Just last weekend, I was on my way to visit my good friend Lisa in North Carolina. I call her Lisa the Lioness because she is so fiercely protective of me at all times. I love her to death, and she treats me like a brother. Or as a lioness, one of her cubs.
When I got to her house, she came out the front door and greeted me with a hug. "Bill, you got here early."
"A little bit. Is that a problem?"
She smiled and gave me a light punch on the shoulder. "Of course not, I'm so happy to see you. And I have a really big favor to ask you."
"My husband Ernie is out of town on a job, and I just wondered if you'd take me to a movie."
"Would I? Absolutely! You know how much I love movies, need you even ask?"
"Well, there's a catch. It's only playing in one theater that's 60 miles from here. I can't drive, so..."
"Consider it done. What's the movie?"
"GOD'S NOT DEAD."
"Never heard of it."
"What? You've never heard of it? Mr. Movie, the man who sees everything, and you've never even heard of it."
"OK, guilty. Sue me."
Lisa patted me on the back. "I'm just teasing you. The thing is, there's a show today in two hours I was hoping to go see. I've been wanting to see this movie for a long time, ever since I read about it."
I nodded. "Well, its a Sunday, and that sounds like a faith based movie. So most of the audience would just be getting out of church and won't go to the early matinee."
"We need to go now."
"Are you ready?" I asked.
"Just have to grab my purse." She opened the front door and her small dog Bailey came zooming out and made a beeline for me. He was jumping in the air, and when I bent down to pet him, he peed on my shoe.
"Bailey, no!" Lisa ran over and took a wet wipe out of her purse. I grabbed it and wiped off my shoe, but still gave Bailey the attention he deserved. "He gets excited sometimes."
"No worries, I love Bailey."
"I know you do." She took Bailey inside and we got in the car to leave. We had a nice drive to the theater, and caught up on what had been going in each other's lives. Lisa also filled me in on the little bit she knew about the movie. From what she said, I thought we were going to see a documentary.
When we arrived a the theater, I was very surprised by how crowded the parking lot was. "It looks pretty busy. I betcha that the majority of the crowd is here to see the new movie DIVERGENT."
We walked inside to find the box office, and as we entered a Cashier at the box office shouted, 'GOD'S NOT DEAD" is down to the front row only."
Lisa smiled and looked at me. "First show won't be busy, huh?"
"Wow," I said. "I really called that one wrong. Well, you want to see something else instead?"
She looked confused. "No, I want to see this movie. I don't care where we sit."
"Well I'm not picky, but I sat in the front row once years ago, and my neck was very sore afterwards."
She shrugged. "You can see something else if you want to." I stepped up to the box office and bought us two tickets for GOD'S NOT DEAD.
Inside the auditorium, it was very full, but not quite as bad as we'd been led to believe. We found two seats in the fourth row. Definitely a lot closer than I like to sit, but a whole lot better than the front row.
The movie was surprisingly moving and not the least bit preachy. Kevin Sorbo plays an atheist college Professor who forces all of his students on day one of school to sign a contract agreeing that God is Dead. But one student believes in God and refuses to sign. So he is goaded into making a cogent case for the existence of God. The classroom scenes had a David and Goliath feeling to them, and the sold out audience was very much into the movie. It had been a long time since I'd been in a movie that had such an emotional impact on the crowd. Lisa cried several times. I felt a lump in my throat.
After the movie, we both went to the restroom. I could see that the line to the Ladies Room was much longer than the Men's Room. When I was finished, I stepped outside and waited for Lisa. A young man was sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against the building, and he seemed upset.
"Did you see that movie?" he asked me. I've grown used to strangers starting conversations with me.
"GOD'S NOT DEAD. Yes, and I really liked it."
He shook his head, agitated. "It confused me. I mean, come on..."
"What confused you about it?"
"My parents were both teachers, and they don't believe in God. And they raised me that way, even though I always had questions."
"What kind of questions?"
"Is there a God? Is there a Heaven? Is there an afterlife?"
"I believe so, yes."
"Based on what, exactly?"
"Based on faith. I believe, simple as that."
"No way. It can't be that simple."
"But it is."
"You expect me to dig through the Holy Bible and try to find the answers? To interpret what they write and figure it all out?" His agitation level was clearly rising.
"Just check out John 3:16. That's all you need to know."
"What, one verse?"
"It pretty much sums things up. It's the foundation of my faith."
He came to his feet and got in my face, shouting. "But I've done some really bad things in my life. I've stolen, I've slept with whores, I drink, I smoke, I've done all kinds of drugs!"
His yelling got louder. "What do you mean it doesn't matter? You telling me I can do all of that and still be saved?"
"Yep. That's what I believe."
He grabbed my arm. "But you--"
Lisa walked up and interrupted brusquely. "What's going on here? Is there a problem?" She walked between me and this young man, forcing him to let go of me.
I smiled. "Everything is fine. We were just chatting." I took out my wallet and pulled out a business card. "I may not be best qualified. If you really do want answers, call this man. He's my friend Pastor Rex, and he will be more than happy to explain everything in terms you can understand."
The young man took the card from me. Tears filled his eyes. "Why? Why are you helping me?"
"Seems like the right thing to do. Please call Pastor Rex, tell him Bill Thomas referred you.
The young man put his hand out, and I took it for a quick shake. "Thank you. Really, I appreciate this."
"No problem, my pleasure."
Lisa and I walked away. She gave me a long, hard look. "I walked up and thought you were being harassed by one of 'Bill's people' like I read about in your blogs."
"Nope, it was just a guy who was touched by the movie and wanted answers. It's good when a movie can make you feel and think."
"I'm glad that was the case, for his sake. Because no one messes with my Bill." She put her arm around my waist and gave me a squeeze. I love Lisa, and I loved seeing this movie with her.