When the technician finally left, Claire sank down into the chair behind her desk and tried to come to grips with everything that had happened that morning. Chris’s attack had frightened her much more than she’d let on, but what she had just learnt about Cameron’s attitude was even more distressing.
At first she’d been unable to understand his opposition to her actions, and then when he’d explained the consequences of an official complaint being made against him she’d been so overwhelmed she’d lost the will to continue opposing his position. But now that she was away from the powerful influence of his presence, Claire knew she would have acted in exactly in the same way even if she had been aware of the possible repercussions.
I had a God-given opportunity to share the gospel with Tyrone - and what’s more Ty obviously listened and was affected by it - and yet Cameron maintains that I did the wrong thing, and has made it clear that he won’t tolerate me speaking like that again. What do I do now, she wondered in bewilderment, how can I possibly go against Cameron?
She leant her elbows on her desk and pressed her fingertips into her forehead as she tried to think, but all the while was distracted by the deep longing Cameron had stirred up within her. It had been such a relief when Cameron had confirmed the warmth of his feelings towards her, and despite the tension of the morning every moment she spent with him only seemed to increase her craving for his love.
I know he’s wrong - but do I really have to make an issue of it right now? She began to rationalise her feelings, The friendship I have with Tyrone is unique, it’s not like I’d be in a position to speak to another patient in the same way anyway, and I already told Tyrone I wouldn’t bring my religion up with him again. Like Cameron said, it will all blow over soon, and I can work all this out with him later - when our relationship is just a bit more secure. What is the point of bringing it up again and putting myself offside with Cameron?
Claire reached across her desk and began opening the morning’s mail, trying hard to ignore the uncomfortable feeling that was pacing like a caged tiger inside her. She knew she was going against her conscience but she didn’t want to face that right then.
She had just opened up the correspondence ledger when the phone rang, her chest tightening as she saw Tyrone’s extension light up. It rang a few times before she could bring herself to pick it up and answer, and her heart began to pound when she heard Tyrone’s agitated voice.
“Claire - it’s Ty,” his words tumbled out quickly, “been trying to get you - I’m in such a mess.”
“Oh, Ty - I’m so sorry. I never - ”
“No, you were right, what you said to me is true. Read that Bible all night - it says I’ll go to hell if I die. Don’t know what to do.”
Claire froze, her mouth dry - the only way she could truly help Tyrone was to tell him what the Bible said about the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus - but to speak to him about her beliefs would be going against everything Cameron said, and she was now fully aware of what that would cost her.
Cameron won’t let me witness because he isn’t prepared to risk this centre and his career, but many Christians have risked their freedom and their lives to speak openly about God. Am I prepared to lose my job . . . and Cameron?
“Don’t blame you for not wanting to speak to me,” Tyrone cut in on her thoughts, his voice low, “Way I treated you yesterday, was sure you wouldn’t want to be my friend no more . . . but I don’t know what else to do.”
“Oh, no Ty! Of course I’m still your friend!” she answered quickly, realising with horror how close she’d come to putting her feelings for Cameron before her concern for Tyrone’s soul, “If you’re sure you want me to talk to you about my beliefs, I’d love to. You don’t need to be afraid - the Bible is full of good news too - Jesus promises to save anyone who comes to Him.”
“Not someone like me, though.”
“Yes - someone like you, Ty, and someone like me.” Claire hesitated as she heard the lift doors open, “Look, I can’t really talk now - do you want me to come down at lunch? Will you be okay till then?”
“Yeah.” she heard him sigh, “And I got that physio, Julie, coming down anyway. Made her go away yesterday - probably couldn’t flick her off again today. She goes at twelve though, you’ll come then?”
As the lift doors closed again, Claire felt her skin shrink against her and every hair stand on end as she heard Chris’s distinctive footfall in the corridor.
“Yes, sure. See you then,” she managed to say, replacing the receiver just as Chris approached her desk, her heart hammering so hard that it was difficult to breathe. He paused in front of her desk, and she could feel his eyes boring into her, but just as she was sure he was going to say something, he turned on his heel and strode out of the building.
She let out a long, slow breath, fully appreciating the position she had just put herself into by agreeing to go and speak to Tyrone. It was wonderful that God seemed to have softened his heart to feel the guilt of his sin, but there was no guarantee that he would accept God’s way of salvation, and she knew that even by explaining it to him she would be bringing herself into direct conflict with Cameron.
So be it, she resolved. She stood up, intending to go straight upstairs and confront Cameron with her decision to continue witnessing to Tyrone, but before she even took one step she realised that it would be safer if he did not find out until afterwards.
If she failed again to convince him of her responsibility to tell the gospel to Tyrone, Cameron might prevent her from seeing him at lunchtime. And on the other hand, if Cameron were aware of her intentions - and didn’t try to stop her - he would certainly be held responsible for her actions if a formal complaint was lodged. He would be much less likely to be blamed if she acted against his authority and without his knowledge.
Claire sat back down, knowing there was another, more important reason for not wanting to discuss the matter with Cameron. Having tasted her own weakness, she feared that once she was in his presence again she would lose all her determination to go against him.
