“You’re very quiet today.” Dr. McFerren tapped his pencil on the desktop. “I’ve been doing most of the talking. Are you feeling all right?”
Kim stirred. “What’s that, Dr. McFerren? Did you say something?”
The psychiatrist laughed out loud. “Apparently nothing important.”
“Oh,” Kim blushed. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m not a very good patient today.”
The man rose and walked over to where Kim was sitting. Pulling up a chair, he sat down and studied the boy’s face. “What’s the matter? You seem a million miles away.”
“I am, sort of,” Kim admitted. “I was thinking about something I saw. . . uh . . . read last week.”
“You want to tell me about it?”
The boy nodded. “I do, but I don’t know how. You see, it has to do with religion and stuff like that.”
Dr. McFerren smiled. “That’s OK. I can take it.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Kim said. “Religion, God, this is all new to me. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s going on. I mean, you say there’s a God, but you don’t really like Him. But God is kind and loving. How can you not like a God who does good things for people?”
“Kim, it’s not what God does that I don’t like. It’s what He doesn’t do.”
“What do you mean?”
Dr. McFerren thought for a minute. “I just wish He’d . . . help people more. There’s so much pain and violence around these days. Why doesn’t this all-powerful God step in and stop it?”
“But He did step in,” Kim countered. “I saw . . . I mean, I read where His Son Jesus was born on this earth and grew up to be a kind and loving man. He used His power to make sick people well and sad people happy. He’s been here, doing just what you said. Yet few people believed in Him or trusted Him then. It’s the same today. Why is that?”
The man studied Kim’s face. “You’re serious about this, aren’t you? I mean, this is important to you.”
“Well, yes,” Kim nodded. “I want to know what I’m supposed to do with God.”
“You’re asking the wrong man,” Dr. McFerren said coldly.
“No, I don’t think so. You said you went to church when you were a little boy. You prayed. You sang songs and listened to sermons. You must have believed in Him then.”
The doctor leaned back in his chair. “I was just a boy. I grew up.”
“But doesn’t God grow up too?”
Dr. McFerren sat in silence for a long moment. Slowly he rose to his feet and walked to the window. “You know what happened,” he said quietly. “You remember I told you about my father.”
“Hey, I lost my father too,” Kim said. “And my mother. Was that God’s fault?”
“Yes!” The doctor whirled and faced the boy. “Yes! He could have stopped it. He could have kept it from happening. But He didn’t. He just sat there and did nothing–”
“Dr. McFerren,” Kim interrupted, “the God I’m learning about would never just sit and let something bad happen if He could stop it. He’s kind, loving. He heals sicknesses, makes crippled people walk again. He cries when people cry. Laughs when they laugh. But even with Him standing right there, bad things continued to happen all around, in the next village, the next town.”
“Jesus was human,” the doctor argued. “God the Father is divine. He’s not limited like His Son was.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t agree, Dr. McFerren. Jesus didn’t seem to be limited at all. But He only used His power on those who wanted it, who had faith in it.”
The man’s face reddened. “So you’re saying my father died because I didn’t have faith in God?”
“Oh, no! Please don’t think I meant that at all!” Kim sat back heavily in his chair. “There, you see, I get to a certain point and then nothing makes sense anymore. Don’t be angry with me. I’m confused too.”
The doctor’s face softened as he returned to the chair beside Kim. “Forgive me. I didn’t mean to raise my voice at you. I guess this is a touchy subject for both of us.”
Kim nodded. “The answer seems so close. I just want to reach out and grab it so I can understand.”
“Maybe,” the doctor said quietly, “maybe there is no answer to all this. Maybe we’re not supposed to understand. On one hand we have a God who loves us. On the other hand we have pain and suffering. Yet when Jesus lived on this earth, He suffered and felt pain. He didn’t even try to stay out of it. He could have, but He didn’t. It was as if . . . He . . .”
The man leaned back against his chair, his eyes closed. “0 God,” he whispered, “forgive me.”
Kim drew in a sharp breath. “Dr. McFerren, what’s the matter?”
