Let Us Go Into the
House of the Lord
A story originally written as part of a high school collaboration with KSU professors to see how prepared the seniors were for college.
Word count: 2646
This is one of Joseph's final drafts from that collaboration. His first draft was returned with the feedback "This is a sermon. What we want is an essay." With that, he started over using the key point of the original draft, and this version was born.
The college professors were more than impressed, and Joseph's high school English teacher shared the first two paragraphs with the class. No one was happy when he stopped.
Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord
I was overjoyed despite being awoken so early. It was Sunday, the day that I could go to church and visit God at His house. I scarfed down my breakfast and ran back upstairs, eager to spend time with God. I struggled to get dressed in such a rush, but I could not contain myself. In my mind, I sang “Awesome God” by Rich Mullins. I nearly crashed down the stairs in excitement, only to find that my mother was not ready to go yet. She asked me to take the dog outside, but even after catering to our beloved pet, my mother was still not ready. I flopped in front of the computer and played solitaire until she was finished. At long last, we drove off, bound for church.
As we arrived at the church, a large crowd stood outside the doorway, frozen. A few trembled, and my curiosity peaked as I climbed out of the car. The lights inside were off, and the air felt dead. Not even the slightest rustle of leaves could be heard. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd, pulse spiking. A small, handwritten sign was taped to the door. I felt my knees slam into asphalt, a blood-curdling ring assaulting my sanity, and I doubled over in despair, weeping. The sign read: “You have disrespected Me one too many times. You are no longer welcome in My house. –God”.
My head jerked upright when I heard someone call me. I looked around, dazed. The air was fragrant and fresh, quite unlike what I breathed a minute before. It was puzzling that the bright morning light vanished and I felt carpet beneath me. Failing to gain my bearings, I clutched about in the dark, terrified, yet somehow at peace. Suddenly, it clicked; I was in God’s house.
I heard someone light a match behind me, and I quickly spun around to find a single candle standing on the table in the back. The immediate area surrounding that flickering flame was dully painted in red and orange undertones, but nothing beyond that light could be seen. A shallow breath escaped my lips as I shuddered, a sudden chill overtaking me.
A voice called out again. I immediately recognized the voice, and I responded, “Here I am, Lord.”
The room grew colder and colder, and God asked, “Do you love Me?” The sign on the door outside flashed through my mind, and I hesitated, heart constricted. Progressively, the temperature fell to a bone chilling freeze. My breath hazed my vision, and I fell to my knees as my blood abandoned my legs to keep more vital organs functioning. The tiny fire began to fade, the room growing colder by the second. Again, God asked, “Do you love Me?”
Raspy sobs escaped my throat, but no words could be formed. I clenched my eyes shut tight and screamed within myself, “Yes! Jesus, You know I love You!”
The light was smaller than a snowflake in my peripheral vision, and I heard God say urgently, “Come to Me.” I felt my body fall into hypothermic shock, and spastic flails overtook me. Icy tears burned like fire, and a final, desperate plea sliced through my psyche.
“Jesus! Save me!”
Instantly, the air reverted back to room temperature, and I felt no more pain. I felt sweat and tears soaking my face and neck, but there was no pain. A small candle stood before me, and I felt compelled to grab it. As I took hold of the torch, strength surged through my veins, and I jumped up to my feet.
A fragrant aroma filled my nostrils, and joy came over me. God had, once again, come to the rescue, even in the most bizarre of circumstances.
“Come here. I want to show you something,” God said, and I followed the sound of His voice to the middle of the chairs to my left. “Sit down.” I sat. I heard a plethora of voices and sounds fighting for my attention, but none could be comprehended properly. I zeroed in on one, the feminine voice of a middle-aged woman. She talked of the ins and outs of her new job, her pride in her children, and several questions were projected for me to answer. I grew increasingly agitated as I failed to focus on her ramblings as more and more people seemed to be trying to communicate with me. In the midst of the chaotic and overlapping conversations, I heard God trying to say something to me, but it was impossible to understand what He was saying due to the constant talking of others. The more I tried to drown out everyone but God, the harder and harder it was to hear Him.
