Friday, March 12, 2010

Boy Under the Bridge

As near as I can tell, dogs are born grateful. The rest of us have to learn it, and as Mr. Starr put it, it don’t come easy.

At two a child can be taught to say “thank you.” By five, she can begin to get the concept of gratitude, but most of us are about 18 before we can be counted on to perform well in this abstraction.

Some people never do. There are kids who can go to the circus, see an elephant up close, eat popcorn, watch an exotic three-ring spectacle for two hours, and then whine because they didn’t get cotton candy!

Unbelievable, and yet sometimes there’s more to ingratitude than sheer selfishness.

I know a little boy who appears ungrateful, until you know his story. He spent a couple of his early years, with his mom and dad and little brother, on the streets. He took care of his brother, ate cold french fries and learned to sleep in lots of interesting places: motel rooms, a relative’s floor, under the bridge. Mom and dad were running from one or more authorities, hiding from creditors, stoned much of the time.

A child living like that doesn't learn gratitude. He learns want. A hole grows in his heart and no gift is ever enough. It looks like ingratitude; it’s actually a cry for security and unconditional love.

These commodities are Jesus’ specialties. He loves the little children. He does not intend for them to fall asleep under bridges huddled with their little brothers from the cold. So what does it mean that they do in his world?

Wiser than me have debated over and disagreed about that. But even I know this: if we cannot understand what is happening now, we can know what is planned for then.

Jesus Christ died in agony outside Jerusalem to buy our salvation, yes, and also so that children might not go on sleeping under bridges. Even as his atoning work for sin was finished, his kingdom was being inaugurated. Its fullness awaits, but even now, wherever we see wholeness emerging from brokenness, we are seeing his kingdom breaking out. That little boy now goes to sleep in his own bed every night in his new forever family. Jesus, working through a young couple who opened their hearts and home, is the one to thank.

I thought of this story recently when I was reading the first chapter of Ephesians: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Every spiritual blessing. No unmet needs. No unfulfilled longings. No sleeping under bridges. Every satisfaction of every need. No wishing for just a little bit more, because “every spiritual blessing” will be ours. In Jesus. And because of Jesus.

All praise and worship be unto Him.