. . . Key to an Empty Well

VLADIMIR FIXED A WRINKLED SMILE on his face and gave the door three hard raps with his hairy knuckles.   He heard someone stir inside.
   "YEAH . . . ?"   A thin, long-haired, college student opened the door.
   "Hello, Michael," Vladimir extended his hand.   "Remember me?"
   The student gave him a blank stare.
   "I am Vladimir Burgasov.   I gave you little brochure and invited you to church last week."
   "Oh . . . Oh yeah!   The Bible guy!   Come on in, I'm downloading off the net."
   Vladimir stepped into the dorm room, immediately noticing the same stack of papers on the floor, same books on the table, the same half- eaten, now brownish, apple atop the monitor, and what appeared to be the same dirty sock slowly drilling its way into the couch.
   "You got a computer?" Mike asked.   Like a proud father, he motioned toward the glowing monitor, the shrined centerpiece of the room.
   "No."   Vladimir smiled.   He had answered the same question last time.   "I don't wish to take a lot of your time.   Did you have chance to read brochure?"
   "Oh, yeah, where is that thing?"   Mike glanced around the room.   "It's somewhere in here."
   "Here, I give you second one."
   "Thanks, man . . . Oh, it finished downloading; hold on."
   Mike plopped down in front of the keyboard where his ten fingers fired off a barrage of movement.   Vladimir positioned himself behind Mike, and for two minutes played fly-on-the-wall, peeking over Mike's shoulder.
   "I'm sorry, man, I'll be right with you."
   "That is all right.   I find it fascinating."
   "You mean computers?   I guess you don't have one, huh?" Mike said, eyes still glued to the screen.
   Vladimir smiled again.   "Did you consider what we talked about last time?"
   "What? . . . Oh, yeah, that Bible stuff."
   "Maybe it is best if I come back.   In the meantime read second--"
   "To be honest," Mike said, still facing the screen, "I guess I don't see a need for religion . . . Not right now, anyway."
   "Very well . . . If you change your mind, you have my phone number."
Vladimir glanced at the various piles.   "Or maybe I should write it down again."
   "What's that, man?"
   Vladimir shook his head as he walked to the door.   Before opening it, he paused.   "Michael . . . what is it that you feel you need instead?"

   "Huh?. . . Oh, information, man . . . Knowledge is power.   I'm an info junkie; can't get enough."
   Vladimir opened the door then paused again.   He smiled, quietly thanking God.
"Michael, have you been to new steak house on 7th Street?"
   "Ah, no."   Mike kept typing.
   "I want to buy you lunch . . . You can teach me about computers.   I may buy one, some day, perhaps even get on the Internet."
   Mike stopped and swivelled his chair around.   "What time?"
   "Is tomorrow 1:00 PM okay?"
   "That's cool."   Mike turned around and resumed typing.
   "Maybe you should write down time and place," Vladimir said.
   "Nah . . . it's in the beaner . . . besides, I'd lose it somewhere . . ."

   The noon rush was dying down by the time Vladimir and Mike were seated at a booth.   The waitress asked what they wanted to drink, then left them with the menus.
   "Are you very hungry, Michael?"   Vladimir peered at the small print through his bifocals.   "I think I will have shrimp and steak.   And you?"
   "Same, I guess."   Mike closed his menu, sliding it off to the side.   The two men examined each other.   Vladimir's plain white shirt clashed with Mike's rock t-shirt.
   "Where are you from, Vla-di-mir?"
   "Please.   Call me Vladi.   I am from Russia.   When I first came to this country, I could see the pain in peoples face when they tried saying my name.   People in this country are more comfortable with short names--Bill, Joe, Fred.   Sometimes I wish I was a Fred."
   "It wouldn't work.   You don't look like a Fred."
   The waitress showed up with two glasses and a pitcher of water.   She took their orders.
   "How long have you been here?" Mike asked.
   Vladimir looked at his watch.
   "I meant in America!"
   "I'm sorry.   As you can see, not long enough."
   Mike laughed.   "You like it here, then? . . . America, I mean."
   "Yes.   It is wonderful country.   There is much freedom.   You can worship how you want, when you want.   You are blessed to be a citizen.   You are one, are you not?"
   "Yeah, I was born in Detroit," Mike said.   "So, how'd you get here?"
   "By car."
   Vladimir smiled.
   "Oh, man, knock it off.   You know what I meant--"
   "It would take too long to tell, but it began one day when a man came to my house.   He wanted to show me something from the Bible."
   "Like you did to me?" Mike said.
   "Yes.   Only, I was not as--how do you say?--courteous."

