My Three Pauls
One of the most important and influential people that persuaded me to faith was a man by the name of Paul.
He knocked at my door, the one that was not really a door, but a giant piece of plywood we would slide over to get through because we were renovating, and doors were expensive.
It was more important to be able to pay the heating bill of that massive three-story home we shared with a flock of bats in the attic, not nearly as pretty as a flock of seagulls. I’m not sure they call them a flock, but a herd of bats doesn’t sound right either.
Those winter bills alone kept us sunk, the way the house was, a tad to the right, impossible to play an honest game of marbles on the hardwood floors, a place where I often felt like I was losing mine.
On the darkest days of winter, when the chill of the air crept under the cracks and was nearly as cold as the comments we made to each other, Paul knocked.
He was a black man or man of color and a Jehovah’s Witness without the tie. Somehow he always managed to show up on our doorstep in times of need with divine intervention and encouraging words.
I let him in because I believe the spirit of God knows no color and you can’t deny the power of an invisible light that shines so bright from certain people that you can feel it warm your heart, as well as a living room covered in plastic.
Paul sat on the couch and talked about faith and fruit and Jesus. He shared with me about the things that are undeniably evident in the lives of those who love God.
Love, joy, peace, gentleness, and kindness.
Self-control and patience have been the hardest for me to find, always buried at the bottom of the fruit bowl that sometimes sits on tables, impossible to paint, because it’s hardly ever seen.
I’ve had days and months and weeks like that.
Later that same year, I met another Paul, the homeless man who wore a worn- out olive green army jacket and came to the soup kitchen where I volunteered to bring my family famous baked beans.
Paul, who I bummed a smoke from just before he told me everything I had ever done and promised me that God had plans of good for the unspeakable things I’d done and have experienced in my life.
Listening to great-uncle Vinny and watching the tears well as he told the story of watching men dive to their death off the precipice in Okinawa, it occurred to me why I feel such extreme love for this old man that I’ve only seen maybe a handful of times in my life. Our spirits are connected.
We get each other.
And occasionally, we get God.
In different ways, on different paths, we have both come face to face with what forgiveness and mercy and grace look like. Tormented for years by images we can’t get out of our heads, but then this light enters and shines brighter and hotter than any summer day. A light we may not have fully understood while we were young and standing in stain-glassed cathedrals.
Something so radiant and cleansing and inconceivable that all we can do is celebrate with heartfelt thankfulness.
And that makes me think of the other Paul. The Beatle.
The one who sings one line and soothes my soul. Maybe I’m amazed by the way you love me all the time…
Maybe I’m just amazed by Jesus and the God who loves us all…