Life, faith, and the theological implications of desk top graffiti

When I was a young Christian, I worked at a job I absolutely hated, which was selling shoes. My loathing of this occupation was so intense that even the days I was off work were poisoned by the fact that I had to deal with shoes, feet, and the people attached to them.

At that time my church met in a high school, and an old man greeted everyone at the door. Once, he grabbed my hand, pumped it, and said in an obnoxiously buoyant way, “This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

Even though I knew he was quoting the Bible, I found his little greeting and exhortation irritating. As I walked away, I thought, “It’s easy for you to be happy. You’re retired!”

All through the church service, I tried to worship, but I was so discontent and morose that I hung around afterwards for some serious counseling. Our pastors were involved in various classrooms, greeting newcomers, praying for sick folks, and doing other pastoral duties, and I was in the hall waiting for one of them to break loose so I could discuss my extreme vocational displeasure.

While impatiently standing around, I noticed that school furniture was stored in one locked room, and the chairs and desks were stacked up right next to the door. Through the little window, I noticed on old wooden desk, covered with graffiti. Among all the cuss words, professions of love, and various names, someone had scratched a Bible reference: PS 118:24. I looked it up in my Bible, just to pass the time, and to my amazement, it was the exact verse the old man had quoted at the door.

Deciding that God was trying to get my attention, I walked out and didn’t see a pastor about my self-obsessed problems. As I recall, I went for a long hike in the woods, did a lot of praying and listening to God, and finally got my mind right.

Since then, I’ve wondered about all the theological implications of this incident. Did God preordain and direct a Christian to commit an act of vandalism for my benefit? Or was it an evil and misdirected act of zeal that God simply used to bring about good? Does He engineer every little action and event, moving us around like celestial chess pieces, or does he give us borders and boundaries and free will and then let us pretty much run the show?

Various Christian theologies provide their answers, but none of them completely satisfies me.

I’m not sure how or why God does what He does, but ruling creation is not my job anyway. Down here where I actually live, I’ve been trying to love and obey Him, rejoice, and be thankful, but I’m not always successful.

There was once a beer advertisement that proclaimed, “Some days are better than others.” This is true, and some days drive me to anything but joy and gratefulness. That’s really my problem and nobody else’s because each day is an opportunity to serve God, love others, and rejoice, despite our circumstances.

Even in the worst of times, there are glimpses of grace, and whatever comes my way is better than what I actually deserve. After all, I am a sinner, and apart from the tender mercies of Christ, hell is my only entitlement.