By San Antonio Rose
Author’s note: There’s no telling what will spark a story. I started reading a fic the other day and got to a certain point and now refuse to finish reading it. But it did start me thinking. And then, as I was listening to one of my favorite Point of Grace tapes tonight, there was another idea that dovetailed with the other. So, as Chill Wills would put it, "There that idea was, and there the other idea was, and Rose’s imagination being what Rose’s imagination is, there you are." And apologies to my Life Group; I was going to write about youth choir, but this seemed like a better idea.
September 12, 1967
Micky Dolenz slipped away from the studio, where the others were winding down the day’s filming and gearing up for an anniversary party, as quietly as he could. Normally he reveled in the bright lights and high life of stardom. But lately, he was beginning to feel that something was missing. And he wanted to get away and sort it out.
Been too long chasin’ shelfish dreams…
He didn’t even recognize the song that had been playing on his mental jukebox for the past few days. But the soulful feel of the music kept him tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel as he drove away.
His thoughts flew back over the last two years: the audition for the Monkees, the hectic shooting schedule, the chance to record on a big label, being forced to learn an instrument he didn’t like, the struggles over the music, the sudden catapult into the limelight. And the crazy side of life in the music industry that he’d always been warned about. For a while he thought fame and fortune were the key to his happiness. But on their tour in the winter he found himself wishing that he could continue his architecture degree. Maybe building something big, something lasting, would be the thing.
There. That was the word. Lasting. Somehow the Monkees’ meteoric rise made him all too aware of how temporary it was. He yearned for stability, constancy, something—well—eternal.
Lost inside a world of my own choosing…
The others all had their suggestions, of course. Davy was always certain a chick or a horse would be just the thing. But Micky was tired of "chicks" and everything associated with them, and he didn’t really want a horse, especially after riding one barefoot. Mike tried to get him into Christian Science, but Micky had a scientific mind that couldn’t fathom the logical fallacies of summarily denying that everything exists. And Peter… well, there was no telling what religion Peter was pushing; everything Eastern seemed to come together in one big syncretic mush called New Age philosophy. The Beatles were really into that kind of thing, as were many in the entertainment industry. But Micky… just… didn’t like that kind of thing. He couldn’t really pinpoint why, but that wasn’t his bag.
Tried to make it out on my own…
And now here he was, driving around aimlessly in the early evening with no idea where he was going and a Christian song he’d never heard stuck in his head. He reached an apartment complex and was halfway in the driveway when he realized that it wasn’t his. For that matter, he didn’t recognize any of the buildings or scenery around him.
"‘Baylor Landing,’" he read aloud from the sign. "That’s a new one. Well, since I’m here, I might as well go on and see if there’s anything happening. If nothing else, I’ll just pull through the parking lot and get back on the highway."
Glancing at the courtyards between buildings as he passed, he noticed a pair of tiki torches with a sign taped between them in front of one of the doors. Curious, he parked and went to investigate.
"‘Antioch Life Group meets here.’ Hm… sounds interesting." The door was open, so he poked his head in tentatively. Everyone seemed to be gathered in the kitchen in the back of the apartment. Micky edged into the living room shyly and sat down on the couch, looking inquisitively at the group of ten college students in the kitchen.
A blonde girl walked into the living room, apparently looking for something. She stopped short when she saw the curly-haired singer and stood shell-shocked for a moment.
"Uh… hi," Micky ventured.
The girl shook her head. "Oh! Right! Hi! Sorry, it’s just a bit of a shock to see your favorite singer appear out of nowhere, especially at a Bible study."
Micky had to grin. "I understand. I’m used to that reaction."
"Not if you knew…" She stopped, then changed the subject. "My name’s Jill. Welcome to Life Group."
He shook her hand, then noticed something odd about her T-shirt. "What does that mean?"
She glanced down at the "Y2K—Nothing 2 Fear" on the front of her shirt. "Just that there wasn’t any need to get all panicked about Y2K."
"Wasn’t… Y2K? What’s that?" Micky frowned in confusion.
"The year 2000. A lot of people thought the world was gonna end on New Year’s. It didn’t, and now some people are joking that the Y2K bug is gonna hit this coming year because the millennium ‘technically’ doesn’t start until 2001 and a lot of other people have egg all over their faces."
"So… what’s the date?"
"September 12, 2000." Ignoring his dropped jaw, she continued, "That’s why I looked so surprised. You haven’t looked like that for 33 years."