When she’d been alone with him earlier her desire for his love had become more important than anything else, and she was ashamed to admit how close he’d come to swaying her conscience from what she knew was right. When he’d been so close to her and touched her hand like that, all her resolve seemed to disappear.
She shuddered as a horrible thought entered her mind. Cameron had always seemed to know the effect he had on her - was his tenderness that morning a deliberate ploy to keep her from taking a course of action he didn’t like? A cold dread began to spread through her. She couldn’t imagine that Cameron could possibly be like that . . . but then she’d never expected that he would stand in the way of her telling the gospel either.
Claire leant forward onto her desk, covering her face with her hands as the full impact of the situation finally hit home. How can I continue in a relationship with Cameron if it means risking my commitment to serve God without compromise . . . she thought miserably, remembering her prayers for God’s wisdom concerning their relationship, I sought God’s will as towhether letting things grow with Cameron would glorify Him . . . I guess the answer is no. . .
Claire sat numb and unmoving for several moments as the implications of her realisation began to sink in. The merest thought of severing her future with Cameron swelled into a tidal wave of emotion so powerful that it threatened to drown her convictions, and she realised that if she were to have the strength to obey God she simply could not allow herself to think about it.
She marshalled her thoughts with an iron will and determined to completely shut out Cameron and all her feelings for him. She sat up and began to deal mechanically with the mail, making herself focus on what she should say to Tyrone at lunchtime, feeling all the while as though she were preparing for her own execution.
What has happened to me, she thought miserably, so that the opportunity I prayed for of witnessing to Tyrone has become only a dreaded duty? How could I have ever let a man take away the joy I have in Christ?
Julie Firth, the young physio who had been working with Tyrone, was just coming out of his cabin as Claire was going about to go in. Preoccupied with her own thoughts, Claire gave her no more than an automatic greeting as she passed her in the doorway.
“Didn’t think you were coming,” Tyrone said as Claire made room on the bedside table for the lunch tray.
She turned to look at him, “Why not? I said I would.”
“Yeah, but that was before you got in trouble.”
Claire halted, the tray in mid-air. “What are you talking about?” she asked, not so much feigning ignorance as buying enough time to figure out what to say. She’d had no intention of telling Tyrone anything about the repercussions of his complaints and it had never crossed her mind that he would have found out any other way.
“You getting blown up by Doc Alex and Chris for talking to me about religion. I never meant you to get in trouble or anything . . .” Tyrone’s forehead was puckered into a frown, “I didn’t think she’d take what I said that way. I’m really sorry.”
“Forget it,” she replied with a shrug, “It’s no big deal.”
“But Julie said you and Chris had a big blue and that Doc Alex was really angry - ”
“I wouldn’t worry about what Julie said. She wasn’t even there,” Claire took her juice and opened it with a nonchalance she was far from feeling, “Chris and I did have a heated argument in the foyer which Dr Alexander walked in on. He was certainly angry about that - and fair enough - it was pretty unprofessional.”
“But it was my fault that you got into trouble for talking to me. ”
“Not in the least. Dr Alexander was concerned I was forcing my beliefs on you - and that is something I shouldn’t do. That’s my fault Tyrone, not yours.”
His eyes widened in panic, “You’re not going to talk to me about God any more then? But I need you to - the Bible says I’ll go to hell - and I don’t know what to do! You got to help me!”
“If that’s what you want Ty, I’ll help you find the answers,” she answered, swallowing hard as she saw the tears in his eyes, “Have you still got the Bible?”
“Yeah.” He reached under his pillow and passed to her, “The cleaner pulled it out of the bin last night. That’s when I started reading it.”
Claire put down her juice and began to turn quickly through the pages of the Bible, her lunch completely forgotten.
“This is one of the best known passages in the Bible - it’s in the third chapter of the gospel written by John - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus himself did what we could never do by living a life that was perfect and acceptable to God, and then He took the punishment we deserve by dying on the cross.”
“But what do I do? I don’t understand.”
“It couldn’t be simpler, Ty, you just have to believe in Jesus. Believe that He is the Son of God who was sent to die for our sins, and that God raised Him from the dead so that those who believe in him might be saved. Here, in the verse before the one I just read in the Bible, Jesus says that just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so Jesus had to be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
"He’s referring to a time in the Old Testament when Moses was leading the God’s people through the desert and because they complained against God, as a punishment God sent venomous snakes that killed a lot of them. When Moses prayed for God’s help, God told him to make a snake out of bronze, and put it up on a pole so that anyone who was bitten could look at it and live.”
Claire turned out her palms in a question, “So how can just looking at a statue of a snake save someone from dying? It couldn’t - except that it was a miracle. If God says we can be saved from our sins by believing in Jesus, then that’s exactly what we have to do.”
“Just believe? That’s it?”
Claire nodded, “It doesn’t seem enough does it? People all around the world try to do incredible things to earn salvation, yet all we have to do is obey God and simply believe that salvation comes through faith in Jesus. It doesn’t add up to our way of thinking - but it’s how God works. Salvation is a free, undeserved gift to anyone who asks for it. Believe that he will do what he had promised, and start obeying him by living the life of disciple, and doing what he tells us in the Bible.”
