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October 7, 2007

I’ve been thinking about a story I read in college. I don’t know how many years ago. At least three.

I could hardly remember anything about it except the end was so beautiful I almost cried every time I read it. It had something to do with a guy who’d had a rough go of childhood, but played piano and it ended in a blues bar.

It’s been on my mind for weeks. I don’t think I was Spirit-filled when I’d read it, but I remember the way it felt when I finally met the Holy Spirit. He seemed vaguely familiar. Which, as I thought about it, was strange because I was sure the story had nothing to do with religion or spirituality or Christ – because I would have rejected it immediately if it had.

Finally, yesterday, I dug through dusty piles of text books beneath the old bed at my parents’ house and found the collection of short stories I’d been forced to pay too much money for years ago. It was late, so I brushed off the cover and brought it home.

An hour later I sat next to stacks of clean laundry that wouldn’t be put away that evening and flipped slowly through the text. The Bible-thin pages stuck together and made for slow going, but I patiently scanned the italic text in the upper right-hand corner of the pages. I didn’t remember the title of the story, but was sure I’d recognize it when I saw it.

I stopped several times to read the last page of a few stories with promising titles. None. 400 pages later I couldn’t find anything. I started at the front this time, and began to browse the table of contents – hoping that I’d recognize the title. Then I did. “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin. I knew that was it. Page 25.

Excited and relieved and dying to sit and read this story again, I flipped through delicate pages. 15 … 21 … 24 … 49. Between pages 24 and 49 were stubs. I’d torn it out years ago, sure that the rest of the text would be discarded and forgotten, in an effort to save it. And now it was gone.

Then I started to think of all the things I’ve tried to save in my own strength …

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