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His God Is Not

Amy Beth Larson

He limped into our inner city church, bent over a bleeding knee he'd been "self-treating" for several days.

"Hey! What's going on Filimon?" I asked. "You better let me have a look at that."

The cut wasn't too bad, but Filimon was filthy -- as always. "That, my boy, will never heal without a good scrub down!"

I took off his dirty sneaker to reveal a once-white tube sock now totally black and full of holes. His other sock was just as bad and several sizes too big.

After a good scrubbing, I sent him back to his tutor. They went to the clothes bank to look for new shoes and socks.

About five minutes later, I watched as Filimon went through the familiar cycles of anger that have tormented his little body for the past two years. He was totally unrecognizable, throwing chairs, cycling into a tantrum, all while uttering sharp defiances at any adult in his path. Later when we tried to evaluate what set off Filimon, we all came to a single conclusion: He was hungry.

This is Filimon day in and day out. Covered with filth. Hungry. Full of bruises and cuts. And more than anything, angry. He lives with his unstable grandfather. His teenage mother just couldn't seem to make things work, so six years ago she brought her four-month-old baby to visit his grandparents, said she had to pick up diapers, and left town. Filimon has never seen her again.

His grandpa padlocks the refrigerator so his kids won't eat all the food. Filimon once stood and watched as his grandparents fought over a can of chili. Money is precious when you're a cocaine addict.

So it's a few weeks before Christmas, and what does Filimon have? Not much. His situation is desperate, but his God is not. I must admit, though, that sometimes it's hard to believe in an active God when the kids I spend my days with are born and raised in such filth, poverty, hatred, hunger, and abuse that it damages their small bodies and threatens to destroy their souls. It doesn't add up, but still we believe.

Like a despairing ancient nation that lived as prisoners in a foreign land, we believe. Centuries ago God said his last words to his people through a handful of prophets and then was silent. Generations of stories handed down, and each year they seemed more like fables than Scriptures, but then it happened.

It was nothing like they'd expected, dreamed of, or even hoped for. It was Jesus -- the Savior of the world. It was what they'd prayed for, but who could've conjured up the creative energy to imagine that a peasant baby would someday rule the world? Most doubted but a few believed, and that faith carried itself through the aches and joys of generations, landing itself in front of a boy named Filimon. Here in west Denver.

If a handful of Jews could find the faith to believe in a God that had seemed so silent and mysterious, so can Filimon. So can I.

God promised, from the beginning, that he would be with us. Sometimes I don't feel it, but I know it. I know that my Redeemer lives. And when the time is his time, he will break through the iron sheets of this pain that keeps us from seeing his face. With a shout, he'll split open the veil of confusion and destroy completely the subtle reservations that have left us doubting his goodness. On that day we'll see it, but only because today we choose to simply know it and let that be enough.

So in a world with a terminal shortage of comfort, let Jesus be your thread of hope. Let his promises be light in your darkness. Let his love be your way home. Let this Christmas be a reminder that he's coming back. And when it's hardest to believe, that's when we must believe it the most.

God is not absent. We wait. And that's enough.

Amy Beth Larson is a missionary to children in inner city Denver with The Third Story.

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