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Religion, like politics, is a personal matter

In this Sept. 3, 2017, file photo, a man holds a bible during service at Christ United Church in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Cypress, Texas.
In this Sept. 3, 2017, file photo, a man holds a bible during service at Christ United Church in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Cypress, Texas. AP Photo

It was a Saturday morning and my wife was running the vacuum cleaner when the doorbell rang.

“Who was that?” I asked when she returned to the den.

“Two women wanting to come in and read the Bible to us,” she sighed as she resumed her work.

It’s spring again, and like the swallows coming back to Capistrano, the door-to-door evangelists are on the move.

I’m sure those who tread the streets of America to spread the gospel prompt mixed reactions from residents whose meals or other activities are interrupted by the doorbell’s urgent command to “Answer the door!”

Religion, like politics, is a personal matter for many of us.

We wonder why the uninvited caller stopped at our door. Were they assuming that we’re “heathen” and un-churched? Or if we might be endangering our souls by belonging to the wrong theological group or denomination? Or if we’re “lukewarm” church members who need to have our spiritual fires re-kindled?

A favorite sister, now deceased, always welcomed door-to-door evangelical salesmanship. A widow living alone, she loved company, conversation and God. When door-to-door evangelists came calling, she treated them royally.

She listened patiently while they read from their Bibles, occasionally interrupting with a heartfelt “Amen!” Then she would reach over and pick up her Bible from a nearby table and read some of her favorite selections to the startled callers.

Afterward, she would lead the strangers into her kitchen and serve them a delicious dessert, perhaps a generous slice of cake or a serving of her specialty, sweet potato sonker topped with vanilla ice cream.

I doubt that many of today’s door bell missionaries are so graciously welcomed. And I imagine that some have doors slammed in their faces. But far worse fates befell spreaders of the gospel in Biblical times as they sought to obey Jesus’ instructions to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Friends forever

At the beach, two little girls worked diligently on a message that they were writing on the sand. In 2-foot high letters, they wrote “FRIENDS FOREVER!”

As I walked on the beach later, the girls were gone. It was check-out day, and they no doubt had been called in by impatient parents and, with a quick hug and teary eyes, had said goodbye and gone their separate ways.

Meanwhile, the incoming tide had eaten away at “Friends Forever” and only the tops of the letters remained.

I thought of the lingering lines in “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”:

“The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

So, the moving finger of the incoming tide nibbled away at “FRIENDS FOREVER” until not a trace remained by nightfall.

Who knows the fate of such childhood friendships formed by accident during a beach weekend ? I would guess that few such fleeting encounters survive the tides of time. But who can say for sure?

For example, my Florida daughter recently joined 11 UNC sorority sisters for a two-day reunion at Figure Eight Island. Time had not dulled the relationships.

“We talked,” she wrote later. “We talked from the moment we were unloading our cars. We talked at dinner, then slept briefly. We talked at breakfast, on long walks, then in a big circle of chairs on the porch. We slept only briefly.

“It was open, honest conversation, non stop. We talked about kids, relationships, illness, work, and, of course, about memories. Nothing said was judgmental because we’ve known each other through our best and worst of times.”

That’s how it is with friends forever.