   "What do you mean?"
   "I was atheist.   Many in Russia are--or so they say."
   "So what happened?" Mike said.
   "I threw him out; cursed him in Russian-- "
   "Wow, what'd you say?"
   "No, no, I don't talk like that no more.   I am Christian, now."
   "How did you go from one to the other?" Mike asked.
   Vladimir gave him a blank stare.
   "You know . . . How did you become a Christian?"
   "Oh!   It is long story, also.   But I will show you something that might answer your question."   Vladimir pulled out a small Bible from his shirt pocket.   Mike began to fidget and spy the other tables.
   Vladimir peeked over the top of his glasses.   "What is wrong?"
   "Ah . . . you know . . . people will think that we--"
   "That we can read?   That is good."   Vladimir found the verse he wanted, and slid the book over to Mike.   "Please," Vladimir said, "don't worry.   It is only a small book.   It will not attack; I promise you.   Read this verse to yourself."
   Mike read the verse, then looked up . . . "So?"
   "Do you know who they are?" Vladimir asked.
   "Eve, right?"
   "Who is the one speaking to her?"
   Mike glanced at the verse, again.   "A talking serpent?"
   "That is right.   It is the devil."
   "Hey, can we change the subject--?"
   "This is how mankind fell into sin," Vladimir continued.   "The devil tempted mankind away from following God.   Do you know what He tempted man with?"
   "No!" Mike said.   "And I guess you can't take a hint, either."
   "He tempted her with knowledge."
   The waitress showed up with their meals.   Vladimir closed his Bible to make room on the table.   Neither of them spoke as the waitress positioned their plates in front of them.
   "Is there anything else I can get you?" she said.
   "Perhaps some steak sauce," Vladimir said.
   "A-1 or 57?"
   Vladimir looked at Mike's quietly seething face.   "Please, Miss.   Bring both," Vladimir said.
   As soon as the waitress left, Mike exploded.   "YOU SET ME UP, MAN!"
   "Please, Michael, people will think that-- "
   "That I'm mad?   THEY'RE RIGHT!   You said you wanted to talk computers!"
   "We are."   Vladimir tapped the side of his head.   "Please eat.   Your food will get cold."
   "Let it freeze, I'm leaving--"
   "Michael, in Russia people would kill for a meal like this.   At least finish it first--"
   "Don't bother showing up again; I'll call the cops."

   Vladimir popped a shrimp in his mouth.   "Excellent!   Please pass the melted butter."
   "GET IT YOURSELF!   I said I'm leaving!"   Mike stood up.
   "What about all that knowledge you crave?" Vladimir said, trying the steak.
"Hmm.   This is good, too!"
   "What are you talking about?!   What knowledge?   All I've heard is fairy tales."
   "Don't you want to know why the devil is tempting you with knowledge?"
   "Please, sit down.   It is hard to eat while looking up.   I am a short man!"
   Mike threw himself back in the seat.   "All right!   I'm not stupid enough to pass up a free meal.   But as soon as I'm done, I'm out of here!   What did you mean by me being tempted?"
   "I assume you believe there is a devil," Vladimir said.
   "In your dorm there is a poster with--"
   Mike belted an angry laugh.   "Ah man, GET REAL!   That's just a rock poster!"
   "You believe he exists, yes or no?"   Vladimir grabbed the bottle of 57, extending to Mike.   "Or do you prefer A-1?"
   Mike plucked the bottle.   "Okay . . . so maybe there is a devil . . . So what?"
   "If you were him trying to tempt you away from God, what would you use?"
   "That's a weird question," Mike said, trying the shrimp for the first time.
   "Order more if you like," Vladimir said.   "I will pay."
   "You sure you're not the devil, tempting me with shrimp?"
   Vladimir chuckled.   "No, in your case I would definitely use knowledge."
   "What about fame, or power?" Mike added.   "I'd go for that."
   "Knowledge is power!" Vladimir said.   "You told me so, yourself.   And as for fame, some of the most famous people are known for their brilliance."
   "Okay, so if fame and power are so underrated, why did the devil tempt Jesus Christ with them?"
   Vladimir's eyes brightened up.   "Ah, so you know something about Bible after all."
   "I saw a Jesus movie once, all right?   He got tempted in some desert, somewhere
. . . I was drunk when I saw it!"

   "The devil knew he couldn't tempt Christ with knowledge," Vladimir said.
"Jesus had all the knowledge already.   He knew it all."
   "That's impossible.   No one knows it all!"
   "God does."
   Mike began cutting his steak.   "So what are you saying?   That Jesus was God?"
   Vladimir nodded.
   "You're nuts!"
   That is what the Bible teaches.
   "So?   It's still nuts."
   "In the movie you saw, did Jesus teach anyone?"
   "I said I was drunk . . . Maybe He did."   Mike jabbed a piece of steak with his fork.

