A Short Story: David
I wrote this little story simply for personal amusement but afterwards decided that maybe people here might enjoy it too. I'm not a professional writer so perhaps the grammar isn't always perfect, but it's simply just a bit of fun anyway. Enjoy!
With the ground lying just beyond the reach of his feet, David’s legs were free to swing playfully as he sat perched on the edge of the bus stop seat. Beside him sat Barbara, quietly eyeing the road ahead for the arrival of the No.27.
‘Nanny, why is it that two buses always come at once?’ David asked in relation to something his Father had once complained of.
Barbara laughed at the question. ‘Because the Lord moves in mysterious ways!’ she teased playfully.
This obfuscatory comment puzzled the young boy, who began imagining how someone might move mysteriously.
‘What, like backwards?’ he asked innocently.
This made Barbara chuckle again. ‘No,’ she laughed. ‘It’s just a saying about how sometimes God does things that we simply can’t comprehend.'
David paused to consider what connection there might be between God and his original inquiry. ‘Does God run the buses then?’ he asked in confusion.
This response caused Barbara to laugh even harder. ‘Well, in a way I suppose he does!’ she replied with a giggle. ‘God “runs” everything. After all, the whole world is his creation’.
This remark inspired a moment of wonder inside the young boy’s mind. Even to someone of David’s age the creation of the whole world appeared to be quite an incredible achievement. Sensing this reaction, Barbara decided to capitalise upon it and enlighten him further.
‘God created the whole world and everything in it in just six days, six thousand years ago,’ she explained in a tone weighted by her humbled sense of awe.
Wide-eyed, David surveyed his surroundings as his mind strove to imagine the act of their creation. This train of thought led to an inevitable question.
‘So where did God come from?’
Barbara smiled knowingly. ‘God didn’t come from anywhere, dear,’ she replied. ‘He’s existed forever.'
This answer only served to confuse the young mind even further.
‘Forever?’ he reiterated, whilst straining to comprehend the magnitude of forever. ‘But surely forever’s much longer than six thousand years? So what was God doing the rest of the time?’
‘Pardon?’ responded Barbara, somewhat surprised by her grandson’s question.
‘Well, if the world is only six thousand years old but God’s existed forever then surely God must be much older than the world? So what was he doing all that time before making the world?’
Having never considered this point before, Barbara was unsure as to how to respond. ‘Uhh … I don’t know, dear.'
‘Well, I suppose the world must be pretty hard to make,’ David suggested. ‘So do you think it took him a long time to work out how to do it?’
Recognising an opportune exit from the unusual line of questioning, Barbara simply replied, ‘Ummm, perhaps, dear.'
‘But what about all the other Gods?’ replied David immediately. ‘I learnt in school that the Egyptians had Gods with dog heads and stuff. Isn’t that much cooler?’ he asked excitedly.
Barbara laughed at this suggestion. ‘What’s “cool” doesn’t come into it, dear,’ she said. ‘It’s only what’s right that matters.’
‘So the Egyptians were wrong?’ responded David in disappointment that there were no half-man, half-dog creatures.
‘Yes, dear,’ Barbara nodded.
‘And we’re right?’
‘So how do we know that?’ he countered.
‘Well, because when we look deep into our hearts we know we’re right,’ said Barbara with a reassuring smile.
David paused to look deep into his heart in search of such confirmation. Despite a concerted effort he was disappointed to find an absence of such confidence.
‘So do you think when the Egyptians looked deep into their hearts they knew they were wrong?’ he asked.
Once again Barbara was caught off guard by the young boy’s curiosity. ‘Umm … I don’t know, dear, …’ she struggled. ‘I guess they must have … Jesus was such a wise and caring man that we know he could only have been the son of God.'
David began to mull over in his mind all he’d been taught about Jesus. After a few moments he asked, ‘If Jesus was so wise, wouldn’t it have been better if he’d stayed to teach us things instead of dying?’
‘Well, he sacrificed himself to atone for our sins,’ replied Barbara, moved at this sentiment. ‘He gave his life so that God could forgive us.'
Since David was still learning the concept of this word “forgiveness”, this notion took him by surprise.
‘People have to die for forgiveness?’ he exclaimed, dumbfounded, before pausing and adding, ‘Does Mark have to die for my forgiveness?’
‘What? Of course not!’ a shocked Barbara replied immediately. ‘Of course he doesn’t. Why would you ask such a thing?’
‘Well, whenever he breaks one of my toys Mum says I should forgive him. So does he need to die so I can forgive him?’ asked David sincerely.
‘Of course not!’ responded a dismayed Barbara. ‘Your brother is lovely, David, of course you wouldn’t want him killed. Look, Mark is a lot younger than you. He simply doesn’t know any better, that’s all. So you should be the grown up one and just forgive him,’ she said, hoping to quickly quell the idea of killing his young sibling.
‘So God needs people killed in order to forgive but I just have to forgive for nothing?’ asked a disappointed David.
‘Well, it’s not for nothing is it?’ Barbara explained. ‘It’s so that you can both move on.'
