(from the ep "Whistle Blower")
The honorable Judge Othneil, as he was called in this time and place, stood quietly at the edge of the lapping water, unnoticed by the two people before him. Sometimes, he liked to watch awhile before making his presence known, listening and evaluating his new 'clients' for a bit while they were still unaware. It wasn't to 'catch them out' in any way. He was already familiar with their situations and habits and the mistakes they had made. It was more of a curiosity, really. He wasn't God Himself, to know all things, and he felt that his little observations gave him clues into how to best approach each person. Not to mention that his new charge Mr. Smith was fairly new in his position, and needed some gentle prodding now and again. He could be a bit, well, impulsive at times. Stubborn. Too quick to judge, too slow to forgive.
But all things considered, he felt that the boy was making progress. Admittedly slow, but steady. Not that he would necessarily tell him that outright. The boy had too much self confidence already, from what he'd seen.
And so he watched the two of them, as they shared their wonder and pleasure at the so called 'thermal reversible pulsating polymer', to use the scientist's fancy words. Odd, he mused, that people were so amazed at the threshold between life and death, yet failed to even notice the other wonders of His creation all about them. This man, for instance. Dr. Bryant, renowned researcher and scientist, had never bothered to appreciate the beauties offered by such a place as this small, muddy-shored lake, let alone taken the time to bring his son here for a fishing trip. All that had mattered had been his work, his possessions, his important standing in the community. Such a narrow vision, and one that was shared by so many. The young, the middle-aged, even many of the elderly - all were fixated on their own perceived problems and so few ever saw how far they were slipping into forgetting what was really important: their relationship with God.
The two men before him were far apart, as the world would see them. One, a leader in his chosen field with many years of earthly rewards and recognition, the other having lived so briefly that he had hardly had time to leave a mark in the world. Yet in God's regard, both were equally loved and equally worthy of His care. And capable of doing so much more with their lives than either had realized, while they lived. One was about to have the chance to remedy that past soon, while the other...the other had much good to do in the world for the Lord as he now was. The future was still open, unwritten, for young Mr. Smith.
He had to admit, the rascal could grow on a person. He had told him, at the conclusion of their first 'case' together, that '...when I first met you, I didn't understand the ...attraction. But then, I didn't create you. He did. And of course, He was right.'. God had known the good that was hidden in the boy's heart, and through His grace the opportunity had been given for him to show it. And it was working. Mr. Smith had grown a great deal through helping others, much more than he realized at this time. His whole outlook was changing, and for the better.
He was learning compassion.
Ah, well, the children had had enough time to get acquainted. Best to get on with things.
"There certainly is an abundance of great trout lakes in this region." The Judge's voice startled them both, and they swung about to face him, still smiling in pleasure from the effects of the 'Jell-O wall'. Smith wondered again at the man's ability to look at home anywhere in his black robes. /The fishing hat and the pole are a nice touch, too./ He listened intently as the Judge spoke to Mr. Bryant about his blindness to what had been going on at the National Pesticide Company, and played his own role of intercessor for the man smoothly, accustomed to it. The whole process had a certain rhythm, really. He showed up, the person died, their soul emerged - surprise, disbelief, grudging acceptance shaded with relief that there WAS life after death, obviously. Then the Judge would come along and hit them with the 'good news' speech; i.e., they were going to be allowed a chance to change their life for the better, go back and hopefully avoid the pitfalls that had tripped them up before.
It was a chance he would have grabbed with both hands, if it had been offered when he had died. He was sure of that. And would, still, when his turn came, which the Judge had indicated would happen one day.
He was still waiting.
He wondered, sometimes, what he could have done that required quite so much, well, repayment. Except that wasn't quite the right word, since bargaining with God was out. But still, here he was guiding others, often not very nice others at that, with no end in sight. At this rate, he wondered if there would come a day when he'd find that he had lived longer in this eerie 'no time' than he had when he still walked the earth alive. Contentedly oblivious to miracles, angels, and certain aggravating Judges.
Well, until his time was served, he would, as the Judge so quaintly put it, 'be ready'. And if part of being ready was keeping busy helping people have their own turn, he would do it.
As he spent more time with Bryant, Smith found himself liking the man more and more. Sure, he had had a couple doubts at first, that the guy could have worked for twenty years for that place and not seen what was really going one with the chemical dumping. Talk about not seeing your nose on your own face. But once he'd accepted that yes, the guy had truly meant well, he'd thrown himself into trying to help as best he could. Shrugging off his own annoying temporary persona of "Smith 'Smitty' Rains" /he was pretty sure he could thank the Judge for that one/, he tried to coax the man into recognizing his deeply hidden resentments that had colored his relationship with his son for so many years.
Despite his determination, it proved to be a rocky road.