   "Jesus, being God in the flesh, loved to teach; He was doing what the devil had originally cheated God out of."   Vladimir's eyes began to water.
   Mike stared at the Russian's trembling face.   He lifted the fork to his mouth, but stopped short of taking a bite.   "Hey, man, you sick?   What's wrong with you?"
   "I always get sad when I think how God is denied from doing what He loves so much."
   "You're batty!"
   "Vladi," Vladimir said.
   "No, I mean you're all over the place!   If this is how you proselyte people, you're doing a lousy job."
   "Perhaps, you can allow me to explain it better."
   Mike shook his head.   "I'm warning you.   If it doesn't make sense, I'm just going to take it as proof that this Christianity stuff is for idiots.   This is your chance--do or die!"
   Vladimir looked in horror.
   "That's just an expression, man!   Go ahead, get going."
   Vladimir relaxed, and wiped his eyes.   "The Bible teaches we were made in God's image.   God wanted Himself and man to relate.   Not only as Father and child, but I believe, as teacher and disciple.   Jesus referred to His followers as ‘disciples’, empty vessels designed to be filled by God's knowledge--"
   "An empty what?"
   "We are born, void of knowledge.   Have you ever wondered why animals are born possessing survival skills--instincts?   Yet, man has to be taught everything; leave a newborn by itself and it will starve.   I believe that God intended on being man's primary teacher.   God wanted to fellowship with man by taking him by the hand and instructing him.   The first man, Adam, had brilliant potential, perhaps a bottomless pit when it came to absorbing knowledge.   Who better to fill that pit than God, the One who knows it all.   In this way, God and man were meant to compliment each other perfectly."
   "They don't anymore?"
   Vladimir shook his head.   "Man rebelled and now tries to quench his thirst for knowledge by any other means except God.   Your Internet, for example."
   "You saying the Internet's of the devil?"
   "You are not listening.   The devil merely took advantage of man's desire for knowledge.   He lied to mankind, telling him that God was holding back knowledge from him.   Yet, I'm sure God would have taught man everything in due time."
   "This sounds crazy--"
   "When Adam and Eve rebelled, choosing to learn on their own, God walked up to them and asked, ‘Who told thee’ about good and evil; where did you learn it from?   I can just imagine the hurt God felt having been deprived of teaching them Himself.   Not to mention the sweet fellowship it would result in."
   "Okay, I've heard enough.   It sounds like the devil did us a favor.   Why should we be at the mercy of some God, waiting on Him to teach us the next lesson?
Why am I even talking to you?   I don't even believe in God!   If there was one, why is this world so messed up."
  Mike looked at his watch.

   "You cannot blame God for the state of the world.   His Word says: ‘Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear’ (Isa. 59:1-2).
It is our sin and wicked pride that separates us from God.   We are the ones rejecting God, refusing to learn His ways.   We try to run this world according to our wisdom, not God's.   We know next to nothing compared to Him."

   "Sorry, it don't make sense.   If He really cared, He would step in and do something about it."
   "He wants to, but people reject Him just as you are doing now!   You must repent, humble yourself before God, allow Him to reconcile you back to Himself.
That is why Christ died for you on the cross.   He died for your sins to save you and to reunite you with God.   Michael, God wants to take you by the hand and show you His ways.   You should be saying to God, ‘Show me thy ways, O LORD; TEACH ME THY PATHS’ (Psa. 25:4).   ‘Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me’ (Psa. 119:133)."

   Michael was quickly finishing his steak.
   "Michael, please listen.   God wants to save you--restore that teacher/disciple relationship.   That thirst for knowledge you are trying to quench was put there by God, the One who created you."   Vladimir grabbed the pitcher and started pouring water into an empty glass.   "See, my friend, you are like an empty well, designed to be filled by God.   He wants the pleasure of doing it Himself--"
   "WRONG!" Mike said.   "I want the pleasure!   I want to do it myself!   I want to learn what I want to learn, when I want to learn it!"   Mike took his last bite, and stood up.   "I was right; this stuff's for idiots!   Thanks for lunch.   Don't show your face at my door again, or I'll call the cops!"

Seven days later . . .

   Mike sat in the dark, his face aglow by the monitor screen.   His eyes were now focusing on the various choices his search engine had given him.   "What a kook," he thought, as his mind would still wander back to his encounter with Vladimir.
   He searched around the monitor, where he could barely see the loose papers.
"Where did I put that list?" he thought.   "The old guy's nuts, if he thinks I'm . . . maybe it's under here . . ."
   Mike picked up a book and lying underneath was the list.   Underneath the list was the first brochure Vladimir had given him--it had Vladimir's number on it.
Mike stared at it.   "A God who wants to teach?   Give me a break," he thought, looking back at the screen.   With the new found list in his hand. he began to enter more subjects.   "So much to learn," he thought.
   The search engine did it's job amid the ticking sound of the hard drive.   With a smile on his face, he took his time examining all the newly found choices, each choice a gateway to hundreds more.

   As he peeked into his private little window to the world, his mind raced, thinking about cyberspace and how vast it truly was.   I don't need a God teaching me, he thought.   All those servers out there, waiting to supply megabytes of data.
He tried to imagine how long it would take him to absorb all the knowledge he had access to.
   Forever, I guess, he thought, taking a long hard stare at the brochure.
   Yeah . . . Forever.
   He picked up the brochure . . .

. . . Every man has a price, someone once said.
For most, it's simply a matter of finding the right
key.   The key that unlocks their heart; often, the
mouth of an empty well.   A key not very hard to
find if you're the God who's dying to have a
relationship . . .

[Christian Helps Ministry (USA)] [Christian Home Bible Course]