I pulled my hair, vehement, but I did not stand up. These people would not shut up. I asked them to be quiet, but they quickly went on the defensive and talked all the louder. As my knuckles turned white under the faint glow of the candle, I sprang from the chair, ready to put some people in their place. But the second I left the seat, the Sanctuary became dead silent.
I stood in the dark, letting my anger dissipate. After a few minutes, God said, “Why didn’t you answer Me?”
A hammer pounded into my chest as I scrambled for words. Finally, I said, “Other people were talking, and they distracted me from hearing You.”
I heard God call from another part of the room, saying, “Come to Me, I want to show you something.”
I saw the door to the Sanctuary in the dim light, and anger again poured over me. I saw several people, mostly adults, surprisingly, running in and out of the door constantly. I heard the Pastor preaching, but there seemed to be no end to the abuse of the doorway. Eventually, the room grew silent again, and I saw a young man get up from the far end of the back row of chairs on the right side of the Sanctuary. He made his way to door, opened it halfway, and looked back to the altar. His head slowly turned back to the door, his misty eyes stopping and searching mine for a brief moment before turning away. I fell to my knees, shoulders heaving. I flinched and shrieked when a gunshot seemed to explode point blank from my ear.
I heard weeping, and it felt as if someone had blown my chest apart with a shotgun. That man had committed suicide, and God Himself was weeping for him. When I finally regained enough composure to lift my head, I saw that people were still running in and out of the Sanctuary. I screamed at the top of my lungs, rage overtaking me. But there was no one in sight.
Again I heard the voice of the Lord, and this time He led me to the pulpit. I faced the congregation, and I was amazed by what I saw. Nearly every seat in the Sanctuary was occupied, and everyone stood with their eyes closed and hands raised in worship. They seemed to truly love God and they appeared as if they were in total surrender to Him. But God said, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God’” (Mark 7:7 (New Living Translation)).
I looked upon the worshipers again, and I saw the blood of children on their hands and evil all over their faces. My fury grew as the room faded again to the few feet enveloping the candle. I rubbed my eyes and asked, “God, what are you trying to tell me?”
“Do you still not get it?” He replied. “Why is your heart so hard?”
Sobs clogged my throat as I heard God lead me out of the Sanctuary and into the vestibule. It was pitch black here as well, not even the slightest light dared to shine through the windows. The rubicund glow of the candle created an eerie atmosphere, and fear gripped my heart. I heard a maniacal cackle, like that of a demon. I uttered a ragged prayer, and I felt claws immediately clutch my shoulder. I froze, and I saw a bloody dagger held out next to the candle.
“God’s not here, you blind fool!” A raspy, daunting echo resonated within my mind. “You’re not good enough for Him, and you never will be!” I felt the knife press against my neck, but talons sunk deep into my shoulder when I tried to recoil.
“Y-y-you’re a li-“
“What was that?” The demonic voice mocked. “You’ll have to speak up! Or are you finally realizing that God doesn’t love you?” The phantom terrorizing me nicked the side of my chin with the stiletto, and pressed it harder against my neck. “Don’t you get it? No one ever loved you! You’ll never amount to anything, and it’s pointless to even try! Give up now, and I’ll let you live!”
All I could do was cry. I trembled under the power of this evil that threatened to devour me, and it leaned forward and flicked its tongue against my ear. “Aw, look at the little crybaby!” Then all jocularity left its countenance, and it spit to the side. “You’re pathetic. I’m gonna have so much fun mutilating every fiber of your be-“
“Enough!” A commanding shout stopped the demon cold in its tracks. “Back off!”
The demon licked its lips at this intruder’s bravado. “Ah, Michael. What makes you think you have power here? You know He abandoned them!”
I was blinded by fear and could see nothing, but I heard the sound of rushing wind and scraping metal, and I felt the claws sink ever deeper. “I command you in the name of Jesus, leave!”
A petrifying howl nearly drove me mad, and I heard, “Let me have this one! He isn’t strong enough to defy me!”
I heard no movement, and Michael merely repeated himself. The knife dug deeper into the nape of my neck, but as soon as I felt it, it disappeared. Without claws stuck in my shoulder, I collapsed onto the floor.
