I don’t believe a word of it, and although the thought sickens me I don’t believe that Dwayne really believes it either. I know this guy. I know how his heart and mind work. We have prayed together, talked until all hours, studied the Bible. I know he is simply trying to serve God, to be faithful to Who he believes has created him and given him life. He’s doing his best to be a Christian, but he’s not experiencing anything genuine tonight at all. And deep down inside, I know he knows it.

When Dwayne finishes telling me about how marvelous the evening was and how I gotta go back with him tomorrow night, I tell him to look me in the eyes. He does, still grinning sheepishly.

“Dwayne,” I say, “Be real.”

“What?” he asks, still grinning.

“Just be real, Dwayne. Be real.”

“Patton, brother, I am being real.”

“Look, you’re my friend and I love you. I’m for you. And I’m just telling you to be real. Don’t experience anything you aren’t experiencing.”

His grin fades. He looks up at the ceiling. I walk away, leaving him slumped on the chair. I know I should stay and talk to him about this, but I’m too mad.

I don’t see Dwayne for two weeks. I know that my reaction ruined his high, but I’m not sure if what I ruined was genuine or not. Though Dwayne seemed fake, though every instinct in me said that this spiritual drunkenness thing was a sham, I hold out the possibility that it could be true, and that I could be the one who is wrong. God does work, after all, in mysterious ways. Maybe being drunk in the Spirit is possible, but the form I have seen it take stinks of fabrication.

Then, one afternoon, Dwayne taps lightly on my dorm room door. “Patton, you around?” He comes in, sits down, and dives straight into what he has to say. He tells me that he has been thinking about that night, all day every day for the last two weeks. He says I was right; he was not being real, and it took him this long to come to terms with it. “Thanks for nailing me. Really. I needed it.”

He looks awful, as if he hasn’t eaten. His face hangs. He tells me that he has reconsidered everything, thought through all his charismatic experiences and tried to determine what was real and what was not. He believes that God has touched him in significant ways throughout his life, but also that he has made some things up. Right now, he feels there has been no greater sin in his life than that.

“It’s OK, Dwayne. Lighten up a little,” I say, as if I am one to talk. “We’re all trying to figure these things out. All these charismatic ministers, you know, I think lots of them are just trying to do God’s will. But everyone emphasizes these intense emotional experiences, and sometimes things go haywire. I’ve been trying for months to figure out what’s real and what’s not. It’s tough.” Dwayne says he came by mostly to ask me to pray for him. He wants God to show him whatever God is showing me. I flinch at the idea that God is showing me anything, that any of my confusion is God-inspired. But Dwayne is sincere, and needful, and I agree to pray for him.

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