Dr. David Bryant felt that his whole world had been shattered into irrevocable tiny pieces. From the instant Smith had explained that mans, 'Judge Othneil's', words: "He's giving you a second chance to go back and change everything...a chance to live again.". Since that moment, his life, or death, or 'out of body experience' as his scientific side kept labeling it, had been turned upside down.
All of his pride in his position, his job, his fine home, and how he had provided so well for his family had been shown for what it was; empty, false, tainted. His position had been achieved through willful blindness, his job maintained by the same, peppered with defensive PR announcements. His enormous house mocked him with it's emptiness, for after discovering that Jeremy had Down's Syndrome, he and Stephanie had not tried to have another child. They'd never really discussed it, but to this day, he wasn't sure if it was because she felt that as a special child that Jeremy deserved their full attention, or if the prospect of having another 'challenged' child was too daunting for her. And truthfully, they had struggled for years just to have Jeremy. It hadn't been an easy pregnancy.
Truth to tell, at times it hadn't been an easy marriage.
And now, if it were not for his new mysterious friend 'Mr. Smith', he would have despaired. His early self seemed blind at first, refusing to take his warnings seriously. How could he ever have been so, so ...stubborn? So arrogantly sure of his own path?
But his young guide kept him on track, backing him up at every turn, and even more importantly, questioning his inner motives.
When he'd doubted his ability to accomplish anything in the face of his own younger self's implacable faith in his friend and his company's policies, Smith had faced him down and addressed his real lack.
He'd said "Don't give up. Have faith...in the Power that gave you a second chance." When he had denied God's interest in him, he'd been calmly but firmly rebuked. "Oh, no. No, He loves you. You hate yourself." Softly, "Stop it." And when he had asked how he could possible do that, change his own doubting self so radically, Smith had said "By believing that the same conscience that burns inside of you right now, also lives in Him."
Pretty strong talk, from someone who looked to be barely half his age.
He shuddered when he recalled those horrible hours waiting for Jeremy's premature birth, knowing some of what was to come but unsure of what unwanted changes his presence in the past had caused. Fears had crawled through his mind, leaving nasty trails of doubt and guilt behind. What had he done? How could he have been so vain as to think himself capable of doing this without messing it up?
Smith's quiet words in that waiting room had torn his heart, even as they raised all his defenses; "Do you want it to be Jeremy? ... I'm asking you if you'd prayed he'd never been born." And then he'd looked at him, with eyes that for a second seemed far too wise for his young face, and said softly "God hears everything."
He had felt those words in his bones. They rang deep, both a promise...and a warning. Implied, no, stated in them was the message that God heard and saw all. He knew what was in people's hearts, even if it was hidden from everyone, even themselves. Smith had gently led him to consider his own thoughts and actions, and reminded him that God was there, always. He so often forget that. Everyone did. They asked why God didn't answer a prayer in the way they expected or wanted, or as quickly as they would like. But there was the other side of that coin, often overlooked. He also did not take people at their oh-so-lightly said word, luckily enough considering that so much that came out of people's minds and mouth was careless and thoughtless. Curses, angry words, and violence.
Of that, he was as guilty as any man.
Not that this all wasn't fascinating. Imagine, going back in time and seeing the world of his youth through mature eyes! But even more intriguing was the ramifications of the whole experience. And his helper, assigned by that Judge fella. Mr. Smith. Sounded like it had been pulled from a phone book, it was so hokey. But the insight into God and His ways he was acquiring just from listening to Smith was what really had him hooked. As a scientist, he had often faltered in his faith, ping-ponging between supporting Darwin and his ilk, and the traditional religious belief implanted by his parents. Now, with his wavering faith confirmed, evidence all around him of God's care and attention, he was so caught up in his own difficulties that he couldn't spare the attention he wished on the miracle he was involved in. But whenever he could drag his focus off himself and truly listen to what his guide said, he was amazed. He wasn't sure that the guy was at all aware of how astonishing his words were. A simple comment such as he had made in the news room, "No one can predict the weather. That's one domain He usually likes to keep to Himself." It was incredible.
If he got through this intact, with his wife and son all right, even if he lost his job and wealth, he'd count himself blessed, not least for the revelations that young man had given him.
And if it took him ruining his own career to stop the illegal dumping, he'd do it. There were other jobs. Heck, maybe he'd write a book. He'd call it "My Second Chance", or maybe "My Guardian Angel". That was it. Everybody knew books with the word 'angel' in the title sold better.
But he'd have to change a few names. No way anyone would believe that an angel would be named 'Smith'.
As he watched Dr. Bryant turn away to rejoin his family and his life, Smith smiled. The man's memories now consisted only of his life as he had newly shaped it. Too bad, really. He'd mentioned he had an idea of writing a book about his 'after death adventures' after falling on that rock. Smith was awfully tempted to let some memories stay intact, and see if Dr. Bryant actually would write it.
It might almost be worth the trouble he would certainly find himself in, to see the look on Judge Othneil's face when he found out.
Nah. Bad idea.
Othneil would likely have him paying for it forever.