Pastor Ray had asked him what he believed, and Michael was at a loss for words.
I don't know what came over me, but all of a sudden I had an insight as to what Michael believed and exactly how it was preventing him from getting close to God. It must have been the Holy Spirit working through me because I had not fully considered ahead of time what I ended up sharing at that moment. I asked Michael if it was okay for me to share what I thought he believed, and I told him he could jump in and correct me at anytime. He told me to go ahead.
So, I told Pastor Ray that because Michael subscribed to the idea of karma, that he thought his cancer was some sort of karmic punishment for all the bad things he'd done in his life. Michael was nodding his head in agreement at this point. I then went on to say that a terrible idea had been put in his head by his sister-in-law several months ago when she came to see him. Under the auspices of visiting him while he was sick, she came in to our home, questioned him about his relationship with me, and asked him if he'd ever considered that the cancer was his karma for breaking up with his previous girlfriend to marry me. You see, his SIL is BFFs with his ex-girlfriend and she has never approved of our relationship, and she has never forgiven us. This caused some turmoil when it happened, but on this day I realized that he'd taken her mean-spirited words to heart.
Ray then explained the difference between karma and God's grace and mercy. How when we enter into a relationship with God through Christ we are forgiven of our sins past and future. Christ purchased us that forgiveness when He died on the cross, and that he defeated death when he rose again. Because of that we will enjoy eternal life with Him. Death really has no hold on one who is in Christ. That's it in a nutshell. (If you would like more detailed information, you can check out this series of Bible studies.)
He asked Michael to consider that, and he pointed out how the idea of karma keeps one in bondage to their sins from life to life. That it's somehow up to the individual to work off their sins - even if they have no recollection of what they are. He contrasted the effort required and the punitive aspect of the karmic system with God's gift of forgiveness for those who believe in His Son Jesus. It was a good education for Michael. Pastor Ray prayed with us and left Michael to think about things.
In the next couple of weeks, we talked some more about karma versus Christianity. Michael read a little booklet about Christianity my parents had left for him. On a ride up to UCLA one morning, he told me that he had been praying. He sweetly said, "I'm really trying, Honey." It was during this time that Michael had to spend five days in the hospital. When I wasn't with him at the hospital, I was staying nearby at his sister's.
I had been talking to his sister about his faith issues, and we talked about how he believed that his cancer was his karmic punishment for breaking up with his ex-girlfriend. She thought that was as ridiculous as I did, and while her beliefs are somewhat different than mine, she was happy to talk to him about why his thinking was erroneous. She had some really good points and examples to share with him that poked more holes in his thinking. Michael really respected Cathie's opinions and arguments, and I think they went a long way towards the decision he ended up making.
When Ray came back to see us on January 18th, he asked Michael if he had any questions or things he wanted to discuss. Michael said he didn't. He said he was ready to make a commitment and he told Ray, "Just tell me what I have to do. I want to go where my wife is going." He was crying at this point. It was such an emotional experience for all of us. We held his hands and Pastor Ray led Michael in prayer. Now we were all crying! It was a good cleansing cry - the release of carrying such a heavy burden.
In my opinion, that was the most significant day in Michael's life up to that point, and it was the best decision he ever made.
Anticipating that Michael probably had some questions, Pastor Ray had brought with him a DVD about Jesus. After he left, we watched parts of it together. It was organized into questions and answers from theologians like Ravi Zacharias and Lee Strobel. Michael was able to choose the questions he was most interested in, and then listen to the responses.
From that day on, I saw Michael's simple childlike faith in Jesus become more and more evident. He was too tired and weak to spend time reading the Bible or anything else for that matter, but we watched DVDs of Pastor Bayless together. Michael began to lead us in prayer. His prayers were simple and heartfelt.
He even acknowledged his newfound faith with family and friends when they came to visit. Some were Christians, too, and they rejoiced with us and we prayed together. Others were atheists, and Michael had the nerve to tell them that he was "becoming more religious". Maybe they thought he was crazy, but they didn't show it. Instead they were understanding and respectful. When some of his cousins came for a visit, he asked if we could all pray together. And on the day we sat in Dr. K's office with our mothers, and got the horrible news that there was nothing more he could do for us, Michael led the four of us in praying the Lord's Prayer.
When his good friend Eric came for a visit one day a couple of weeks before he passed, Michael asked him how he came to Jesus. Michael knew Eric had been raised in a Jewish home and he was curious about his conversion. Eric said that he'd always known there was something about Jesus, and when he was a teenager his Christian friends shared their faith with him and he accepted Christ. Then Michael shared that when he was a little boy Jesus seemed to be everywhere to him. If he went under the water, Jesus was there. If he looked up at the sky, Jesus was there, too.
I praise God that when Michael "looked up" on January 18th, Jesus was there. And when he breathed his last breath on March 7th that Jesus was there, too. When my grief weighs me down, I remind myself that Michael is waiting for me in the present Heaven, and we will have all of eternity on the New Earth to make up for the time that's been lost here. It's a comfort I would not have known if Michael's spiritual journey hadn't ended at the foot of the Cross.