I heard frantic footsteps, and strong hands lifted me to my feet. I was reassured that everything was okay, but I continued to weep. Suddenly, arms wrapped around me so securely and so delicately that I knew this was Jesus. My arms wrapped around Him and I cried into His shoulder. He took me by the hand back into the Sanctuary, and I fell at the altar, praying.
I lay there for what seemed like an eternity, but God comforted me the way only He could, and I felt like I had just been redeemed all over again.
“Will you follow Me?” God asked, and I immediately shouted, “I will follow You to the ends of the earth!”
Then I felt a strong urge to walk out to the parking lot, despite what had just transpired. I hesitated, and I heard God inquire again, “Will you follow Me?” At this, I ran down the center aisle of the Sanctuary, but I stumbled several times along the way. I stopped halfway through the walkway, and looked around to see what I was tripping over.
I was utterly repulsed by what I discovered: garbage and litter of all sorts was scattered throughout God’s house, the Holy of Holies. Anger again swelled within me at people’s disrespect for God Almighty.
After shaking off the shock of the trash, I continued to walk out to the parking lot. I stopped on the landing just outside the door, and I witnessed another tragedy: gossip and slander of every kind flowed like the Nile River from person to person. Not a single one refused to go along with the perverse speech and defamation of others, whether it be true or not. Furious, I screamed, “What is wrong with you people?” and ran back into the church.
When I went to grab the handle to the Sanctuary door, a draft blew the candle out, but now light seeped in through the crack between the doors. I threw them open, and my heart sank like lead when I beheld God’s Holy Place. The walls were dilapidated, rubble and loose debris tossed by the wind. Sections of the roof were missing, and there was not a single square inch anywhere that was not coated with dust. The windows were broken and countless shards of glass were scattered in along every wall. Or at least where every wall should have been. The fabric on the chairs were ripped and torn, stuffing spilling out of several. All sorts of garbage could have been scavenged through. Graffiti covered what little bit of standing structure remained, and the altar was stained with blood. Light shone through all the holes in the wall, exposing this place for what it had become.
I pushed my way back through the debris to the altar, and I fell face first before God, weeping bitterly. “Oh, God, what has happened to Your house?”
God’s response was filled with sorrow. “My people left Me to follow their own devices. They refuse to listen to Me, and they talk to each other instead of talking to Me. They distract themselves and others by disrupting My service.” The hopelessness in the man’s eyes who shot himself flashed before my eyes. “They claim to love Me, but they refuse to acknowledge Me and what I said. They pretend to worship Me, but they only care about their appearances. They constantly lie and gossip, slandering others and refusing to accept them even though I have. Because of their corrupt hearts, some have turned away from Me. They murder with their tongues, and they uproot the seed I have planted. They don’t love Me, and they leave My house in shambles, saying, ‘It’s not my problem! Someone else will take care of it.’
“My house is a place of prayer, thanksgiving, healing, and salvation, but My people have turned it into a den of thieves! They have destroyed My house, and they indulge in every kind of evil.”
Unable to breathe, I lifted my head toward Heaven and screamed, “God! Don’t abandon us! We have all screwed up so much! Forgive us of our sins, and of our father’s sins! Cleanse us, and bring us back to You!”
The next time I opened my eyes, I found myself at the foot of the landing before the door to the church. A crowd of people surrounded me, all staring at the door, petrified. I followed their eyes to the sign on the door. It was cut in two, right down the middle.
Suddenly, the Spirit of God came over me, and I jumped up and addressed those assembled before the house of God.
“What is our number one priority?”
Someone in the back spoke up. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
“What is our second?”
A young girl shouted, “Love your neighbor as yourself!”
“Have any of us actually done that?” I asked, and everyone looked away, some scratching their heads, others hiding their faces, and others appearing deep in thought.
“If God had to leave a sign on the door to His house to let us know, don’t you think we really screwed this thing up?” Several nodded. “Alright, then. We need to repent of our sin and turn back to God. This is a house of prayer and salvation. God lives here. Let us go into the house of the Lord with contrite hearts, and let’s pray that He helps us get it right this time.”