Published January 2, 2020


“You continue to live your life with that attitude and you’ll be
fine, William,” McCue said with his eyes ablaze. “You’ll have many
ups and downs, periods of faith and doubt. But that self-honesty you
have will save you from destruction. My God, you are a pleasure to
know! Stay true to that insight you have, and you will learn to live
without fear.”

“Give yourself time,” he continued. “We all come to hate our
selves at some time in our lives, but only the seekers of truth let it
change their lives for the better. I don’t see that you have any guile
in your heart. That’s a beautiful thing for a “colored” boy growing up
in America these days! There’s a lot of rage out there over racism.

McCue took a breath and resumed his discourse. “I could see it
coming years ago! I served with black men of high intellect,
courage, and honor. Most of the blacks had to sthey were passed over or promoted slowly. But the black race has
endured! Your people have outlasted the powers that made racist atti-
tudes legal, even though they were always immoral! Your race has
suffered terrible abuse and injustices.”

“I know, I know,” I interrupted his tirade. “I’m still learning and
understanding about that part of human history. The Afro-American
experience is unique to us, but humans have dominated and enslaved
each other throughout the ages. It’s the unrepentant, un-awakened
human mind that can justify these crimes! I grew up with all sorts of
people: black, white, and indifferent. I’m thankful for that, but even
without that, I don’t think I could ever see a person’s skin color or
racial classification as the single identity of the person. Something
in me always rejected that attitude.”

“I see that spirit in you,” McCue said. “People like you, because
you don’t have that judgmental attitude they’re so used to dealing
with. You’ve got a spirit like Billy Budd, the character in Herman
Melville’s novel,” he added hurriedly. “Billy Budd had no animosity
toward others—a guileless lad.”

“I’m no goody-two-shoes, Brother Mac.” “I’m too much of a
people pleaser,” I added. “I see that about myself. I’m dealing with
my anger. But you’re right about me not judging people based on
their race.”

“The old saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ applies. That
proves my point about you. There’s another quote I like,” he closed
his eyes and tilted his head back slightly. Then, after he secured the
memory, he looked me in the eye and said, “It goes something like
‘as far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all

“Sounds like ‘Desiderata,’” I interrupted enthusiastically,
because I recognized the verse.

“You know ‘Desiderata?’” he asked with obvious delight. “Why
should I be surprised? You really are something,” he said, laughing
and shaking his head. “That’s amazing,” he said, still chuckling.

Suddenly, McCue turned serious. “I confess to you that I have my
doubts about a loving and all-powerful God, given the state of the
world. With all the pain and suffering we experience or see every
where, it’s hard to believe in a just God.”

I was shocked. McCue recited Bible verses and prayed in morn-
ing devotions. He had Christian knowledge that impressed us all.
Now, he was telling me that his faith was weak.

“Your preaching, if you will, was different,” he said. “It wasn’t
the standard fare. I was impressed and thought maybe this place was
teaching something different. Now, I know it was just you.”
“I was searching without knowing it,” I confessed. “All I can tell
you is that I do believe that Jesus taught the way to salvation and
atonement with God. I have a stronger faith now, because I see real-
ity in a new light, and because of the meditation exercise. It really
helps you see the way.”

“Some who wander are not lost,” he stated. “I grew up in a
Christian home, went to Christian schools, and was a committed
born-again Christian and church attendee. Now, I’ve lost my faith.
If there is a God, I don’t believe he is a personal deity who inter-
venes in our personal lives. There’s just too much agony in the
world with drought, famine, war, and disease! I can’t have faith in
a loving God that could permit these things to dominate life in most

He stood up slowly. “I know all the Bible answers for human suf
fering,” he sighed. “Some show God punishing sin directly, others
reflect that suffering comes as a consequence of sin. Where is the
love?” he made a gesture with palms open and walked away.

Brother Mac left me with the memory of that night. He shared
more of himself with me than anyone else had in a long time. Yet, he
was still a mystery man to me. Was he a warrior-priest who had lost
his way? He was a spiritual master, of sorts, with an expansive
knowledge of religions. His discipline and commanding presence
spoke silently of his ability to be a leader of men. We were each con-
tradictions who had met in the unlikeliest of places for a brief period
of time.

I didn’t have a response to McCue’s spiritual doubts. I had been
through that nightmare, but was now awakened. My faith wasn’t
coming from knowledge alone, but from an experiential relationship
with God that was developing within me. I shared with McCue what
I could.

Hear The Author Show interview with William L. Ingram about writing FINDING HEAVEN IN THE DARK: