The Adventures of Reefer
By John Fischer
from “True Believers (Don’t) Ask Why?” July 1989
Reefer woke up with the sunlight drenching his face. The ground was still damp from the rain, but the sun felt warm and welcome on his chest. Luckily, he had hung out his other set of clothes the night before. They would be dry now . . . dirty, but dry. He slowly got up, put some water on the Coleman, and lit a cigarette. Looking out over the sloping hillside, he surveyed the afterbirth of a dream. A miscarriage, he thought. All the hopes and dreams of a generation trampled to death in that mud hole that was once Yasgur’s Farm. If it was possible to get back to The Garden, one thing was sure now: this wasn’t it.
He watched the workers dismantle the scaffolding and wondered if he’d ever hear the music again. High overhead a bomber jet plane rode shotgun in the sky. Two days ago, while on acid, he thought he had seen one of those planes turn into a butterfly, but this morning, on nothing more than caffeine and nicotine, butterflies stayed near the ground where they belonged. “Where to now, Reefer?” “I dunno,” he shrugged. “Gonna pack my things and walk a long way from here. That much I know.”
He walked for two days on back roads, shunning hitchhikers and even friendly advances. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts. On the third day he heard music. How can anyone still play music?, he thought. Don’t they know the music died? As he drew closer he realized the music was different. Somehow different, yet somehow still the same. This music felt peaceful, as if the greatest longing of the soul had found its resolve. Each step brought him closer until he could hear the lyric of the song. “Welcome back to the things that you once believed in . . .” The music was coming from what he first thought was a barn, but as he approached it, it grew in size until it became the largest building he’d ever seen. Over the door was a sign: WELCOME TO THE EVERYTHING-IN-THE-KINGDOM-OF-GOD BUILDING.
Oh no, he thought. Not a good time for this. He knew he was vulnerable. He didn’t want to turn to religion like a rebound from a former lover, but he couldn’t deny the appeal. The music was rock, and it was real—like nothing he’d ever heard in church before. And the band playing on the lawn was made up of long-haired freaks just like him, who looked like they’d dropped smoked, sniffed, snorted, and shot up everything they could get their hands on; but somehow they didn’t need it anymore. There was a glow on their faces like a natural high. The small group that had gathered to hear the music welcomed Reefer as if he were a long-lost friend, and their genuine love soon won over all his fears. Reefer was a lost cause. His needy, thirsty soul drank up every drop of living water he could get into his cup. After being softened by the music, he was ushered into the huge building, where he spent his first days and weeks in a state of complete spiritual euphoria. In short, Reefer fell in love Jesus.
For several years he moved from room to room in this huge building, finding out more and more of the wonders of the kingdom of God. But that was twenty years ago; now, once again, Reefer is restless. In twenty years, he’s been through so many rooms in the EVERYTHING-IN-THE-KINGDOM-OF-GOD BUILDING that he wonders if there is more. Each time he moved from one room to the next, he had been surprised to find the building growing.
First there had been the Born-Again Room where he was baptized and educated in the elementary doctrines of the Christian faith. He spent the most time in this room (over seven years), and left his fondest memories there. His favorite duty, though it was hardly a duty to him, had been to sing to the streets out in front of the building where he’d first seen the band. He loved watching the disillusionment on so many faces turn to joy, and his greatest thrill had been bringing some of his old friends to Jesus. But after seven years, the room had started to get crowded, and Reefer wanted to move on in the Christian life. Fortunately he found out there were more rooms in this building than the Born-Again Room. Someone invited him to the Second-Blessing Room. Here he learned there was more to being a Christian than just being saved. He learned to praise God as he’d never done before. Coupled with this room was the Rapture Room. It had a big Rapture Clock on the wall and daily seminars on latest scholarly updates concerning the return of Christ. Reefer spent a couple of years in these two rooms praising Jesus and longing for his return. After all these seminars on prophecy, however, Reefer had begun to notice a growing hunger for the Word. He realized there was so much he didn’t know.
