.”
“And if you did see him?”
“Well, obviously I couldn’t be sure it was him anyway. I could be dreaming this. This could all be a hallucination. It is even possible that some space alien has abducted me and this is all an illusion created by some superior being.”
“So if you already have in mind various other explanations for what you’re seeing, what purpose could be achieved by God appearing to you? Don’t you see the problem?”
“Well, it would be a good start, anyway.”
“And you being in this place is not already a good start?”
“I’m not going to argue. I want to give God a piece of my mind. This is all rubbish.”
“If you paid attention to the theology you were offered, you would know that you can only access God through Christ. Because of God’s nature, and because of your nature, mediation is necessary.”
“Oh hell, take me to Christ then. I’ve had quite enough.”
“You shall get what you ask for, but I must insist that you look where you are. You might want to consider whether or not you’re prepared to meet him.”
“For God’s sake, just take me to him already.”
“It is for God’s sake that I delay.”
At this there was a burst of profanity and Teresa shook with fear just like everyone else in the hall. Surely the man would be struck down now.
But the chamber door opened and the man was ushered out with the two men at his sides. The man sought Teresa with her eyes, and when they met he flashed a grin that she took to mean, “See, that is how you win an audience with Jesus himself.” The man was taken out of sight and the two escorts shortly reappeared. Teresa felt their hands on her shoulders. She glanced at them, and then looked away. They were fearsome.
Teresa was guided into the chamber. She was surprised to find that through the doors was a wide open field. The smell of grasses on the wind came to her. Quite out of place, there was a table and two chairs in the middle of the large clearing. She was guided to sit down.
There appeared suddenly a young man in the other chair.
“Teresa,” he greeted her warmly. She managed a weak smile. Her wrinkled hands shook uncontrollably on the table. She clasped them firmly together in shame.
The young man continued, “What are you thinking?”
Teresa was not expecting this tact. She was surprised that the young man didn’t know. What she had been thinking was that she was not nearly as worthy as the priest and not nearly as intelligent as the skeptic. And she was angry. Except for some brief encounters with God in Christ, Jesus had been utterly absent. She had expected him to be here at last, and yet he was not.
At last she offered, “I thought I pleased the Lord once. I tried to live according to his instructions. But he has been silent. I must have done something wrong, but I do not know what. I have gone through all the actions, all of the motions, I admit sometimes mechanically, but often sincerely, but he… he has abandoned me.”
“Be consoled: all have done something wrong. If everyone received in their flesh their just deserts, it wouldn’t be the absence of God that they’d experienced. The wheat and the weeds had to grow together for a little while. But now it is time to sift.”
“I fear that if you sift me, there will be nothing left,” she wept. Her face was buried in her ancient hands.
“So you can give me no reason why you should be saved?” the young man replied tenderly, and yet there was a hint in his voice that the question was important.
“No. I see now that all my works and deeds were not enough. I still wonder how I offended Him that he withheld himself from me, but I can do nothing but rely on his mercy,” and then she cried uncontrollably. After she was spent, she lifted her head to see what was going to happen.
“Would you like to see Him?” the young man asked her.
“You know I do,” she said softly. Her heart was stirred, but she still felt hesitant.
“What is it?” the young man probed.
“I do not understand. Where is the great judgment? Every eye shall see every knee shall bow? And yet I go on, the priest still remains, and the skeptic sees Him straight away as well.”
“Yes, every eye shall see and every knee shall bow, but not every one when they look sees the same thing nor do all knees bow for the same reasons. Some go like the tender branch that bends in the wind. Others go down, broken like a tree trunk snapped in half. None are innocent, and yet not all have the same advocate. The time is coming.”
Teresa looked at the young man with a sudden fear, “Will Jesus be my advocate?”
“He will, if you let him.”
Teresa began weeping again, “I would not have it any other way. Let him say what he must- it will all be true- but let him say it, not I.” She continued weeping, but felt the man wrap a heavy cloak around her body. It was so heavy it seemed as though it might crush her.
“Come, sister,” the young man smiled.
Teresa glanced up. The man had his hand extended, and she instinctively reached up to take it. She jumped in shock as she saw that her hand was not the aged hand she had came in with. The man saw her surprise, and answered her.
“You do not think you could bear to stand before, beside, or with him while in that body, do you?” the young man asked her, helping her to stand. It was all she could do to hold herself up as she let herself be guided up towards the great doors. When she got to the man with the lightning sword she not only shook from the weight of her raiment, but shuddered also from fear. Her escort continued, “You see, you can hardly stand as you pass by the Guardian. You need a strengthened body.”
Her eyes caught her reflection in the pool that she had noticed earlier. She saw that she was much younger. She looked much stronger. Yet, she still looked weak. Perplexed, she asked the young man, “Whose body is that?”
“Why it is His, of course.”
“What… am I wearing?”
“Have you not realized?”
“Will I see him today?”
“This is the Day. But you will not yet be able to stand. You will see him soon, but not too soon. You will see him when you are ready. And then you will stand before the seat of judgment. Your Defender will Rise. You will know what to do.”
At this the young man swept his hand in the direction of some hills.
“Further up and further in,” he smiled at her.
And Teresa took her first faltering steps towards the high peaks, breathing in the refreshing but chill air, and pulling her clothing as tight as she could. She struggled to put one foot ahead of the other. Still, after every step she thought it was getting easier. Her heart steadied. Though she felt him not, she knew that when at last she arrived, God would see what she was wearing, and not her, and it would be enough.