What? It's not bad enough I have to work with Frank Cologgio eight hours a day? Now I have to dream about him, too? This dream—this nightmare—was too much like real life. I couldn't have taken much more. Thank goodness the clock radio came on when it did.
I lay there and listened. An unfamiliar song was playing. The tune was catchy enough, but the words grabbed my heart as well as my ears...
What eyes can see? What ears can hear?
Who can imagine all the good God has for us?
No eyes can see. No ears can hear.
No one can imagine all the good God has for us.
What a great Scripture song! Those words were just what I needed to hear. Maybe working with Mr. Cologgio today wouldn't be as horrible as usual. Could God have something that unimaginably good in store for me?
I couldn't, uh, I couldn't imagine that happening. Even so, I kept singing that sweet little song in the shower, during breakfast (it even seemed to make the cats happier), and all the way to work.
No sooner did I touch the store's front door handle, however, than the prospect of eight hours of Mr. Cologgio squashed every bit of the hope I'd placed in that Scripture song's assurance. No wonder. He was one nasty man, and he enjoyed using up each day's supply of nastiness on me.
Jesus would have known how to put up with Mr. Cologgio—of course He would—but I didn't and I probably never would. I believed one hundred percent in "hate the sin, love the sinner," but I'd never learned to separate the two in Mr. Cologgio's case.
"Joseph! You're eight minutes early. I'm not paying you any overtime, you know!"
I put up with his yelling—what choice did I have?—but I didn't like it.
"Where's your blankety-blank name tag? I'm not buying you another one, you know."
I dug around in my pocket, pulled out the tired-looking plastic rectangle, and pinned it on my sport coat. A lot of good that would do anyone who didn't already know me. The print had completely worn off. Not even the store name was legible.
I'd grown as accustomed to his "normal" cursing as any Christian could, but taking God's name in vain was something else. Politely asking him to refrain from talking that way made him curse even more profanely, if that was possible.
And why in the world did he have to start each workday with twenty minutes of filthy jokes? Because I was a Christian and my "piousity" (as he described it) made him uncomfortable? Did he think I'd be more likeable if he could drag me down to his level?
"Joseph, I bought a new joke book last night. These are really going to crack you up."
No way. But I couldn't tell him that. "Sorry, but I need to set up the new treadmill before customers start coming in."
"Joseph, as long as I'm the owner of this store, you're not too busy to listen to these jokes. Now or whenever I say so."
At least I was still on the clock. As if that helped much.
He proceeded to read a number of jokes to me. As usual, I kept a straight face. "Joseph, what kind of sicko are you? You don't even smile at these jokes."
I'm not going to, either. God disapproves of filth like that, and so do I.
Hmm. These new jokes were even worse than the old ones. I couldn't picture the most risque of comedians telling one of them on a late night, dirty-joke cable network show, if such a thing existed.
"Robbie Joseph, you're just a blasted stick-in-the-mud. These jokes are hilarious." As if his contemptuous ribbing wasn't sufficiently irritating, he added, "He who laughs last doesn't get the joke." He flipped to the front of the book. "I'm gonna..."
Oh, no! He's going to explain them?
"That first one is priceless. You remember? The one about the preacher and the hooker? You need to understand that..."
Yes, he is. I couldn't keep from sighing.
He proceeded to analyze it in great detail and explain exactly what (he thought) made it so funny. He obviously planned to do that with each of the dozen or so jokes he'd already read to me that morning.
No matter how much I wanted to clamp my hands over my ears, I couldn't. God wouldn't allow me to be that rude. I needed to be a good Christian witness to Mr. Cologgio in spite of my doubts that he would ever become a believer.
Was that man evermore going into detail! And he was still on the first joke. At that rate, I could probably get away with pretending to listen to him while I prayed silently. What a refreshing prospect!
Maybe God would whisper a few words of encouragement. Mr. Cologgio was trying harder than usual to make me more like him when I just wanted to be more like Him—I was a long way from being a perfect Christian—and it was really getting me down.
I mentally and spiritually threw myself flat on Heaven's throne room floor. Unwilling to even glance at God's face, I stared in fascination at the decorations on the bottom of His throne. That much gold would've paid off the national debt—of every nation on earth.
He spoke first. "Robbie, old Frank has really outdone himself today, hasn't he?"
I lifted my eyebrows in agreement. Whether I'd done it visibly enough for Mr. Cologgio to see, I couldn't tell.
"Robbie, you're pretty frustrated, aren't you?"
I sighed. "I am."
"And it's not just because of the way Frank Cologgio treats you, is it?"
"Uh, You know me too well." Of course He did. He was God. He knew things about me I didn't know about myself.
"You've been praying a long time for a good Christian wife." The approval in His voice made me smile.
"A very long time, Sir." If You don't mind my saying so.
"And you've just about given up hope, haven't you?"
I closed my eyes. Mentally or physically? I couldn't tell.
Was He upset because I'd slacked off in praying for a wife? I hoped not. I didn't want to admit I'd grown tired of waiting. He already knew I had.
He smiled compassionately. I shouldn't have known that since I still had my eyes shut and wouldn't have been looking at Him anyhow, but I could tell He had. Maybe because of the unexpected warmth now bathing my face. What a wonderfully personal way of praying, even though one or two of Mr. Cologgio's more colorful words occasionally broke through my consciousness.
"Robbie, I'm going to honor your request, but it won't happen the way you might expect."
Huh? Maybe He knew how I expected to meet my bride-to-be, but I didn't. It was one of those things I'd never thought about.
He chuckled. "No, you don't have any specific expectations about that, do you?"
I opened my eyes and focused once again on the base of the throne. The fact that God knew all of my thoughts and feelings was both encouraging and terrifying.
He didn't pat my head. Not physically. Yet I was conscious of His assurance touching me in a special way. And renewing my hope.
"Robbie, I have more good planned for you than you can possibly imagine, but when things start to happen, be cautious. Don't rush into anything. You'll have plenty of time to get it right."
God wanted me to be cautious when I met my bride-to-be? Ha! After what Liz did, caution regarding women was a given. The very thought of her made my stomach jerk painfully this way and that. Sweat beads dribbled down my nose and landed on the throne room floor.
I wasn't simply cautious about women. I was scared to death of them. Yet I still wanted a good Christian wife. Go figure...
"Robbie, do you remember the song that was playing on the radio when it came on this morning?"
It started playing in my head, exactly as it had sounded on the radio...and ended with that glorious line, "No one can imagine all the good God has for us."
For us? For me!
"Let that song be my assurance to you, Robbie."
"Wake up, Joseph! Get to work."
"But I..." I swallowed the "wasn't." Had I closed my eyes during the prayer without realizing it? Not important. "Going, sir."
Several hours later I was vacuuming Mr. Cologgio's candy bar crumbs from the carpet when he laid his hand on my shoulder. I hit the off switch and turned to face him.
"Joseph, I almost forgot to tell you. An old friend of yours—an old girlfriend—stopped by yesterday while you were at lunch. Told me a juicy tidbit about you and her. I said a Christian like you wouldn't do that, but she insisted it was true." He patted me on the back. "Said she would've named it after you, but she gave it up for adoption."
What? Liz had come back again? And what was this about naming it after me? Now I understood why she'd done what she did the last time we saw each other. That was five years ago today. It was just April Fool's Day then, but—from now on—the first of April would always be Robbie the Fool's Day.
I was too angry to respond. And trying to defend myself against Liz's lies would've been useless. So I mumbled, "Excuse me, please" as I dodged between a pair of shocked customers and flew through the front door in a rage.