The Bible felt strange in Alexander's hands. He held books alot - good gracious, he read and wrote whenever he got the chance! - but it was what the Bible represented that caused Alexander nervousness. He heard the pastor tell the congregation what the passage was - something in 1 Corinthians. Alexander knew 1 Corinthians was somewhere in the New Testament, but he couldn't remember where. For a good half a minute or so, he tried to find the page.
Noticing Alexander's confusion, Clarence leaned over and helped Alexander find the book they'd be reading out of. Alexander was embarrassed, but he thanked Clarence. Yes, it had been far too long since he'd attended church.
The message was about overcoming temptation - specifically, it was on 1 Corinthians 10:13. Alexander read the words with a spiritual thirst he'd long been trying to forget.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
Since it had been a long time since he'd read the Bible, Alexander had to puzzle over the meaning of the verse for quite some time before deciphering the meaning: there was no temptation on earth that only one person alone experienced - no matter what it was, you were not the only one struggling with any particular sin. And God would never tempt anyone above what they were able to resist, always providing a way to escape the temptation.
The words hit Alexander's heart heavily, and he set the Bible back down. If what he'd read was true, then he should have the strength to overcome his temptations. But he very well knew that he was too weak to resist sin any longer. No, he was the only exception to the Bible's truths. He was the only one on earth who could not resist temptation. He was the only one on earth that could not be saved; he was sure of it.
Troubled, Alexander leaned back in the pew, trying to shove the feelings of condemnation away. He clenched his hands into fists and forced himself to be calm. But all he could think about was how he was the only one, the absolute only one, who could never be redeemed.
At the end of the service, Pastor Follows said a prayer, during which everyone in the congregation stood. As Alexander stood there, listening to the preacher's prayer, two sentences in particular struck his soul. "And Lord, we know that there are many in this world - perhaps even in this congregation - who believe that you could never save them. Open their eyes, God, and show them that no human can possibly outsin Your ability to save."
At those words, Alexander felt his knees buckle. He gripped the bench in front of him, but he could not help but sink to his knees. The words ricocheted in his mind, and he wanted to reach out and believe them.
Trembling, Alexander ran a hand through his hair, desperately trying to believe what the preacher had said about God's salvation. But something within him could not be convinced that God would save a sinner such as him. I want to believe, but I can't. I want to be saved, but I know better than to believe that God would ever want someone like me!
It occurred to Alexander that the prayer had ended, and people were already getting out of the pews. Awkward, he stood up and walked out of the pew. Clarence put his hand on Alexander's shoulder. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," Alexander said, shrugging Clarence's hand off his shoulder. He shook his head and began to walk away.
"Are you sure it wouldn't work to come for dinner or supper at our place?"
Alexander turned. "I don't know."
"We'd love to have you, young man."
"What time?" Alexander asked, cursing himself already. Why, he knew better than to fraternize with God's people!
"It's close to noon now. You could walk back with us, if you'd like," Clarence offered. "We're already having several people come; you wouldn't be a bother, if that's what you're worried about."
"Sure, then," Alexander said. "I guess I could come for just awhile."
He forgot that Amara had been expecting him. Ah, well. He would pay for it later.