It was a nice day, and I had no air conditioner in my car, so I had the windows down, and the wind whipped through my busted up Volvo station wagon as I made the trek from Albany to Columbus. As I flipped through the radio stations, I heard a deep, quavering drawl over the crackling airwaves.
"Sooooooooouls!" I heard the speaker yell. He brought to mind the typical Southern preacher, dressed in a suit, holding a handkerchief to wipe his brow of the sweat he dredged up by shouting fire-and-brimstone. He drew out the word as I had never heard before, and he panted in between breaths before continuing. "Have we lost the vision?!"
I usually get a kick out of listening to preachers. Those who are bold enough to tackle the airwaves are usually either shameless money grubbers or genuinely confident men of God. I figured this man was the former, and I have to confess that I was excited about finding the fallacies in his scriptural logic as he talked about the undeserved favor of God as if it were a ticket to unlimited favors from God. But to my surprise, the "vision" sentence turned out to be a the main point of the message rather than a sales pitch. And as I kept listening, what started as a cynical activity became one of the most convicting messages I'd heard in awhile.
I imagine this pastor as a little on the heavy side. I might have gotten this image from his rumbling voice, or the fact that it took him awhile to catch his breath between sentences. But it also might have been that three of his stories had to do with encounters with waitresses at restaurants like "The Sizzler." From his patterns of speech, I inferred that he was not a school-educated man, but he boasted a vast knowledge of King James scripture, which he quoted at will.
His greatest attribute was the feeling with which he delivered his very simple illustrations. During one encounter at the Sizzler, the waitress found out he was a pastor and began crying uncontrollably. On a different occasion another waitress began sharing her problems with him. In each instance, this pastor was convinced of a few things:
1. People's outward manifestations are only representative of what's going on inside them. People are walking souls, and there is an eternal part of us that lives on forever.
2. This eternal part of us has been marred by sin and beaten down by the world, and we have the remedy in Jesus to heal the brokenhearted.
His voice creaked and cracked, moving from throaty climax to deep, soft valley and back up again. My car radio finally went out of range, but the impact of that message lives on in my life. Whenever I begin to be selfish, thinking that the Christian life should be consumed by anything else besides recognizing souls and giving them the remedy for their condition, I hear that ghoulish voice haunting me through the static, reminding me of that which is eternally important.
Souls. Have you lost the vision?