“So Mr. Adams, how are you finding the kids?”
“Fine, fine they are warming up to me. Well except Mark, he seem distant and aggressive like he’s carry so much anger in him.”
“Just leave Mark and focus on the other kids.”
“But- why ma?”
“Take my word for it. He’s a sinking ship and if you want to dive in be my guest.” Mr. Adam walked out puzzled. Why would a kid who’s just fifteen be known as a sinking ship?
“Ok, that’s the bell, pass your notes forward.” Mr. Adam said. “And urmm, Mark take the notes to my office.” Mark walked away in an abrupt manner.
“So I see you didn’t do well in the test.” Adam said, flipping through in his notes. “You are one of those with the least score and yes I haven’t marked it yet but I can tell.” His reply answered Mark raised eye brows. Mr. Adam continued. “Mark, those questions were easy and I’m surprised you couldn’t answer at least five of them.” He paused and stared at Mark who didn’t flinch. “Judging from your past records it should have been as easy as pie.” Mark remained silent.
“Mark, I’m talking to you.”
“I don’t like English.” He finally said.
“But you speaking it.” There was a smile at the corner of his lips and Adam was pleased.
“Which subjects do you like then?”
“None of them.”
“You should. Don’t you want to grow to be just like your dad?” Marks face was suddenly flustered with anger and he ran straight out of the office. Did I say something wrong? His teacher thought to himself.
Mark’s relationship with his mother wasn’t any different. He’d locked her out. It was best that way. Although he felt bad when he saw her cry he wouldn’t want to go through the same pain all over again.
Weeks later, Mr. Adam tried his best to win Mark over. The frequent visits to his office paid off. Mark was suddenly interested in the comic book, Left Behind and he always went back to his teacher for the next series. They soon became good friends and Adam was glad God was helping him with Mark. Most times he had always wanted to bring up the issue concerning Mark’s problems and fears, but something held him back and he felt it wasn’t the right time.
Their closeness made Mr. Adam realize he lived two streets away from Mark and he would sometimes invite him for children’s program at his church. Mark was nonchalant about his request at first but later visited with his not interested look.
One afternoon after service, as they sat in the congregation Mr. Adam asked,
“Mark do you believe in God?”
“Well I don’t know. I used to.”
“Why did you stop, did God offend you?”
He wasn’t even sure if God still existed because if he did his dad and brother would still be here with him. Mark had never been able to accept their accident as God’s will as it had been suggested to him at the time. How could the loving, caring God his parents worshipped end his brother and father’s life so abruptly and inflict such a raw grief and irreconcilable loss on him and his mother? It still hadn’t made any sense to him.
Mark pulled himself back to the present. Mr. Adam seemed to be waiting for him to speak, but Mark didn’t know how to start.
“You look troubled. It’s ok Mark I can help you out.” Mark could brush it off if he chose. And he didn’t think Mr. Adam would push on the issue. Yet, the man had opened the door for further discussion if Mark wanted to walk through it.
Once before, he had been tempted to share his feelings with Mr. Adam. There was an innate goodness about him, a kindness that invited confidence that suggested he could listen with understanding and empathy, without judgment.
Mark had resisted the temptation last time. But much had changed since then, he now saw Mr. Adam more as a friend and confidant. Raking his fingers through his hair, Mark looked back at Mr. Adam. “I haven’t been to church for quite some time. My mom just stopped caring after the accident.” He paused. “I lost my dad and brother the same day and it was all my fault, I shouldn’t have sent them out that night. And I blame God for letting it happen. My dad always went to church we believed in him so much and he disappointed me. I miss them so much you know, my brother and I were really close even if we fight over a little thing my brother would always be there for me.
“When they were in the hospital, I prayed hard. A lot of other family members prayed also. I figured God had to listen to all those voices. That surely he wouldn’t let them die, even when things started getting worst I kept believing. I just believed God would save them even if it took a miracle.”
The expression on Mark’s face, and bitterness etched his voice like acid on metal. “It was wrong they died and I wouldn’t accept it. For months, I was distraught. Everyone thought I’ll just get over it but I didn’t. How could God let that happen; I keep asking myself and everyone around but nobody had an answer and that made no sense to me. I stopped taking God’s word to heart and turned my back on God. My mom was too mired in her own grief to help me deal with mine. I felt like drowning. And I could only stay afloat if I pretended it never happened and bury my pain so much it can never hurt again. But I was wrong about that too, it’s still there and it always hurt.” Even before Mr. Adam spoke, Mark felt deep caring and compassion in the hand that was placed on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry for your losses, Mark.”
Blinking back the tears in his eyes Mark asked. “So why does God let good people die? My dad and my brother were everything to me. He left me all alone. I thought he was God to stop bad things, tell me Mr. Adam, why?”
The question was right from the heart, and Mr. Adam answered his question with one that was steady, direct and honest. “There’s no answer to that question, Mark. People have struggled with it through the ages, and many just like you have turned away from their faith because of it. But I can tell you this, while God blesses us with wisdom and intelligence our intelligence is not match to understand the mysteries of God ways. Trying to understand God is like trying to build a castle with only sand and water. Or is like attempting to make a life drawing from just paper and pencil. We are just not right for the job. It’s an exercise in vain.” Mr. Adam leaned forward, his expression earnest.
“Once we learn and accept the most crucial truth that God loves us and recognizes he sent his son to save us- the zeal for answers becomes far less of an obsessive. We can learn to trust God in goodness without fully understanding His ways. And that trust opens to the many gifts with which He blesses us with and allows us face tomorrow with hope.”
As Mark pondered Sam’s words, he turned to stare at the cross. He never thought of the events in his life in that much context. He knew he’d lost in other ways, when his brother and father was taken he place inside him were hope and faith cling died too. He’d operated on a single rule: Don’t form attachments that could be severed in an instant, don’t kill yourself working on something that can be snatched tomorrow. Don’t honor an uncaring God.
But if Mr. Adam was right, there was still hope. He could put his trust in the Lord and embrace tomorrow, accept the gift that God sent his way. In other words now he want to live with purpose rather than just exist.
Mark looked at Mr. Adam and gave him a right hug. “Thank you sir, thank you for not giving up on me.”
Mr. Adam invited Mark and his mom for the Sunday service. After much persuasion, Mark’s mom finally agreed.
Mark and his mom did their best to slip into the spot without attracting notice, but as they took their seats, Mr. Adam glanced his way from the choir stand. The smile he gave Mark chased away any lingering uncertainty about his welcome, and he acknowledged Mr. Adam with a big smile while his gave a discreet nod. To his surprise, the hymns and prayers and readings from the Bible sprout up happy memories for Mark. The Reverend had moved to the pulpit and launched into his sermon.
“Dearly beloveth, coming to church is easy but living our faith is hard, and both are crucial. Let us remember that when we leave here today, the Lord goes with us. Our faith is not in these four walls, but in the spirit living within us. As we go our daily lives, let’s remember that the Lord walks with us not only on Sunday but on every day of the week. May we live accordingly so that we don’t disappoint Him…”
Mark bowed his head. He supposed he had disappointed the Lord. And he knew now a life that lacked God lacked purpose, direction and meaning. Because he demanded answers were there were none or none that he could understand as Mr. Adam had pointed out. He’d put God to a test and in his mind, God had failed. He knelt down and said a silent prayer for forgiveness. He felt his mother joined him. He was pleased. He would be eternally thankful to his teacher for giving his family a second chance. And he was sure his father and brother would be proud. Thanks to the healing of God’s grace and a faith to hold on to.