Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Man Who Stole God

I just met a man who committed an amazing crime… he stole God. Well, to be accurate, he stole A god. Great story!

Leonard served in WWII and wound up as a driver for an officer in Chanyi, China. Leonard’s daily route took him past many homes of the commonfolk of China. In the warm summer, doors and windows would be left open to enjoy a cooling breeze. On that daily drive, something caught Leonard’s attention. Something he couldn’t take his mind off of.

Leonard has an amazing story. He is a determined and resilient man. Coming from a dirt poor farm in rural Kansas, Leonard learned he could achieve what he could believe. He fought his way onto a local ball team to earn his dad’s admiration. In the 1930s he became a cheerleader at Wyandotte (KS) High School and kept on working until he became head cheerleader. Leonard’s entire life story is one of focus and discipline.

Never did Leonard’s determination serve him so well as when, in 1981, he found himself at the bottom of the collapsed Hyatt Regency walkway. Three of his family were killed. Leonard was lucky… you could say… he only suffered fractures in all four limbs. He was in the hospital 77 days and was the fourth from the last of the survivors to be discharged from the hospital. He fought through hours and days and weeks of tortuous physical therapy to regain the use of his badly damaged body.

Leonard appears to always succeed in whatever he sets him mind on. And in
China in the 1940s, his mind was set on a beautiful object inside one of those peasant homes. A local explained to Leonard that each family chooses a god - an icon that they worship and trust in. This particular home had chosen a powerful looking god, holding the moon in his left hand and riding on a tiger - symbolizing that this god had faced and conquered the demons, unscathed. Just the kind of god Leonard might admire… or steal.

Leonard couldn’t get his mind off this object of fascination. Like so many other goals in his life, Leonard was focused, disciplined, and determined. He hasn’t told me the details of his caper, but... there’s an empty table somewhere in China where a ceramic icon once sat.

As I often like to say here at Follow Illustrated, let’s get a word from our Sponsor:

For the customs of the peoples are delusion;
Because it is wood cut from the forest,
The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.
They decorate it with silver and with gold;
They fasten it with nails and with hammers
So that it will not totter.
Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot walk!
Do not fear them,
For they can do no harm,
Nor can they do any good.
(Jeremiah 10:4-5)

Don’t you love that imagery? “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk!” And carried away that god was!! By Leonard! I can’t imagine how disillusioned the Chinese family must have been when they discovered that their god had been kidnapped, powerless to defend himself, let alone the family who worshiped him.

I’m reminded of what Paul said to the philosophers of Athens:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things
(Acts 17:24-25)

We serve a God who, as Creator, asks nothing from His creation, but respect and praise. He sits above the heavens, not on a wood table in the living room. I do not mean to mock the Chinese or any other religion, but I take strength from believing that my God can’t be swiped by an American soldier and shipped back to the States in a well-padded wood box.

Leonard stresses to me, “I swear as a matter of honor, that I never have stolen any other thing in my life.” 

I shoot back at Leonard, “You stole a god, Leonard! What else could you steal!!”

A closing thought. I take solace in the fact that God forgives. He even forgives those who steal gods! I guess technically, Leonard didn’t exactly repent of his sin and return the icon to its owners. He made a lamp out of it that he reads the sports pages by. How about I leave this one in THE God’s hands?

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