Only One Life

I avoid “Christianese” like the plague. I can speak it fluently, but it’s not preachingmy native language. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bonafide Jesus freak. It’s just that those who speak code seldom reach anyone but themselves. Think of the street corner preacher, shouting, “Wo unto ye!” Not a lot of people stop and say, “Forsooth! Art thou addressing me?”

And yet, when a heart is ready to hear, it can hear in any language.

The Institute of the Arts was a tiny academy offering classes in dance, drama, music, and art. And I was its new Artistic Director. I was way too young, but that didn’t matter because I was 20-something and knew everything.

We occupied the middle floor of a three storey building on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. The bottom floor was home to The Church of the Highway.

It was also home to the restrooms.

I stopped by with some supplies the Sunday before we opened, and went downstairs to use the men’s. As I entered the shoebox lobby, I heard a painfully un-tuned piano being pounded, and peeked through the church’s doorway. Mrs. Potter was just finishing leading the Rev. Potter in a final hymn.

Rev. Potter got up and welcomed the congregation (Mrs. Potter), then led them (her) in a prayer and proceeded to preach loudly and fervently, rolling his r’s and pounding the pulpit, while Mrs. Congregation shouted hallelujahs.

I ducked into the restroom. There was a plaque on the wall that read, “Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last” (C. T. Studd). I was not a believer at the time because, as I said, I already knew everything. So I took the plaque down and put it in a drawer.

That was a proclamation of war. Every day Rev. Potter would put the plaque back up. And every day I would take it down. Sometimes several times a day.

Meanwhile, The Church of the Highway was running out of money. A congregation with only one member can’t last forever. Neither can an arts academy with only a few dozen students. Rev. Potter must have been losing confidence.

I know I was.

More and more, my smoke-and-mirrors sense of purpose was beginning to fail. Who was I? Why was I? There had to be more to life than me. My foundation of self was giving way and I was starting to fall through to the floor below. So, I started reading the Bible.

One night, after reading the words, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3), I rushed downstairs 5f27b753a95b2b1ccbfec8cabdc3fd15and pulled Rev. Potter’s plaque off the wall. But I didn’t put it in the drawer. I held it to my heart and recited, “Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” And then I cried. Because as corny and religious as the words were, I’d finally realized they were true.

I’ve never doubted my purpose since then.

So thank you, Rev. Potter. Your congregation has two members now.

But you have to get that piano tuned!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Only One Life

  1. Beautiful story, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gerrymackrell says:

    Each of us need a little epiphany.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jon says:

    You often make me smile. At 62 & 5/6ths, I find out something new that I don’t know every day. Twenty-somethings don’t have a monopoly on self assurance. At least now I am learning to ask for guidance. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL! What a fun story. Thanks, I enjoyed reading that. I imagine the original Christianese may have been a bit colorful. I think of fishermen, rough around the edges, likely cursing up a storm in… Aramaic or perhaps Hebrew. I have no way of knowing of course, but I am fairly certain they weren’t speaking the King James, even though that is obviously the only right language, the very language the Apostle Paul used…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. I was saved as a youngster (9), but God has put little reminders like this in my way to lead me back many times.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks. .although I know that I probably slip into Christianese, I make a great effort to stay away from it and I make an effort to speak language that people who do not go to church would understand. And yet, I am sure that even churchgoers do not really understand it either. It’s just pushing buttons and assuming people know what we are talking about.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great story. Thanks for sharing it. As one who cringes at all things hyper-religious, this is just a great reminder that God can and does use anything to get His point across.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You were quite the rascal back in the day! Thank you for sharing this memory as part of your walk of faith. Out of tune pianos always seemed to make me sound better….like I was in tune with it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great quote: “And yet, when a heart is ready to hear, it can hear in any language.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A true Holy Spirit moment! Thanks for sharing your story. You just never know when you’re going to “get” the sign. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jeff says:

    That is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This was wonderful, MItch… your blogs seldom make me cry, nor do I cry easily, but this one came close! Priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks. That put a smile on my face. It sorta looked like this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That one sentence did it?!
    “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” Or am I taking you too literally?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jennie says:

    What a wonderful post! Thank you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  16. gpavants says:

    Dear Mitch,

    I have had that battle with my dad. I am a Christian but too much Christianese can turn people away, yet God does speak gently to get us on track. Thank Him for grace,


    Liked by 1 person

  17. Olúṣèyí says:

    This is extremely beautiful. Thanks for liking my post so I could find you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I look forward to your posts because they deal with crucial issues with wit and wisdom. Thanks, Mitch, for sharing your gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. smzang says:

    Super special!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. rdwlker says:

    “It was also home to the restrooms” has to be one of the funniest sentences I’ve ever read. Lol fantastic story

    Liked by 1 person

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