'So why couldn’t God just forgive so that we can all move on?’ asked David.
‘That’s different,’ Barbara attempted to explain before David interrupted, ‘And anyway, why did God need to forgive us in the first place?’
‘Well,’ Barbara began, ‘Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge, which made humans sinful. And that’s why we need forgiveness.’
‘So why didn’t God just kill Adam and Eve instead, then?’ shrugged David.
‘What? No!’ exclaimed Barbara, perturbed at her grandson’s un-Christian ideas. ‘God wouldn’t kill people, it’s wrong to kill’.
‘But it’s okay to get other people to kill like God did with Jesus?’ replied David, struggling to fathom such contradictory concepts. ‘Should I just get someone else to kill Mark instead then?’
‘Of course you can’t get someone to kill your brother!’ Barbara almost shouted in exasperation at her grandson’s murderous fixation.
‘Do you think that’s why people from different religions kill each other?’ pondered David, ‘So that God can forgive them?’
‘No! Of course not!’ replied a dismayed Barbara. ‘God doesn’t want us to kill people’.
‘Apart from Jesus,’ corrected David.
‘Well, that’s different, but no, God doesn’t want us to kill each other. It’s just that some people disagree over who’s praising him the right way’.
This explanation was news to David, who paused to ponder it. ‘So who is praising him the right way?’ he asked eventually.
‘Well, we all are really,’ Barbara began. ‘It’s just that we do it differently.’
‘So why don’t the people killing each other know that?’ responded David.
‘I don’t know, dear’ she replied in a melancholy tone. ‘I just don’t know.’
‘Well, perhaps God should come down and tell everyone so they’ll stop killing each other?’ suggested David in an attempt to bring world peace. ‘Why do you think he doesn't do that, Nanny?’
Barbara struggled for an answer. ‘Well … God is very busy. He’s busy looking after people and answering prayers.’
After thinking about this for a few moments David suddenly had a great idea of how to solve the problem. ‘Do you think if I prayed for him to come down and explain to people that they should stop killing each other he would do it?’ he asked excitedly.
‘Well, perhaps,’ said Barbara in a doubtful tone that left the young mind suspicious.
‘Have you ever prayed for that?’ he asked with a tentative sense that he already knew the answer.
‘Well, yes, of course, dear,’ Barbara confirmed. ‘Lots of people have.’
‘Oh,’ said David dejectedly. ‘Well, if lots of people have already tried it and it didn’t work, it’s probably not worth me bothering,’ he sighed.
‘You shouldn’t say that, dear,’ responded Barbara, disheartened at her grandson’s pessimism.
‘But what’s the point in praying if it doesn’t work?’ countered David.
‘We pray in hope,’ said Barbara, trying to repackage its appeal. ‘Sometimes God answers our prayers and sometimes he doesn’t.'
David thought about this for a few moments before deciding he didn’t understand it. ‘But how can you tell the difference between when it just happens the way you want it and when God makes it happen the way you want it?’ he asked.
Having never considered this view before, Barbara was once again left undermined by the young boy’s curiosity. ‘Well … ummm … you just know,’ she shrugged.
‘Like how the Egyptians knew they were wrong?’ David suggested.
Unsure as to how to explain such deep theological concepts to a child, Barbara simply agreed. ‘Well, yes, I guess so.’
David continued to contemplate the implications of these strange concepts. ‘But God must know that it would be better if people didn’t kill each other,’ he mused. ‘Surely he doesn’t need us to pray and tell him? So I guess he just can’t be bothered.’ He shrugged in disappointment at the fickleness of God.
‘It’s not that he doesn’t bother,’ Barbara replied, offended at the accusation of God’s apathy. ‘He has a higher plan. And we simply don’t understand it. Remember, God is perfect in every way.’
The young boy had encountered this claim before and was sceptical, based on his personal experience.
‘So why do I have to wear glasses then?’ he demanded indignantly.
Barbara was somewhat surprised by the boy’s enquiry and unsure as to what point was implied. ‘Pardon?’ she asked in confusion. ‘Whatever do you mean, dear? Your glasses help you see, you know that.’
‘But most people don’t need to wear glasses,’ countered David.
'That’s because their eyes work fine without them,’ Barbara explained.
‘But surely that means God’s not perfect then?’ disputed David before finally arriving at his point. ‘If God is perfect then he would have made my eyes properly, wouldn’t he? Unless he’s just not very good at making eyes, I suppose. Is that it? God finds it hard to make eyes?’
‘Of course he doesn’t’ replied Barbara reassuringly. ‘He’s perfect, I told you that.’
‘Well, if he was perfect then he’d be able to make eyes properly. And then so many people wouldn’t need to wear glasses,’ argued David before adding in a suspicious tone, ‘Unless he did it on purpose I suppose?’
David thought about this for a moment. ‘Do you think God didn’t make my eyes properly because he was angry about sins?’ he suggested before having an inspiration. ‘And do you think if I kill Mark he’d forgive me and make my eyes work properly?’ he asked excitedly.
