A Meeting On a Park Bench

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We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”
-C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

I hope you like the following story. I have had it in my files for some time and decided to dust it off and share it in this post. The story is about a chance meeting on a park bench that was, simply, divine. Here is the story.

There once was a little boy who decided he wanted to go find God. He knew it would probably be a long trip to find God, so he decided to pack a lunch, four packs of Twinkies and two cans of root beer. He set out on his journey and went a few blocks until he came to a park. In this park on a bench, sat an old man looking at the pigeons and feeding them.

The little boy sat down beside him and he watched the pigeons too. After a while he grew hungry and so he pulled out some Twinkies. As he ate, he noticed the man watching him, so he offered him a Twinkie. The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at the boy. There was something about his smile that fascinated the boy. He thought it was the most beautiful smile he had ever seen, and he wanted to see it again. So he brought out the cans of root beer, opened one and offered the old man the other one. Once again, he smiled that beautiful smile.

For a long time, the two sat on that park bench eating Twinkies, drinking root beer, smiling at each other, and watching and feeding the pigeons. But neither said a word. Finally, the little boy realized that it was getting and late and that it was time to go home. He started to leave, took a few steps, then turned back and gave the old man a big hug. The old man’s smile was brighter than ever before.

When he arrived back home, the boy’s mother noticed that her son was happy, yet somehow strangely quiet. “What did you do today?” she asked, trying to figure out what was going on. “Oh, I had lunch in the park with God,” he said. Before his mother could reply, he added, “You know, he has the most beautiful smile I have ever seen.”

Meanwhile, the man had left the park and returned to his home. His daughter noticed something different about her father. “What did you do today, Dad?” she asked. “Oh, I ate Twinkies and drank root beer in the park with God,” he said. And before his daughter could say anything, he added. “You know, he is a lot younger than I had imagined.”

God appears in our lives in surprising places. It is not often a dramatic blinding revelation like on the mountaintop as the disciples experienced with Jesus, or as Moses experienced on Mount Sinai, or as Paul experienced on the Damascus Road. Sometimes it is more a matter of removing our blinders and looking at what is right in front of us. And God is right there, on the park bench, in the grocery store, or in the kindergarten. I am not one who believes in the concept of God as a being that resides above the clouds and watches over us. For me, religion is not a journey into an external deity, but a journey into the heart of our humanity for that is where we will really find whatever we call God.

Many people want to find God in their lives. They yearn to feel God’s presence, to know that God is with them, that there is something greater than they are, something that they can count on and trust.

I came across a poem by an unknown author that speaks to that yearning to feel the presence of the divine. It goes like this:
The man whispered, “God, speak to me.”
And a meadowlark sang.
But the man didn’t hear.
So the man yelled, “God, speak to me!”
And the thunder rolled across the sky.
But the man didn’t listen.
The man looked around and said, “God, let me see you.”
And a star shone brightly.
But the man didn’t notice.
So the man shouted, “God show me a miracle!”
And a life was born.
But the man wasn’t there.
Finally the man cried out in despair,
“Touch me, God, let me know you are here!”
Whereupon, God reached down and touched the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

Two monarchs
The man in the poem missed out because God’s presence was not packaged the way he expected. Yes, God delights in being where we least expect to find God – and where we often forget to even look. Chances are that God will be right where we least expect. Most likely, we find God In the dark and dusty places, in the unlikely places where we are tired and thirsty and hungry, in the places where we have wandered away and forgotten that God’s gifts of infinite grace and unconditional love are to be found. The young boy and the old man in our story, found God in a surprising place.

Perhaps it is time to behave like the little boy in the story and risk leaving home to look for God. Have we packed our Twinkies and root beer?

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