March 19, 2008

What Would You Say?

I wrote this as an allegory for my Doctrine class. No, the character is not me, but I was answering a question involving what I might say in similar circumstances. I have actually been in conversations a bit like this, but the circumstances were a tad different. Anyway, I hope you like it. Enjoy.

* * *

I checked my watch as I pulled into the Abuelos parking lot; half an hour late was too late for my taste. John and Mary knew I had a tendency to show up a bit off schedule, but this was pushing it, even with my lame “my cell is dead” excuse. Especially on today, of all days; the anniversary of their son’s tragic football injury, paralyzing him from the waist down. I wondered if I’d see Mark today. I expected so, since Mexican was his favorite, but then again, travel with a paraplegic is never easy, even with the new vehicle they’d had to purchase since Mark’s accident. I parked, tossed my useless cell phone onto the passenger seat, and made my way into the restaurant. The hostess smiled at me warmly; Wendy was one of my parishioners, and it seemed appropriate that she would be working here today – after all, she was Mark’s girlfriend. I tried to push thoughts of unequal yokes out of my head. She’d stuck with him after she’d been baptized, and if anyone was to reach the Smiths, it was her.

“They’re waiting for you in the back,” she said, “over there.” I thanked her, always surprised by her warmth and genuineness – she always made you feel as though you were the most important person there.

Mary waved me over and I sat down. Mark smirked as I picked up the menu and then handed it to the waiter who’d appeared promptly; I already knew what I wanted. After I’d ordered, John raised his Margarita and said “to friends, who stick with us through trouble.” He took a swig and then gave me a pointed look. “You know,” he started, “it’s polite to call. But that’s ok – they have free chips here.” I mumbled an embarrassed apology.

“No worries mate,” he said – he was Australian – “we’ll put it on your tab.” After some more polite conversation, we sat in silence for a minute, sipping our drinks, when suddenly John’s fist hit the table, hard, making water slosh around the rim of my glass. “I just don't get it,” he barked, “How could your god let something like this happen? What’s he on about?” I’d known that this was coming – he’d been hinting at it for a while now – but the force of his question worried me a little; I still wasn’t sure what to say to him.

“John,” I started, slowly, “I know it’s been hard. God knows you’ve all been through a lot …”

“Does he now?” retorted John.

“Ah, yes, He does,” I replied, “but I’m just saying, think about where you’ve come from! Your family has grown together so much since Mark … since he fell. You’re at home more, and I bet Mary appreciates that.” Mary nodded, her eyes wide. Mark looked embarrassed, staring into his cup of Pepsi and toying with the straw. John grabbed another chip, his expression turning thoughtful.

“It has been nice,” said Mary, “even if it took this to wake us up.” Mark shrugged. Teenagers.

“But couldn’t he have done something else?” asked John, “Why did it have to be our son?! If God wanted me to stay home, why didn’t he break my back?”

“I couldn’t really say,” I said, “except that … well … you sound a lot like Jesus right now.”

“Pardon?” They all looked surprised.

“Well sure,” I said, sounding the words out carefully. Where was I going with this? “Jesus gave himself up for others all the time. It was kinda his thing.”

“You reckon?”

“Sure. And I think Jesus would be happy with the way your family has come together. A lot of families let this sort of thing tear them apart, but no, not the Smiths. The Smiths don’t let a little thing like pain get in the way, they get back on their feet!” Mark grimaced.

“Sorry mate,” I said, backpedaling a bit, “but let’s face it, your arms are ripped right now.” His eyes glinted devilishly as he smiled. “Let’s face it,” I continued, “your family is a lot more like the sort of family Jesus wants to see since that accident happened. You let something good happen in your life even though it could have been ugly. I think you’re closer to Jesus than you realize.” Mary looked thoughtful. John looked incredulous. Mark turned red. I hadn’t told them that Mark had been reading through scripture with Wendy. John bristled.

“It doesn’t seem fair though; why should a good God tolerate such … evil!”

“God doesn’t like suffering, if that’s what you mean.” I paused, feeling for the words. “But we all knew that accidents were a potential risk when Mark started playing football. Why is it God’s fault if we make a choice to risk our necks – or backs – and then something bad happens? But I again point you towards the good things that have happened. You got your priorities in order, and that takes guts, man. Guts.” John sighed.

“No thanks to you,” he said, “I think that I might have just walked out, as frustrating as it was.”

“Well,” I said, “what are friends for? Besides, you’ve got a wonderful woman here, she deserves to keep you, and you deserve to keep her! Why should a little accident get in the way of stuff that’s important? Sure it’s not as convenient now, but Mark seems to be doing well.” I nodded over at Mark, whose eye had caught Wendy’s. They were grinning at each other like only teenagers could. Ah, I thought, young love.

Our food came. “Care to pray?” I asked. John looked suspicious. After a pause, he slowly nodded.

“Give it a go,” he said, “maybe there’s something to this God of yours. Should I fold my hands?”

1 comment:

Dan said...

glad you shared this... i was hoping to hear your version because I had a suspicion that there would be some big differences in the answers turned in. You took the conversation to a whole different place than I did, which is great. Maybe I'll post mine on my blog also. Anyway, good job!