‘No dear!’ Barbara almost screamed in dismay at her grandson’s focus on murdering his sibling. ‘You can’t kill your brother! I keep telling you that. It’s wrong to kill people’.
‘Except Jesus,’ countered David.
Barbara sighed in exasperation at David’s fixation with murder-centred forgiveness. ‘Well, it’s not that it was right to kill Jesus,’ she began to explain before David interjected with, ‘It’s just what God wanted?’
Barbara paused. ‘Well…yes… Well … no … But… It was to cleanse us of our sins,’ she explained.
‘Instead of God just forgiving us like I have to do to Mark?’ replied David, confused at the complex set of ethics employed by God and how much they differed from human principles.
‘Well, it’s complicated,’ dismissed Barbara, knowing that these issues were beyond the comprehension of such a young boy.
‘But perhaps if God didn’t make it so complicated then people wouldn’t kill each other arguing about how to praise him?’ David replied in sympathy. ‘And then people wouldn’t need to keep praying for him to come down and explain himself, which he can’t do because he’s busy answering peoples prayers,’ he concluded, with a baffled expression.
Barbara took a few moments to ponder the discussion and work out how best to address the young boy’s confusion. Meanwhile David continued to ponder the ineffectiveness of prayer.
After a few moments he asked, ‘Nan … If you’re good, Father Christmas gives you presents. But even if you’re good, God doesn’t answer your prayers. So do you think Father Christmas is better than God?’
Once again Barbara was shocked. ‘Of course not, dear,’ she replied firmly.
Ignoring this protestation, David began to convince himself that perhaps he was in fact on the right lines. ‘But Father Christmas flies around the whole world in one night, every year,’ he argued, ‘and he has flying reindeer. Surely that’s much cooler than God?’
‘But God created the whole world,’ Barbara reminded him in the hope that this would serve as a definitive blow against any assertions that Father Christmas could rival God.
‘Do you think that if Father Christmas could stop people killing each other he would?’ David asked.
Barbara sighed before responding. ‘Yes, of course, dear. I’m sure he would.’
It was only a brief second before David asked the corollary question, ‘And yet God doesn’t bother?’
Unsure of how to extinguish David’s accusations of God's apathy, Barbara simply replied dismissively, ‘Well, like I said, he’s very busy.’
David remained unconvinced by this argument. Busyness just didn’t seem a satisfactory justification for letting so many people die. So, continuing his contemplation on how to rate God, he suggested the next notch up on a seven-year-old's scale of greatness.
‘Okay, well what about who’s best out of God and Spiderman then?’ he asked.
Barbara was appalled that a member of her family, even such a young one, could make such a heretical suggestion. ‘Don’t be silly, dear,’ she squealed. ‘I mean, well, Spiderman isn’t even real for a start.’
The mere suggestion of this struck the young Spiderman fan as nothing short of outrageous sacrilege. ‘Isn’t real?’ he repeated, dumbfounded, before retaliating angrily, ‘Yes, he is!’
Barbara was surprised that such an intelligent boy could believe such obvious nonsense. ‘I’m sorry, dear, but he isn’t,’ she rebuked, feeling guilty about spoiling the boy’s delusion. ‘He doesn’t exist,’ she reiterated.
Indignant at this assertion, David stubbornly replied, ‘Yes he does. I know he does.’
Sensing that she’d upset the boy, Barbara apologetically replied, ‘I’m sorry, dear, but he doesn’t.'
Annoyed at his grandmother’s sustained attempts to undermine his beliefs, he replied, ‘Well, prove it then!’
Barbara was somewhat taken aback by this demand. She had no idea how to prove the non-existence of an imaginary being. How can such a thing be achieved?
‘Prove it?’ she repeated, ‘I can’t prove it’.
Feeling that this served as strong support for his case, David gave a satisfied smile and replied, ‘Well, if you can’t prove it, how do you know it’s true?’
Barbara was astonished at the illogical premise of this response. ‘Just because I can’t prove he doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean he does exist,’ she protested, ‘And besides, a man dressed up as a spider swinging around. It doesn’t even make sense, does it?’
But David wasn’t prepared to listen to such blasphemy, and decided to give it short shrift. ‘Well, I don’t think it makes sense that God wanted us to kill his son so that he could forgive us instead of just forgiving us like I have to with Mark, and that we have to pray asking for him to stop people killing each other, which he must already know he should do, but he can’t do because he’s busy answering people’s prayers.’ David paused to catch his breath before finishing, ‘But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true, does it?’
Realising that David’s feelings about Spiderman were too deeply entrenched to be swayed by reasonable argument, Barbara was relieved to look up and see the No. 27 appear from behind the trees ahead of them.
‘Well anyway, here comes the bus so we’ll just have to talk about this another time,’ she said brightly.
David paused for a moment’s thought before conceding, ‘Well, I think you’re right, Nanny.’
‘Do you?’ replied Barbara, somewhat surprised that David had moved so swiftly from staunch superhero belief to sudden disbelief.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘God certainly does move in mysterious ways.’