“Are you alright young man? You seem rather upset.”
“I’m fine.” replied Jake, as he looked up to assess his inquisitor.”
Jake had been sitting on the fence for several minutes.
He had no idea where he was or how he got there.
He’d had an argument with his mother.
He was angry. Angry with his mum. Angry that his older sister wasn’t able to come home for his birthday. Angry that his father had been taken from him.
He was angry with everyone and everything. As far as he was concerned the world was conspiring against him.
How else could one explain his father being taken from him.
It was exactly a year ago – on his ninth birthday – that he lost his dad.
Not a day had gone by without Jake remembering the last time he saw him; the last words he said to him.
” I’ll be back shortly Jake. Daddy forgot to buy candles for your cake.”
“Thanks Dad. Don’t be long. Remember we’re all going for a bike ride later.”
But his dad never returned.
Shortly after he left the house a bomb exploded on the high street.
Jake’s dad was one of the unfortunate victims.
Jake had never really recovered from that day. He blamed everyone and everything for the loss of his father – especially himself.
“If only I had told him I didn’t need any candles” he would often say to himself.
“Where are you trying to get to?” asked the man.
“I just want to get back home,” replied Jake.
“But where were you going?”
“I…I don’t know. I just wanted to get out of the house.”
“Cause mum wouldn’t listen.”
“Listen to what?”
“She wouldn’t listen to me. I told her that I didn’t want a birthday cake and she still went and got one.”
“Is it your birthday today?”
Jake didn’t answer. He had decided long ago that he would never celebrate his birthday again. In-fact the idea of celebrating birthdays repulsed him; made him angry.
“Yes it is,” he finally replied. ”
“So why don’t you want a cake?”
Jake didn’t answer, hoping that if he remained silent for long enough the man, who he assumed was a farmer, would get bored and leave him alone.
But he underestimated the farmer’s perseverance.
“Celebrating your birthday is a good thing. Why don’t you want to?”
Jake remained silent. Surely if he stayed quiet for long enough the farmer would get bored and leave. Surely!!!!
“So how old are you today? Eleven? Twelve?”
“Ten” replied Jake, no longer able to maintain his silent treatment.
“Happy birthday to you young man.”
“If it’s so happy why do I feel so sad? My birthday isn’t a good day. Nothing good can come from my birthday. My dad’s dead because of my birthday….because of me.”
Jake was now crying. In a strange way the tears were good for him – almost therapeutic; releasing a torrent of pent-up emotions.
“Tell me what happened” said the farmer.
Jake narrated the morning of his ninth birthday; how happy and excited he was; how his mum and dad had bought him the best and biggest cake ever; and how his dad had gone out to buy candles but never came back. He blamed himself – for not saying there was no need for candles. As far as he was concerned his dad was no longer alive because of his birthday – because of him.
“Do you believe in God?” asked Jake.
“Yes I do” replied the farmer.
“I used to. But not any more” said Jake.
“I don’t believe He’s up there. And even if He is I don’t like Him. He can’t be a nice God. Otherwise He wouldn’t have allowed dad to be taken from me.”
“Hmmm….I know what you mean. It must be very difficult to believe there’s a God when so many terrible things are happening everyday.”
“Exactly! Why would God allow people to kill my dad like that? And that horrible thing that happened in America!”
“What horrible thing?” asked the farmer.
“The people that died because of those two aeroplanes. Mum says that bad people did it. Why does God allow people to do bad things?”
“Tell me about your dad. What was he like?”
“Dad was great. We used to do everything together. He taught me how to swim. He also taught me to ride my bike. He even taught my friend Josh to ride his bike.”
“But there was this one time when he got really upset with me.”
“Why? What happened?” asked the farmer.
“Well…I guess I was kind of mean to Josh. But he started it. He wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept making fun of me – telling me that my bike was for girls. I told him to stop but he didn’t listen. So I…
“So you what?”
“Well…I pushed him into a hedge full of thorns. He was really hurt. I felt bad. Dad was really angry. He shouted at me, and told me to go to my room. I guess he was angry because he always told me never to be bad to people – to never get into fights and stuff. Dad didn’t like people being mean to each other. He always told me to be nice to people – no matter what. I felt really bad – like I had let him down. I hope he’s forgiven me”.
