It was my day to pick up my neighbor boy from school. He’d broken his arm over the weekend and had difficulty opening the door. I reached across to the passenger side and opened the door, taking his backpack so he could climb in.
“Hey, my friend! How was your day?” Every kid’s favorite question. We, adults, are so predictable. Kids, not so much.
“Did God get mad at me?” he huffed. I immediately knew his day had been a little hard.
“Do you think God is mad at you?” I asked.
He looked down, then, not wanting me to see his chin tremble. My heart broke for him, but I knew he needed to say what he had to say. If I tried too quickly to assure him, I risked leaving him unsure of the answer.
“Why do I get hurt? Is it a punishment from God?
“When you broke your arm, you thought God was letting you get hurt because he was angry with you, then?”
He looked up at me, tears in his eyes, and nodded, unable to speak.
“Did you do something you wish you hadn’t done?”
“Daddy told me not to climb on his ladder, but I did, and that’s why I broke my arm. Daddy said he told me not to do that and he was mad when they had to take me to the emergency room.”
“My daddy used to get grumpy when he was scared about me, too. Daddies want to fix things, and your Daddy couldn’t fix your arm. So he got grumpy about that because he loves you.” I wanted to get back to his question, so I continued. “Do you think God made you break your arm?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t mean to fall.”
“Do you know what an accident is?”
“A car wreck?” he guessed.
“An accident is something that happens, but nobody meant for it to happen. I think you had an accident. I don’t think anybody meant for that to happen to you. It only happened because the ladder wasn’t safe for you to climb on.”
He frowned thoughtfully, then said, “Then I wasn’t being punished?”
“Well not by God and not even by your dad. Punishment is supposed to help you remember to do the right thing next time. But sometimes we learn from our own mistakes. Do you think you’ll climb on the ladder again without Daddy’s help?”
“No! I won’t ever do that again!” he vowed with his most serious frown.
“Then I’d say the broken arm will help you remember to not climb on the ladder again without Daddy’s permission. Your broken arm is what Daddy didn’t want to happen to you because he loves you so much.”
“But what about the homeless people, or the people at church that are sick and stuff?” Now he looked at me challenging the idea that bad things always resulted from making mistakes.
“You know, you are right. Sometimes bad things happen to people even though they didn’t do anything wrong to deserve it, and that’s always very hard to understand. Even grownups ask that question, so you’re thinking very wisely.”
He sat a little taller and grinned.
“That’s a really big question, too. Is it alright with you if I think about it and look at God’s word and pray for wisdom? I’d rather answer that question tomorrow, if you don’t mind.”
“Ok,” he said proudly. “I don’t mind.” He looked down the road now with a satisfied smile on his face. He liked that he’d asked an important question and that an adult was going to have to do some hard thinking to answer it.
If only he knew.
(To be continued)