A Picture of God by Unknown

It is fairly pathetic what a stranger God is in His own world. He comes to His own, and they who are His own kinsfolk keep Him standing outside the door while they peer suspiciously at Him through the crack at the hinges.

To know God really, truly, is the beginning of a normal life. One of the best pictures of God that I ever saw came to me in a simple story. It was of a man, a minister, who lived in a New England town, who had a son, about fourteen years of age, going to school. One afternoon the boy's teacher called at the home, and asked for the father, and said:—

"Is your boy sick?"

"No. Why?"

"He was not at school to-day."

"Is that so?"

"Nor yesterday."

"You don't mean it!"

"Nor the day before."

"Well!"

"And I supposed he was sick."

"No, he's not sick."

"Well, I thought I should tell you."

And the father said, "Thank you," and the teacher left.

And the father sat thinking. By and by he heard a click at the gate, and he knew the boy was coming, so he went to open the door. And the boy knew as he looked up that his father knew about those three days. And the father said:—

"Come into the library, Phil." And Phil went, and the door was shut. And the father said: "Phil, your teacher was here this afternoon. He tells me you were not at school to-day, nor yesterday nor the day before. And we supposed you were. You let us think you were. And you do not know how badly I feel. I have always trusted you. I have always said, 'I can trust my boy Phil.' And here you've been a living lie for three whole days. And I can't tell you how badly I feel about it."

Well, that was hard on Phil to be talked to quietly like that. If his father had spoken to him roughly, or—had asked him out to the woodshed for a confidential interview, it would not have been nearly so hard. Then, after a moment's pause, the father said, "Phil, we'll get down and pray." And the thing was getting harder for Phil all the time.

He didn't want to pray just then. And they got down. And the father poured out his heart in prayer. And the boy knew as he listened how badly his father felt over his conduct. Somehow he saw himself in the mirror on his knees as he had not before. It's queer about that mirror of the knee-joints. It does show so many things. Many folks don't like it.

And they got up. And the father's eyes were wet. And Phil's eyes were not dry. Then the father said:—

"My boy, there's a law of life that where there is sin, there is suffering. You can't detach those two things. Where there is suffering there has been sin somewhere. And where there is sin there will be suffering. You can't get these two things apart. Now," he went on, "you have done wrong. And I am in this home like God is in the world. So we will do this. You go up to the attic. I'll make a pallet for you there. We'll take your meals up to you at the regular times, and you stay up there as long as you've been a living lie—three days and three nights."

And Phil didn't say a word. They went up stairs, the pallet was made, and the father kissed his boy and left him alone with his thoughts. Supper time came, and the father and mother sat down to eat. But they couldn't eat for thinking about the boy. The longer they chewed upon the food, the bigger and dryer it got in their mouths. And swallowing it was clear out of the question. Then they went into the sitting room for the evening. He picked up the evening paper to read, and she sat down to sew. Well, his eyes weren't very good. He wore glasses. And this evening he couldn't seem to see distinctly—the glasses seemed blurred. It must have been the glasses, of course. So he took them off and cleaned them very deliberately and then found that he had been holding the paper upside down. And she tried to sew. But the thread broke, and she couldn't seem to get the needle threaded again. You could see they were both bothered. How we do reveal ourselves in the details!

[Illustration: "<i>I'm going up stairs with Phil</i>."]

By and by the clock struck nine, and then ten, their usual hour for retiring. But they made no move toward retiring. She said, "Aren't you going to bed?" And he said, "I think I'll not go yet a bit; you go." "No, I guess I'll wait a while, too." And the clock struck eleven, and the hands worked around toward twelve. Then they arose, and locked up, and went to bed, but—not to sleep. Each one made pretence to be asleep, and each one knew the other was not asleep. By and by she said (women are always the keener), "Why don't you sleep?" And he said gently, "How did you know I wasn't sleeping? Why don't you sleep?"

"Well, I just can't for thinking of the boy up in the attic."

"That's the bother with me," he replied. And the clock in the hall struck twelve, and one, and two. Still no sleep came.

At last he said, "Mother, I can't stand this any longer; I'm going up stairs with Phil." And he took his pillow and went softly out of the room, and up the attic stairs, and pressed the latch-key softly, so as not to wake the boy if he were asleep, and tiptoed across the attic floor to the corner by the window, and looked—there Phil lay, wide awake, with something glistening in his eyes, and what looked like stains on his cheeks. And the father got down in between the sheets with his boy, and they got their arms around each other's necks, for they had always been the best of friends, father and boy, and their tears got mixed up on each other's cheeks. Then they slept. And the next night when the time came for sleep, the father said, "Good-night, mother, I'm going up stairs with Phil." And the second night he slept in the attic with his boy. And the third night, again he said, "Mother, good-night, I'm going up with the boy again." And the third night he slept in the place of punishment with his son.

You are not surprised to know that to-day that boy, a man grown, is telling the story of Jesus with tongue and life of flame in the heart of China.

Do you know, I think that father is the best picture of God I ever saw. God could not take away sin. It's here. He could not take away suffering out of kindness to man. For suffering is sin's index finger, saying, "There's something wrong here." So He came down in the person of His Son, and lay down alongside of man for three days and three nights. That's God—our God. And beyond that He comes and puts His life alongside of yours and mine, and makes us hate the bad, and long to be pure. To be on intimate terms with Him, to live in the atmosphere of His presence, to spend the day with Him—that is the true normal life.