“But I’m not like you, Claire,” Tyrone shook his head, his eyes grave, “I’m a really bad person . . . I’ve done terrible things . . . you’d never even talk to me if you knew half the stuff I’ve done . . . there’s no way I’ll ever be good enough.”
“No - but there is no way I’ll ever be good enough either - my only hope is relying on Jesus’ righteousness, his goodness. The Bible says we are all dead in our sins - there is no difference between a little bit dead and a lot dead - but when he saves us God gives us new life, we are born again with new hearts so that we can begin living lives that please God.
"I don’t know if you ever heard about the thief on the cross, a criminal who was crucified at the same time as Jesus - and that was a man so bad he deserved the death penalty - he simply asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom, and Jesus promised that that very day he would be with him in paradise.
"Keep reading your Bible, Tyrone, you’ll see that God has even forgiven murderers and thieves and prostitutes, and then used them to do great work for him. That was a big thing that the religious people of his time had against Jesus - he kept offering salvation and forgiveness of sins to those they called “bad” people.”
Claire paused, reflecting on the difference between Tyrone’s assessment of himself and that of so many of her unsaved friends who saw themselves as “good” people. They were perfectly satisfied with their comfortable lives and just had no concept that they too stood guilty in God’s eyes.
“You know, no-one has ever been too sinful to be saved by God, but it’s the people who think they are too good to need to repent who miss out.”
“I certainly don’t think that! But how can I know that God would save me?”
“Because he promises that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Look at this passage in the book of Acts,” Claire turned over the pages in the Bible and held it out to him, “When the people asked what they should do to be saved they were told 'Repent and be baptised, everyone of you, in the name of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' ”
And Jesus says here at the end of the book of Mark that 'whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.' We need to obey God, and trust him to carry out what he has promised.”
Tyrone leaned forward in concern, “But what’s the bit about being baptised? Mum and Dad never went to church - never said anything about me getting christened - does that mean I can’t be saved?”
“No, of course not. The thief on the cross I was telling you about before didn’t have time to be baptised before he died, yet he was certainly saved. The Bible is not talking about the kind of religious ceremony for babies that some people believe earns them salvation, but about a special way that God
gives believers to demonstrate that they have become his disciples and are going to obey what he tells them to do.
"When a believer is immersed under the water he is showing that he believes his old self has been buried with Christ, and then he is raised out of the water to represent that he has been raised to new life just like Jesus was raised from the dead. It helps us show in an outward way that we believe that our sins have been washed away by Christ’s death and resurrection - not that the baptism itself has saved us. Does that make sense?”
“I think so. It just doesn’t seem possible God could want to save me.”
“Take God at his word and trust him . . . try it and see. I mean, if you were one of those Israelites in the desert, dying from a snake bite you’d be pretty stupid not to try looking up at the bronze snake, wouldn’t you? Ask God to give you the faith to believe that he will do what he has promised.”
Claire glanced down at her watch and grimaced. She had been so involved in their conversation that it had felt as though time stood still, but obviously it hadn’t.
“I’m sorry - I really should go - I was meant to be over in the gym five minutes ago. There’s just so much more I could say. We’re not on our own when we try to follow Christ and begin to live his way, that’s why God wants us to be part of a church so we can learn about the Bible, and other Christians can help us and watch over us. But I can explain more about that later. Are you all right for now, Ty?”
“Yeah.” Tyrone watched her stand and walk to the door, and then called her back urgently. “How do I ask God to forgive me and save me? What do I do?”
“Just talk to him. God is everywhere - he can hear you even if you don’t say out loud what you want to say to him. Just ask him to forgive your sins, say sorry that you haven’t loved and obeyed him, and ask him to save you. Thank him that he sent Jesus to die for your sins, and ask him to help you to begin obeying him.”
Claire slipped her arm around his shoulders and gave him a squeeze. “It doesn’t even matter if you get the words all wrong, God knows what is in your heart anyway.”
Ty nodded thoughtfully, and when he assured her he had no more questions, Claire let herself out of his room, her head dizzy with emotion. His receptiveness to the gospel was overwhelming, but so too was the feeling of responsibility and fear that she might not have said everything she should have, or might have said it in the wrong way.
“Please save him, God, please save him, ” she breathed over and over as she ran up the path towards the gym. Foremost in her mind was the strong assurance that she had done the right thing in defying Cameron. She’d had the opportunity to throw a drowning man a lifeline - whether Tyrone grabbed it or not was beyond her control - but Cameron had insisted that she was to leave him to sink.
She would shortly bear the full consequences for her actions, but for the moment Claire was thankful that neither Cameron nor Chris would be in the gym that afternoon, giving her a vital couple of hours to gather her defences.
Cameron had clearly shown that he was not working with her to promote the gospel, and she would have to be on her guard against him, although she knew her greatest enemy in that was her own strong feelings for him.
© R Brown 2005