By Rev. Yme Woensdregt
I recently read a wonderful little story online. Abe was a fiercely independent, 85–year–old man. After a mild stroke, however, his son insisted he move in with him. Abe missed going to the park near his old apartment. One Saturday he set out to find it.
He became disoriented and asked a young boy named Timmy where the park was. Timmy said he’d like to take him there, but he didn’t have time because he was looking for God. He said he needed to talk to God about why his parents were getting a divorce.
“Maybe God’s in the park,” the old man said. “I’d like to talk to God, too, about why he’s made me useless.” So they set off together to find God.
At the park, Timmy began to cry about the divorce, and Abe lovingly held his face in both hands and looked him straight in the eyes. “Timmy, I don’t know why bad things happen, but I know it wasn’t because of you. I know you’re a good boy and your parents love you and you’ll be okay.”
Timmy gave Abe a big hug and said, “I’m so glad I met you. Thanks. I think I can go now.”
From across the street, Timmy’s mother saw them hug and approached her son in a worried voice.
“Who was that old man?”
“I think he’s God,” Timmy said.
“Did he say that?” she demanded.
“No, but when he touched me and told me I’m going to be okay, I felt really better. Only God can do that.”
When Abe got home, his son asked in a scolding voice, “Where were you?”
“I was in the park with God.”
“Really? What makes you think you were with God?”
“Because He sent me a boy who needed me, and when the boy hugged me, I felt God telling me I wasn’t useless anymore.”
Whenever I hear a story like this, I’m reminded that God comes to us in many disguises. In 1972, Presbyterian professor Robert McAfee Brown wrote a wonderful book called “The Pseudonyms of God”. His point was that God speaks to us in many different ways — through human culture and natural events, through interior mystical experiences, and through very public experiences.
In that book, he wrote, “I need more than the resources of Bible, theological tradition, and my own commitments if I am to understand my faith and the world in which it is set; I also need the ethical insights of my secular colleagues, the political and psychological analyses of my friends and foes, and the prophetic jab of nonchurchmen whose degree of commitment so often puts my own to shame.”
We can catch a glimpse of divine reality in many different ways, including the everyday and ordinary moments of each day. Part of our task, then, is to listen, to see deeper into the heart of reality, so that we might see and hear God’s presence in all these ways.
Like Abe and Timmy, we may even learn to find God in the park. I know people like them who are close to God when they’re riding a bike, or climbing mountains, or listening to a piece of music, or finding ourselves lost in a work of art. Celtic spirituality calls such experiences “thin places”.
It’s a wonderful concept. It leads us to know the holiness of God that rests all around us. It helps us see God’s holiness in other people, and especially those who are different from us.
So what do you say? Want to go the park?
Rev Dr Yme Woensdregt is Incumbent at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook BC
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