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
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?"
"He was not at school to-day."
"Is that so?"
"You don't mean it!"
"Nor the day before."
"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
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!
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
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.