Fortunately he found the Discipleship Room, where he immersed himself in a detailed study of biblical truth. There were seminars, notebooks, textbooks, lectures, small group discussions, weekend retreats; and Reefer soaked up everything he could get. But the next room was his biggest surprise. Reefer had no idea that such a room could exist in the kingdom of God. He actually spent a great deal of time in this room until he realized where he was. He had simply overdosed on spiritual truth–he took in more stuff in the Discipleship Room than he could ever possibly use—and fell squarely into the Apathy Room in the basement, where he wallowed for some time. He found out, though, that even this was part of God’s plan. There in the basement, Reefer had discovered that Jesus was still with him even if he didn’t feel Him. By the time he left the Apathy Room, he was actually thankful for having gone through this experience. But he was also excited about the next room; the Renewal Room. Reefer was ready. This was to be the most exciting time for him since the Born-Again Room. He loved the planning and the preparation that went into going back out in the streets to spread the news of the kingdom. They talked renewal; they talked about exploding evangelism; they talked about taking it to the streets. Reefer couldn’t wait to get going, but then something horrible had happened. After all the training and preparation, they never made it to the streets. It seemed they had come so far into the building that no one knew how to get out.
Now Reefer has reached his lowest point in twenty years. He’s presently bored to death drinking Christian non-alcoholic beer in the Christian Culture Room. Unable to find their way back to the world, all the Christians have decided to create their own version of the world where they can be Christians and still enjoy as much as they possibly can of the world. To Reefer, this is like one big decaffeinated experience. There are TV monitors with three Christian networks playing at once. Christian aerobics are being held continuously in one corner. There are Christian music listening stations everywhere, and Christian theater playing in another corner. The place is swarming with chiropractors, nutritionists, body builders, fashion experts, color consultants, psychologists, lawyers, doctors, and professional people of every kind–all operating strictly for Christians in the kingdom of God. Reefer sits on the floor, leaning against a red and white banner that resembles a Coca-Cola ad, only this one reads: Jesus Is the Real Thing.
He thinks back to that day twenty years ago when the music died. Sadly he listens to all the music blaring in this room and realizes it sounds just as dead as the old music. In fact, the old music actually seems better in his memory, for at least it was honest. It was about a dreamed that failed, but it was a real hope. This music is about a dream that he knows has come true, but the way it expresses that hope fails to convince him. His spirit cries out from within, “God is this it? Is this all there is in your kingdom?” Unable to help himself, Reefer picks up his guitar and starts singing one of those old songs that seem strangely appropriate: “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie.”
Suddenly Reefer stops. He feels a draft on the floor behind him from underneath the Jesus Is the Real Thing banner. What can this be? he wonders. Crouching low to see under the banner, he discovers what looks like a crack made by the bottom of a door. Squeezing behind the banner, he finds not only a door but an unlocked door–something he hasn’t found in twenty years in this building. All the other doors have doorkeepers. Reefer quietly slips into the next room and discovers a musty old back room with theater props, podiums, choir robes, broken pinball machines–most of the stuff no longer in service. There is no light on in the room; he can see, but barely. He searches to find the source of light and discovers, to his amazement, that it’s coming from under two big double doors in the opposite wall. Reefer recognizes it immediately as sunlight. These doors go outside! Trembling, he gingerly pushes the long handle and the doors swing open, bathing him in blinding sunshine. It’s been twenty years since he’s seen the outside world. Slowly, as his eyes adjust to the light, he begins to make out the ridge of a hill opening into a wide valley. A stream runs through the middle of the valley, glistening in the sun. And beyond the stream, through a hazy sky, he can see the faint outline of a city. It all looks so good to him . . . even the smog. He wants to open his heart, to shout, to sing; but suddenly his mind grips down on this freedom, holding it hard and throwing it to the ground before him. How can I feel this way? My heart belongs to the Lord, yet it’s leaping at seeing the world outside. He stands frozen in the doorway. He thinks of his old friends–all the people he’s lost touch with. He wonders how God could allow his heart to long for something his mind tells him is wrong. He looks up and cries, “God, speak to me! What are you trying to say? Why do I feel so torn? How can I go back inside when I feel as if you are calling me out? But how could you call me out of your kingdom? Whose voice is this, God? Speak to me. Speak to me.” His eyes open from his prayer and immediately fall on something he didn’t see before in the faint light of the room–there, over the door. It’s a sign like all the other signs over all the other doors in this building. These double doors to the outside have been labeled. Reefer can make out a few letters, but with all the dust and cobwebs, the whole title is unintelligible. Quickly he piles up a couple of wooden crates, finds a broom and scrambling up, and begins brushing off the sign over this unused exit. What he uncovers brings unspeakable joy and resolve to his torn heart. In an instant, God has answered his prayer. The sign simply reads: EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD.