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The Prayer Seeker


them in the warm busyness of the pub, Michael took a long swig of his beer. To his
surprise, he found he had hardly any drink left, although Alan’s glass was virtually
untouched.
“What’s wrong?” Alan said at last, when Michael thought the silence might well last
forever, but would still be as nothing compared to the silence at his heart. “There is
something, isn’t there? Tell me, I need to know.”
So. Not much of a reprieve then, or not enough of one to allow Michael to find the
wa y to say what he must. God was testing him in truth, at this key point, and he was
determined not to fail the test, God being more important than anything he knew.
“I think we should stop being …” he struggled to complete the sentence. Because
what were he and Alan? Friends? More? He wasn’t even sure the kiss he’d imagined had
happened at all, though the thought that it might not have was more painful still. As Alan
continued to look at him, his face studiously blank, Michael finished the words he had to
say, finding what he hoped was the best fit under the circumstances. “I think we should
stop being friends.”
Alan said nothing to this, not at once. He grasped his beer and took a couple of sips
from it before putting it down again. His fingers were shaking.
“Why?” he said, so quietly that Michael had to lean forward to hear him. “Why
would you want that, Michael? Are you afraid?”
Was he afraid? He had no idea; whatever was going on inside him had moved
beyond a simple argument of fear or the lack of it. It was far wider and deeper than that.
It went to the still point of what he then believed about God.
He ignored the latter question as it seemed the only thing to do. Instead he answered
the first, as best he could. “I don’t believe it’s what God wants for me. I don’t believe it’s
what God wants for us.”
Alan laughed, and that surprised Michael more than anything. “Is that true? You
really believe what our church tells us all the time, without question? Because surely
what matters most is love, in whatever form it comes in.”
In some ways he had no argument to that, but the church had first shown him God,
and Michael would not give that up.
“I have to do what God wants,” he whispered fiercely. “There isn’t any other option.
If something is seen as wrong in the b ible or by the church leaders, then it must be so and
they only have our best interests at heart. You surely must believe that.”
Alan licked his lips, and Michael looked away for a moment.
“I do have strong beliefs,” Alan said. “Beliefs in the kind of God who’s wider than
the concept our particular church has of him at this particular time. In the kind of God
who doesn’t mind, and who maybe even rejoices in, the fact that I have feelings for you.
Strong feelings. But that’s not really what we’re talking about here, is it?”
Despite himself and the warning pounding in his head, Michael was gripped by the
question. “What do you mean?”
He couldn’t help it that the tone of his voice was challenging rather than enquiring
but, heart beating fast, he couldn’t find the words to take that back.
Alan blinked.
“I mean,” he said slowly, as if talking to a child who would never understand what
he was saying, “that we’re not really arguing about the church. We’re arguing about us.”
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