Micky was still digesting this bit of information when the song that had been playing when he walked in ended and the next one—the song that had been haunting him all week—began. He sat down and listened, transfixed, while Jill finished the errand she had originally set out on.
Been too long chasing selfish dreams,
Seeking only what my heart desired.
I’ve drifted so far away, it seems,
From the truth that set my soul on fire.
How many times will it take for me to see
You’re the only love my heart will ever need?
Take me back, take me back, Jesus,
Take me back
To where I can know Your love.
Take me back, take me back, Jesus,
Take me back!
Won’t you take me back?
Take me back, take me back, Jesus,
Take me back
To where I can feel Your love.
Take me back, take me back, Jesus,
Take me back!
I wanna know your love.
Like the Prodigal far from home,
Lost inside a world of my own choosing,
Tried to make it out on my own;
Never realized all I’d be losing.
I still remember just how it used to be.
Lord, forgive my weakness,
Come and rescue me!
There’s no one else I would turn to.
You’re the only One who can pull me through,
You can pull me through!
"Why do we have to listen to Point of Grace?" a short dark-haired woman complained as the song ended.
"Because," a tall blond man replied.
"Ruthie, you pick the music every week. I think I ought to have a chance."
"Did you ever let me pick when we had it in your apartment?"
"Yes, he did," Jill interjected. "And I happen to like Point of Grace, thank you."
Ruthie grumbled something under her breath about people not liking hard-core.
"Besides," Ed continued, "it’s part of the lesson for this week."
"Oh, all right…"
"You can lead a horse to water…" commented a taller dark-haired girl.
"Thank you, Jo! I think we can do without the Texas wisdom."
Jo and Jill chuckled.
Ed then spotted the newcomer on the couch and came over to introduce himself. The others arranged themselves in a circle on the floor, visited for a few more moments, then quieted for Ruthie’s opening prayer. The casual feel was so different from what Micky had expected a Bible study to be like that he was instantly more at ease. After a hilarious icebreaker and an explanation of what Life Groups were about, Ed found his guitar and led the small group in worship.
Micky didn’t know any of the songs, but he found himself amazed by the sincere joy the students showed in their worship. Judging from what little he’d overheard of the conversation they were having earlier, it didn’t sound like many of these people were having a very easy life. Ruthie’s brother was a "special needs" child whose wild, uncontrollable behavior had gotten him institutionalized. Jill was still recovering from a bout with illness she’d had that winter. Ed served as a youth pastor when he wasn’t busy studying for seminary, and his youth group was extremely hard to handle. Some had stressful work situations, and other members of the group complained about the difficulties of marching band. Yet when they stood to sing praises to God, all of those problems were momentarily forgotten. Vague memories of long-ago church services floated to the surface of Micky’s mind, but it didn’t seem that anyone he’d seen in church had found this kind of release. Maybe these kids understood the… oh, what was that term… the "excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Maybe—maybe that was what he was missing!
While Micky was still musing along these lines, Ed closed the worship time with a prayer and asked Jill to put on a certain song. This she did by pressing a series of buttons on a high-tech-looking stereo system. The words caught Micky’s attention immediately.
He looked through temples of time
To see you right where you stand.
He emptied all of Himself
So He could reach out His hand
To give hope and meaning
To the wasting away,
And you are one of the ones
That He was dying to save.
He was dying to reach you,
Trying to meet you
Where you need Him most.
You’ve been living in search of
The whole truth and real love
Your whole life through.
You can open your heart,
‘Cause He’s dying to reach you.
He’s standing there at the door,
You can hear Him call you by name.
He simply waits to forgive
All of the guilt and the shame.
He gave up His own life,
And He still bears the scars.
He only wants to receive you,
So come as you are!
Oh, He has waited time and time before;
You must be still and know that He is Lord!
After some discussion, Ed proceeded to explain the basis for the song—namely, that Jesus Christ had come to earth, died, and rose again to forgive sins, and that anyone could receive the free gift of grace that God offered because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Micky felt compelled to share the longing he’d been feeling, and the rest of the group did their best to answer his questions along with the questions others posed. When the group split to pray, Micky pulled Ed aside and asked him how to accept Jesus as his personal Savior.
"I’m just at my wit’s end to try and figure out what’s wrong with me," Micky explained. "Religion always felt so empty to me before, y’know? But seeing you guys tonight… well, it just made Christianity seem so real. And I think that may be what I’m looking for. I’m not really sure, but… I guess it’s worth a try."
Ed nodded. "I know exactly what you mean. And I think you’re making the right decision. Let’s pray."
So they prayed. And as they did so, an overwhelming sense of peace and fulfillment swept over Micky’s heart. He couldn’t hold back the tears of gratitude and joy as he turned his life over to Christ.
When they finished praying, Ed noticed the tears streaming down Micky’s cheeks. "Is this what you’ve been looking for?"
Micky nodded. "Thanks," he whispered.
"No problem, brother."
The two young men sat down, and Ed gave Micky some practical advice on how to get started in his walk with the Lord. After another prayer for strength and guidance, Micky felt as if he could take on the world. They visited a little while longer before the girls came back to the kitchen to talk, and Ed shared the good news with them. Naturally, everyone was overjoyed.
After about ten minutes, Ruthie and Ed needed to have a post-meeting discussion, so a few of the group members decided to leave. Jill was one of them, citing fatigue, and she asked Micky to give her a ride back to her dorm. "I’d rather not have to walk all the way back across campus after dark," she explained.
"Sure, I’d be glad to," Micky agreed.
They said their goodbyes quickly. Ruthie reminded Jill of a dinner appointment they had for that Thursday, and Ed asked Micky to stay in touch and come back when he could. Micky and Jill exchanged a knowing glance at that, but Micky promised to do his best. Then they took their leave.
"I’m so glad you came tonight," Jill smiled as they walked through the parking lot. "I’ve been praying for you for a long time."
Micky took her hand and squeezed it. "Thanks. I’m glad I came, too."
On the way to the dorm, Jill asked Micky some practical questions about things he’d change in his life once he got back to the ‘60s. They also talked about resources he could access to answer some of his harder questions. By the end of the three-minute drive, Micky felt much more confident that he could indeed serve God in his capacity as a musician and actor.
"It’ll be hard," Jill told him plainly as they pulled up in front of the dorm. "I won’t kid you about that. But God will always be there to see you through."
"Thanks," he smiled. "And thanks for prayin’ for me."
She smiled back. "You’re welcome, bro."
"That’s another thing. Why is everyone calling me ‘bro’ or ‘brother’ all of a sudden?"
"All true Christians are brothers and sisters in the Lord because we’re all God’s children. So some of us like to call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister.’ It’s just a way of showing love and respect for one another."
Jill dug in her pockets and pulled out a penny with a cross cut out of the middle. "Here," she said, pressing it into his hand. "I want you to have this to remind you of both the commitment and the friends you made tonight. Always remember that we’re praying for you and that God is on your side."
Micky looked at it for quite a while. Then he looked up, straight into Jill’s eyes, and smiled softly. "Thanks… sister."
"You’re welcome, brother." She leaned over and gave him a warm, sisterly hug.
"I’ll never forget this."
"Neither will I."
They sat and smiled at each other for a full minute. Then Jill sighed, "Well, I reckon I’d better get goin’. Take care, bro. God bless you!"
"God bless you!" he echoed as she slid out of the car and closed the door. He waited until she got inside to drive away.
Micky didn’t notice when the streets of Waco turned into the streets of Los Angeles. He was too busy thinking about the experience he’d just had and how it would change his life. When he found himself in familiar territory, he made his way home.
"There you are!" Peter exclaimed as Micky walked into his apartment.
"What are you doin’ here, Pete?"
"I was worried sick about you, so I let myself in with your spare key."
"The way you disappeared after the shoot today. You’ve been so down lately, I was afraid you were gonna go jump off a bridge or something! Where’ve you been?"
"Jump off a bridge? No way! I—I went to a Bible study."
Peter looked at him like he’d fallen out of a well. "A Bible study? You went to a Bible study? Mick, I don’t even think they have Bible studies on Tuesday nights!"
Was it all a dream? Micky wondered.
"Micky? Mick, what’s wrong?"
He slid his hand into his pocket and found the penny Jill had given him. Fingering the simple design in the coin, he recalled the words of the last song that played before they left Ruthie’s apartment:
God loves people more than anything…
And more than anything, He wants us to go
And show the world so they will know
That God loves people more than anything.
"C’mon, Micky, seriously, tell me the truth. Did you really go to a Bible study? I wouldn’t believe it normally, but there’s something… different about you now."
Micky grinned. "Yeah, I went to a Bible study. And I met the most amazing Person. Sit down and let me tell you about it."