BIN RAIDERS

Chapter 15.    Control

On Monday morning, Barbara had already left for work by the time Roger got up. She often left early to beat the traffic. When Roger saw that Barbara was gone, he called his office and then climbed back in bed. He had more serious things to worry about than what was happening at work. His whole world was suddenly falling down around him, and he needed time to think. One day off work would not jeopardise his job.

Even after a long sleep-in, waking up in the middle of the morning, he laid around for a long time. He did not want to get up and face the day. He prayed, but more in the sense of asking God to make it all go away. That was clearly not going to happen. Sooner or later he was going to have to make a choice, and he needed to make the right one.

What if he chose to stand by this little group of religious weirdos and then learned a week or two down the track that they really were a cult? By then it would be too late to save his marriage, his job, and all of his friends.

On the other hand, he could choose to accept Barbara's ultimatum, and forget he ever knew these people. The scene with Barbara the previous night had set the stage for a marriage held together by a threat. Because the threat was supported by Ganley, it meant that his continued acceptance at the church would be under a similar threat. How could he live with himself, much less Barbara or Ganley, under those kind of conditions? He would be their slave.

No, if he was to choose to do it Barbara's way, he wanted to do it because he agreed with her, and not because he feared what she could do to him.

Roger puttered around the house for a few hours, but he wasn't getting anywhere in resolving the problem. The day was quickly wearing on and he was no closer than he had been when he first woke up. Perhaps he would be able to think more clearly if he got out of the house. So, in the middle of the afternoon, he got in the car and backed out of the drive.

He tried to tell himself that he was looking for a park. But the car was no sooner out on the road than it was taking the shortest route to Redfern. It was like it had a mind of its own.

"Could they really be controlling my mind?" Roger asked himself in all seriousness. He was amazed at the powerful force that was now pulling him toward the group. It was easy to understand ex-members saying that they had been hypnotised. But whether it was a power outside of himself or whether it was just his own secret desire, Roger had a deep sense of relief when Dave opened the door for him. It was a feeling like he was… home.

"Come in, come in!" Dave said, as he pointed Roger to a chair. Anna poked her head momentarily through the kitchen door and then set about fixing coffee for the two men.

Dave sat quietly and waited. He could see that Roger was going through a great inner struggle; but he didn't want to get in the way by rushing him.

"Did you…? I don't know how to put this. Do you have some kind of power that I don't know about? Something that you used to get me to come here?" He was being quite serious.

"No. Why do you ask?"

"I feel like I'm cracking up. I feel like I don't have control over my life. It's like everything is being swept away."

After a moment's thought, Dave said, "Can I offer a couple of suggestions?" Roger moved his head almost imperceptibly, to show agreement, and Dave went on: "Start by making up your mind that you are going to be the one to decide what to do with your life, and that you are the one who is going to take responsbility for whatever results from your decision. Then, determine that you are going to make that decision in faith and not in fear. Do you think you can do that?"

It sounded so simple, that Roger wondered why he hadn't thought of it himself. Maybe he really was losing his mind? Then again, maybe he was becoming emotionally dependent on Dave or others in the group to think for him. He needed to get away, to be sure that he was his own master.

He stood to leave. "I…I've got to go," he said. "I have to sort this out myself, without your help."

Dave spoke slowly and deliberately, giving the full import of his words time to sink in: "Roger. Are you acting in faith by doing this?" He paused before finishing his question. "Or are you acting in fear?"

"He's doing it again," Roger thought to himself. "It's like he can read my mind." At the same time, he knew Dave was right. He had been acting in fear by jumping up like that. He sat back down and buried his face in his hands. "What's happening to me?" he asked. "I can't even think for myself anymore." And he started to weep… quiet, long sobs, while Dave talked to him soothingly.

"No one has all the answers, Roger. Don't be afraid to accept help. In the end, it's still you that makes the final decision. Do you want to share something about what you've been going through?"

Slowly, between sobs, Roger began to tell his story. Dave listened, and did not interrupt. Soon the crying stopped and Roger was breathing more evenly. Away from the threats, he had been able to see the issues more clearly. Merely stating the facts had helped him to put things back into perspective. Dave wasn't saying anything, but his presence had been the catalyst that Roger needed to solve his own problems.

"I see it now," he said. "The reason I couldn't get an answer from God was because I already had one. I knew what I needed to do, but I was too frightened to do it."

He had been talking to himself; but now he looked Dave in the face. "You may be hiding something from me," he said. "You may be everything they say you are. But I'm not going to be afraid of you, and I'm not going to be afraid of them. All I want is what's right, and I'm going to trust God to protect me as I seek it."

He returned to his evaluation of himself. "I've been asking God to tell me that two plus two does not equal four. I've been asking him to make all my problems go away, and to give me a clear conscience about doing nothing. No wonder I wasn't getting anywhere. He couldn't let me do that."

While Roger had been telling his story, Anna had placed two cups of coffee on the coffee table. About the same time, Cherry, Sean and Greg had returned from their free work assignment. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, they had quietly moved through to the kitchen.

"And where do you want to go from here?" Dave asked when Roger appeared to be finished. He had been looking down at the floor through most of the visit, and he seemed to be intently studying the carpet as he replied.

"I think the main thing is… I mustn't give in to anyone out of fear. I should have the right to come here and visit you whenever I like. If they don't like it… Well, we'll just wait and see what they say."

"Fine," said Dave. "Do you like music?"

"Yeah, I do!" said Roger as he lifted his eyes to meet Dave's steady gaze.

"Can I call the others in so we can sing a few songs together?"

"Sure. I'd love it," Roger said, wiping his eyes.

The others came in and Greg picked up a guitar while Dave fished out some home-made songbooks for them to use. Greg suggested that they turn to page four, and he began playing the chords to Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Once again, Roger was met with the unexpected. He had expected a religious song, and he ended up with a secular one. But as the group sang softly through the first verse, he found himself crying once again. This time his tears were tears of relief. He didn't want the song to end.

When you're weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all. I'm by your side.
When times get rough and friends just can't be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.

Roger could feel all the tension draining from his body. Yes, indeed, he was home. The music continued.

When you're down and out, when you're on the street.
When evening falls, I will comfort you.
I'll take your part, when darkness comes and pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.

He was ready to join in by the time they reached the last verse.

Sail on silver gull. Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine. If you need a friend, I'm sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind.

"It could be that some of these secular poets are more inspired than the religious ones," Dave said, sensing that Roger had been surprised by their use of a pop song in this way. "I get a lot of encouragement from some of these pop songs."

There was a moment or two of silence as Greg leafed through the songbook, and as Roger reflected on all that had happened in such a short period of time.

"Here's one we wrote ourselves," said Greg, as his face lit up. "It's not so serious; but it does have a serious message."

Greg made everyone laugh by standing up and acting out the words, at the same time that he continued to strum the guitar. The big man raced around chasing his tail, before sticking his head under the couch cushion as he sang.

A dog goes silly trying to chase its tail.
An ostrich will not see that things have got to fail.
People in the system ain't got no goals.
They put their wages in a bag with holes.

Well, it's time for a revelation on the light that I have found.
It's sheer indoctrination that money makes the world go round.
You can't buy love or friends and that's what matters most to me.
The best things in life are free.

Roger found himself strangely drawn to the catchy tune and the total lack of religious stuffiness or clichés. They sang and laughed and shared together for more than an hour before he realised that Barbara would be expecting him. He excused himself, but promised to be back. And this time he really meant it.


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