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Friday, November 4, 2016

The Powerful Kindness of God

There once was a man, a good man who tried to live by his faith, who sought to find the kingdom of love and grace. But he was tired. He was depressed by the evil that he saw in the world around him. And he began to doubt. ‘If God is good,’ he pondered, ‘and if God is active in the world then why,’ he wondered, ‘does evil so often prevail?’

One night as he lay down to sleep he prayed, “O God! The world is gone bad and there is no kindness anymore. I just want to see something of your goodness before I lose all hope.” He put his head down on his pillow and was soon asleep.

As he slept he saw a vision of an angel that said to him, “Your prayer has been heard, and God will answer. Tomorrow you will see the powerful goodness of God on display. You will see the light of kindness in this darkened world and your faith will be restored.”

He awoke the next morning with great anticipation. “Today I will see the power of God fighting the forces of evil.” He dressed and set off for work, eager to see the goodness of God prevailing during the course of the day.

At the bus stop, he bounced on the toes of his feet as he waited for the bus, he was so anxious. “God will show me something good,” he said to himself. Just then he saw a young woman being threatened by three teenagers, hoodlums. They were grabbing at her as she walked, and shouting sexually aggressive comments at her.

“Hey you!” he shouted at them. “Leave off! Get out of here. Leave her alone.” The trouble-makers cursed him and threw an empty beer bottle at him and the woman, but did not cause any more trouble. The bus arrived and he and the young woman found their seats inside. “Thanks,” the woman said to him.

The man sat in his seat, thinking about the young punks who caused so much mischief. “Why do they get away with it?” he wondered.

He exited the bus and walked the block and a half to the office where he worked. Outside the building stood an Asian couple puzzling over a piece of paper. They stopped him before he could enter his building, thrusting the paper in front of his face and speaking rapidly in a langue he didn’t understand. On the paper was an address. The couple motioned, pointing up and down the street. The man understood that they were lost and looking for directions.

He tried to explain how to get to the address written on the paper, it wasn’t far but the inability to communicate left them both stymied. He shrugged and motioned for them to follow him and he walked with them the short distance to their destination. They thanked him in their strange language, and shook his hand and patted his arm.

He was late getting to work, so he had to stay later than usual to finish his work for the day. Afterwards he took the bus back home again. It was nearly dark as he walked back from the bus stop to his home. 

As he walked he noticed a jumble of furniture and appliances piled at the curb in front of an apartment building. There was a couch and a stained mattress, a microwave and bags of clothing and a refrigerator. Closer now, he heard muffled screams and sobs coming from inside the fridge.

He dashed to the refrigerator and saw that the hinged door was wedged shut – and someone was crying inside. He pulled the other debris away from the ice-box and yanked the door open. Out tumbled a boy with a dirt-smudged face; his tears had carved canyons through the dirt. The boy fell on the ground and rolled over on his back gasping. His sobs dried up quickly as he caught his breath. Then he stood and ran away, towards home the man hoped.

Back in his own apartment again, he sighed and locked the door. He changed out of his work-day suit and into casual clothes, then set about making a meal for himself, a meal that he ate standing in the kitchen over the stove.

“God,” he said between bites. “I thought you were going to show me something today. I thought I was going to see your powerful goodness on display, but I saw nothing. Nothing except the same sort of violence and desperation I see every day. Nothing changed.”

Just then the angel appeared to him again. “Nothing changed, you say, but you are wrong. You saw the powerful kindness of God on display three times today.”

The man snorted, a cynical sort of laughter. “What? Am I living out the Russian cobbler’s story? When I helped those people I was helping God? Is that what I was supposed to learn?”

“No,” said the angel. “Not at all. When you helped those people today you were not helping God. God does not need your help. No. When you helped those people you – YOU – were the powerful kindness of God to them.”

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Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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