The man shook his head slowly from side to side. “I’ve been such a fool. For so long I’ve been blaming God for my father’s death, as if He were treating me worse than He treats other people. But Kim, God didn’t stop evil from hurting His own Son. Yet Jesus never questioned, never blamed, never turned against His Father. He just obeyed.
“Don’t you see? There must be a reason that God doesn’t step in and stop sin and evil in this world. And whatever the reason, it was good enough for Jesus. He lived and died to support it.”
The man walked back to the window. “It’s like my daddy used to say when I’d complain about our lot in life. He’d look me right in the eye and say, ‘Son, don’t ask why. Just hang in there. The good Lord knows what’s going on. He’ll fix it in the end.’ And you know, He has fixed it so many times. I’ve just been so blinded by my own disappointments I didn’t take the time to see.” The man turned and faced Kim. “We may not like what’s going on, but God will have the last word. Jesus must have known that deep down in His heart.”
Kim nodded slowly. “Recently I heard someone say ‘God’s voice is everywhere.’ Maybe some people hear it best when they’re hurting.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” The doctor smiled. “But there’s got to be an easier way.”
A tiny “beep” sounded from the man’s arm. Glancing at his watch, Dr. McFerren sighed. “I’m afraid our time is up. I’ve got another patient waiting. I appreciate your honesty, Kim. Really.”
The boy rose to leave. “Dr. McFerren, do you think we’ll ever understand about God?”
“Probably not,” the man said. “I guess He understands us. Maybe that’s enough.”
With a wave, Kim was gone. The doctor sat down behind his desk and leaned back into the soft arms of his chair. He closed his eyes. “Maybe that’s enough,” he repeated.
The cabin buzzed with activity as busy hands swarmed about the curtains, throw rugs, chairs, sofa, and linen closet. Spring cleaning had come to the little dwelling in the clearing in the woods.
Tony splashed a soapy concoction of his own invention on each windowpane and washed them till they seemed to disappear from view.
Kim crawled around on his hands and knees making sure all hidden deposits of dust and grime ceased to exist under the relentless attack of his foaming scrub brush.
In the kitchen Tie Li carefully dried the dishes Grandmother Parks handed her. She stopped to admire the colorful patterns etched in each plate and platter.
“This very pretty,” she said, holding a serving dish up to the light streaming through a nearby Tony-washed window. “It remind me of flower garden.”
“It is lovely, isn’t it?” Grandmother agreed. “My mother gave that set to me.”
“Oh,” Tie Li gasped, “it must be very, very old.”
“Well, Noah didn’t use them in the ark, if that’s what you mean.”
Tie Li giggled. “There was no room in the ark for dishes. Just people and animals.”
Tony called from a corner of the cabin. “What’s it like being old, Grandmother?”
The woman sighed. “For one thing, everyone thinks you’re older than you really are. For another thing, all children under 15 think you used to date Jonah.”
“Oh,” Tony said seriously, “you must have had a whale of a time.”
The cabin erupted with laughter as Grandmother threw a bubbly dishrag across the room. It hit Tony squarely in the face.
Kim doubled over, his stomach aching with glee. “Look,” he shouted, “Grandmother is spring-cleaning Tony!”
Tie Li slipped to the floor, her legs no longer able to support her shaking body. “I think he need more soap,” she screeched.
Grandmother stumbled across the room, holding her sides. “Well, well,” she mused, standing before her dishrag-crowned grandson. “Where should I start? Behind the ears, I think.”
Tony wrapped his arms around the woman. “Grandmother,” he cried, his face covered with suds, “you’re the best, the very best, even if you are old enough to be a California redwood.”
Renewed gales of laughter sprang through the cabin windows and drifted with the wind over the pasture and echoed deep in the forest. In every corner of the Parkses’ farm, a new life was beginning for each tree and shrub. Animals scurried about, reveling in the newfound warmth.
The seasons were changing. Winter was fading away. Soon there’d be young ones to care for, mouths to feed, homes to protect. As with nature and humans alike, the Creator had made provision for new life.
But Tony, Tie Li, and Kim had more lessons to learn. In the weeks to come, they’d discover that sometimes new life comes at a terrible price.