John Williams and I sat under the shade of a canvas canopy outside the Dawn On The Amazons Restaurant in Iquitos. We’d been sitting there for about an hour or so. Sipping coffee as the jungle sun bore down on the town with a vengeance. We’d been discussing life in general when the words “I don’t believe in fairy tales” erupted from his mouth.
The remark surprised me.
We hadn’t said anything about religion. The past few minutes I’d told him how the heat had been affecting me since I’d arrived back in town after a prolonged stay in Atlanta. (Normally, I stay at my sister’s house outside Atlanta just a month or so during my periodic trips back to The States, but minor health problems forced this old geezer to remain longer this time)
Normally, he’s an easy going guy. Not one to get excited easily. So, as I studied his face, I tried to figure out why he had suddenly blurted out, “I don’t believe in fairy tales.” Not a hint of a smile on his ruddy face.
“Where did that come from, John?” I asked.
He opened up to me. Saying that religion was force-fed to him by an intolerant father when he was a small boy in rural Arkansas. And that he vowed back then that once he left home he would stay clear of anything religious.
“I don’t consider myself a religious person, John,” I said.
He gave me a puzzled look. “You’re always talking about how much you depend on God, Leo.”
“I can’t imagine a day without Him.”
I went on to explain that the first thing I do when my feet hit the floor every morning is to thank God for the gift of another day. And as I shave and prepare for another day, I sing songs such as This Little Light Of Mine, Little Brown Church In The Wildwood, and If You’re Happy And You Know It Then Your face Will Surely Show It.
“Sounds to me that you’re religious, Leo.”
I didn’t want to get into a discussion with him about semantics. I’ve known John for several years. And this was the first time he’d allowed the topic of my faith to come up. I knew he admired the charity work I’ve done down here for some time. And I wanted to carry our talk about the difference between being religious and having a relationship with God and His Son to the next level.
I also knew that insisting that we do it now might be a mistake.
So, when the bell of the nearby Catholic Church struck twelve, I bid farewell to my friend and began making my way toward my house some twenty blocks away. The next time we met I’d share with him my take on the Good News. That it is without a doubt this troubled world’s only hope.