“So what happened afterwards?”
“After a few hours he came to my room and talked to me.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me that he was upset with me because I was mean to my friend. He told me that he wants me to always be nice to people, and that being nasty to people is a bad thing”.
“He also told me that he wants me to grow up to be a man who loves people no matter what. That it’s the only way the world can get better.”
“Do you agree with him?”
“Yes I do. I don’t think anyone should be mean to anyone.”
“So have you been mean to anyone since then?”
“A few times I guess. But I try not to be.”
“What happened to your friend?”
“Josh? Oh, he’s still my best friend. That night, after dad talked to me I felt really bad for him. So I asked dad if I could call him to tell him I was sorry.”
“You mean you decided to do that on your own? Your dad didn’t make you do it?”
“No, it was my idea. I felt really bad for Josh.”
“So what did your dad say?”
“He smiled and gave me a hug. Then he told me he was proud of me.”
“Why do you think he said that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because I felt bad for my friend and wanted to say sorry.”
“Yes, I think so too. I think he was happy because you made the right choice – to say sorry and show love to your friend.
He wouldn’t have been so proud of you if he’d had to force you to apologise. He was proud of you because you did it out of love.
It’s the same thing with every day life. We face choices on a daily basis – whether to be kind or mean to someone – whether to be good or bad to people.
It isn’t God that does bad things. It is people that do bad things.
Just like your dad with you, God always wants people to do good things; to be kind and loving to each other.
The people that flew those two planes into that building in America – they chose to do a bad thing. Same with the people that planted the bomb that took your father away. They all chose to be mean and not nice. God was very sad when those things happened.”
“So why does He allow it? Why didn’t He stop them?” asked Jake.
“Because He has given us free will. Just like your father taught you to be good, so does God. But He won’t force you. It’s your choice.
Can you remember how you felt after you apologised to Josh?”
“Kind of. I think I felt really happy. Happy that I had done a good thing. Happy that we were still friends.”
“And your dad? How did he feel?”
“He was really pleased. He kept telling me ‘well done. I’m proud of you’ he didn’t stop smiling.”
“And why do you think he was so proud of you?”
“I guess it was because it was my idea to apologise to Josh.”
The farmer smiled.
“Jake, I can assure you that every time you choose to do a good thing, every-time you show love, God is extremely proud of you.”
“Really?? Do you really think so?”
“I know so.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do. You’ll just have to take my word for it.”
Jake smiled. But his smile turned quickly into a frown.
“I don’t think I ever stopped believing in God. I think I was angry with Him because He allows bad things to happen. I still don’t know why He does. I guess those people made bad and mean choices.
But I miss my dad. And I keep wondering if he’s ok.”
“Your dad’s very ok Jake. He’s in a good place.”
“You mean heaven?”
“Yes, heaven. And he loves you very much. He checks on you everyday.”
“But what happens to them?”
“What happens to who?”
“The bad people. If God doesn’t like it then what happens to them after they do bad things?”
“Ah.. that, young man, is a conversation for another day. For now, just be sure that God definitely exists; and that He loves you very much and always wants you to do good and loving things – no matter what.
Right…I must be off. And you should get going too. Follow that path, turn right at the end and you’ll see your house. Now get along. You’re mum’s worried about you. And tell her you love her when you get home. She loves you very much.
Jake smiled and said thank you. Then got on his bike and rode off.
He was feeling much better now.
He was grateful for the conversation. He was also happy that he and God were friends again. Although as far as God was concerned they had always being friends.
After peddling a few metres he suddenly stopped.
“Hang on! How does He know where I live? And how does he know dad checks on me every day?”
Jake turned around to ask the farmer how he knew so much.
But on turning he saw nothing but a clear field.
No farmer in sight.
In fact, not a soul in sight.
He stared at the open field for a few minutes as he realised who he had been conversing with.
Then looked up to the sky and smiled.
He turned around again and continued his journey home, happy that his dad was ok; happy and secure in the knowledge that God was always looking out for him.
© Segun Akande