Willis: My Dad, Part 3 – Light in the Dark

“Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14

“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” Psalm 34:7

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:11-12

This piece will highlight an element of seeded faith and angels.

But before we dive into it, I want to say that I tend to lean into cessationism more often than not. I do, however, acknowledge and will always acknowledge that God is God and can and will do anything and everything. His ways are not our ways, and His will is not our will. I do, however, hold dogmatically that God reveals Himself through Word and Sacrament, speaking to us through these means only, just as the confessions state: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments (Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article X, 9–10).

In addition to this, I will acknowledge that in the Western World, America even more so, it is hard for a person to escape seeds of the Gospel. Since Christianity has always been the prime religion since the country’s founding, one can find themselves exposed to radio sermons, day to day witnessing to faith, highway street signs with Scripture verses posted upon them, and so forth. Through these seeds of the Word, God can and does work. The Word never returns empty (Isaiah 55:11).

Therefore, in America I do not believe it is impossible for what will happen in the end of this piece. I expect a bit of backlash on it, but I am more than open to discussion. I am also one who does not believe that cessationism demands that angels are no longer active. I look forward to some dialogue on this.

As always with these pieces, there will be some graphic descriptions and language. I will, as always, try to censor it a bit, but I feel it is necessary to include. I will also add that as with every part, there are details I have been forced to add—to fill in lack of information given to me, and failings of my Dad’s memory. But the heart of the details are there.

Setting: Michigan, Winter, 1949, Willis Residence, 7:30 pm

Begins with Interior Shot: Young Larry Willis enters the house. He had gone to his neighbors after school, working for the Schmidts to avoid coming home. He set down his book bundle, and removes his very well worn shoes, shoes that had been passed down to him from his brother Coke. The soles are paper thin, causing Larry’s feet to be soaked from the winter snow. He runs quickly to his room without saying hello to anyone. He grabs a week old dirty pair of socks and changes into them. His mother had not done laundry in a long time. Smelly dry socks were at least preferable to soaking wet smelly cold ones. After putting on his dry socks, he took a moment to lay down. 

Minutes later his mothers voice boomed through the house.

Mother: Dinner’s ready! Get in here now or I ain’t feeding you brats!

Larry walked through the hall, his sister Betty and brothers Coke and Paul followed, all entering the cramped dining room. Their father sat at the head of the table, his back to the heating vent, causing the room to be uncomfortably cold, as he selfishly took up the heat for himself. As the kids took their seats, their mother set out the food. The small chicken was cut in half, one half for their mother, the other for their father, along with mashed potatoes and gravy for each. A glass of fresh milk was given to their father. A small plate of corn was set in front of each child, along with two pieces of bread spread with mustard and ketchup and glasses of well water for everyone else. The children slowly ate, the table in silence. Until Larry spoke up.

Larry: Mom, Dad, I met a friend at school today.

Father: No one wants to be friends with you boy, not with those disgusting socks!

Coke: Well Dad, if…

A ceramic plate flew across the room, exploding into pieces behind Coke, who just narrowly avoided the projectile. 

Father: Don’t talk back, boy! You done enough messing around with your mother! Speak again and I will break your damn face! Now Betty, clean that plate up that your brother made me break!

Betty left the room for a moment, obtaining a dust pan and hand broom. As she cleaned up the plate, Larry dared to speak once again.

Larry: Dad… he was my friend. And guess what. He was a Catholic. And he didn’t look different like you said he would. He was normal, just like me.

Father: What did your stupid ass say to me? What did you say?!

Their father stood, flipping the table end over end. Spilling what remained of the food onto the floor. He rushed across the room like a demon, grabbing Larry by the neck and slamming him into the wall. Larry helplessly struggled, barely able to breathe. Their mother grabbed Betty and left the room, retreating to her bedroom.

Father: The Catholics are animal people. Bastard Irish people, hailing to some pointy hated fool who thinks himself close to God. They are barbarians and I will not have my son speaking with those mutants!

Coke: Dad! He can’t breathe! He can’t…

Their father whipped around with his free hand smashing Coke in the face, breaking his nose. Coke collapsed to his knees unable to move due to the pain. Paul, the youngest, grabbed a piece of broken plate and rushed their father. With another punch, he sent the youngest boy crashing to the ground, knocking the boy unconscious. 

Father: Loosens his grip on Larry’s throat. See, boy? Look what being friends with a potato eater cost us? Your little brother is hurt, your oldest brother is bleeding. What did we learn?

Larry: Struggles to speak. He is just… like… me… Dad… please…

Father: Okay, guess you haven’t learned. Time for the bin!

Their father, holding Larry by his shirt one handed, walked through the house, coming to the shoot lift in the wall. With his free hand he opened the lift and pushed Larry into the bin. For Larry, the fall felt like forever, even though it was not his first time. He landed in the midst of dirt and loose coal. The coal bin was pitch black, blacker than the deepest night. Larry instantly began to cry. The bin was below freezing, and from his past experiences, Larry knew he could be there for hours, perhaps even until morning. And since the bin was locked from the outside trap door, there was no way out. Larry openly cried, wrapping himself in his own arms.

Larry: Whispering aloud. I… just wanna be warm… just a bit… please… if anyone can hear me…

Minutes passed. There was no response.

Suddenly, a single beam of light peered through the darkness. At first, Larry was sure he was dreaming. The trap door was tight, the sun was down, there was no way this could be the sun. There was no way… From the light Larry felt a touch of warmth, and somehow he heard a gentle voice, but he did not know who it belonged too. The voice spoke in a way unknown to Larry—a voice of love. Not only did Larry feel warm, but he did not feel alone. He felt a comforting presence. A presence he would later tell people was the presence of an angel.


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