Friday, March 16, 2012

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Doggie Heaven

I passed by hitchhikers this morning, two girls stood together with a sign stating their desired locale on one side of the street, while not more than thirty meters away an aged, balding man dressed in an oversized jacket and urban camouflaged khakis leveraged his thumb for cars drivers going the other direction.

Immediately I pitied the man, thinking that the two young girls with an obvious exact destination would, by all means conceivable, receive a ride in no undue time, while the chances that the man would wait all day for a drive that would never come seemed a likely fate.

Because of this preconceived notion, I was taken aback when the man was picked up while still I walked by. The girls were still pining for their destitudinal salvation when my feet carried me out of eye shot of them.

Noting this little incident made me feel a bit sad for the American (or at least, Californian) modern legislation against hitchhiking. My mother even warned me as a child never to pick up hitchhikers, because you never know when they're going to shiv you and steal that which you claim as your own. I've never hitchhiked before, but today I smile at the notion of it. The driver who chooses to pick up the cargo-panted man has very little to gain for their act of service. It is, practically speaking, a sheer act of kindness.

For by grace you have been picked-up, through faith, that not of your thumbs, it is a gift of driver.

You see, grace in this world is in the details.


It is then another small silhouette of grace's charm that I found amidst the biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
that the dear saint and a young boy both felt a degree of anxiety and hopeful splendor in the issue of the eschatology of the animal kingdom.

A little chap, whom is described as normally bubbly and cheerful, came to Bonhoeffer one day in a stir of tears and wretchedness. It was a matter of the boy's beloved dog, 'Herr Wolf'. In a letter to his brother-in-law, Bonhoeffer told the story (printed on page 86 of Metaxas' book):
So the boy, inconsolable, sat down on my knee and could hardly regain his composure; he told me how the dog died and how everything is lost now. He played only with the dog, each morning the dog came to the boy's bed and awakened him -- and now the dog was dead. What could I say? So he talked to me about it for quite a while. Then suddenly his wrenching crying became very quiet and he said: "But I know he's not dead at all." "What do you mean?" "His spirit is now in heaven, where it is happy... but tell me, will I see Herr Wolf again? He's certainly in heaven." So there I stood and was supposed to answer him yes or no. If I said, "no, we don't know" that would have meant "no"... So I quickly made up my mind and said to him: "Look, God created human beings and also animals, and I'm sure he also loves animals. And I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth -- genuinely loved each other -- will remain together with God, for to love is part of God. Just how that happens, though, we admittedly don't know." 
This marvelous response of Bonhoeffer's to the boys suffering over the loss of a loved one, however furry that loved one may be, beguiles me. But equally as rewarding to read is Bonhoeffer's thoughts on the boy's response.

He continues:
You should have seen the happy face on the boy; he had completely stopped crying. "So then I'll see Herr Wolf again when I am dead; then we can play together again" -- in a word, he was ecstatic. I repeated to him a couple of times that we don't really know how this happens. He, however, knew, and knew it quite definitely in thought... This whole affair was as important to the young boy as things are for one of us when something really bad happens. But I am almost surprised -- moved, by the naivete of the piety that awakens at such a moment in an otherwise completely wild young boy who is thinking of nothing. And there I stood -- I who was supposed to "know the answer" -- feeling quite small next to him; and I cannot forget the confident expression he had on his face when he left. 
This, for me is the evidence of a really big man indeed; the sign of a man wholly committed to learning, discovering, and drawing nearer to God. Bonhoeffer allowed himself to be humbled by the young lad's faith. Through his humility he learned to fear God a bit more.