Pastor Hayward got out of the car, walking slowly. It wasn’t evident from the outside, but he was doing a mixture of praying and remembering. This was not the first conversation that he had been in, between a Minister and an Atheist.
This young lady had been in a car wreck, the doctors said she may never walk again. Agnes Simmons was the most famous jockey in the sports world of that day, having won the first race in this year’s triple crown. She wouldn’t have bothered talking to him, had it not been for her Grandmother.
Mrs Lang had to beg and plead for two days for Agnes to agree to see him. She had raised Agnes, after both of her parents passed away in a plane crash, when she was thirteen. Although her Grandmother had taken her to Church, Agnes had decided she didn’t believe in God.
While devastated at the loss of her parents, the young lady had not had any animosity over her unbelief, until her own accident. Now she not only claimed to not believe in God, she was extremely angry that her future had been seemingly taken away from her.
Agnes was polite enough when he walked in. They made small talk for a few minutes, then it grew more awkward. “Pastor Hayward, I don’t mean any disrespect, but you probably know how I feel. Rather than argue, I’ll let you make your case, and then you can go.”
Secretly she hoped he would be so offended that he would make some excuse and leave. Agnes hadn’t counted on the fact that the one Grandma sent, had been through this before. Pastor Hayward merely smiled, and agreed.
“Rather than sharing a sermon, I would like to tell you a story. You see, the reason your Grandmother asked me to come is, I’ve been in this conversation before. Like you, John was an orphan, only he lost his parents at eight years old. His Dad was a Pastor, and until he lost them, John strongly believed in God.”
“After his parents, who were on their way to Preach a service, were killed by a drunk driver, he decided that God did not exist. He was not only adamant about it, he was angry. Different people tried to get him to talk to a Minister too, but he refused.”
“The boy grew up, and seemed to be very successful. He was very smart and athletic, and got a full scholarship to college. He got his degree with honors, and looked the picture of success. The young man was popular, and people seemed to be drawn to him.”
“He met a girl, and he asked her to get married. There was a hiccup, she was a Christian. Before they were engaged, he would simply change the subject when she brought it up. Eleanor knew John’s history, and she tried to understand.”
“After they were engaged though, she had to know what kind of life they would have. She tried to talk to him about faith, and the arguments escalated. He said some cruel, and very offensive things. Eleanor broke off the engagement.”
“It left John even angrier than before. He blamed God, even though he didn’t believe that God existed, for taking someone else from him. John found himself so restless that he began to roam in his free time. He would take long drives, try different things to fill his time, and even found himself wondering through thrift stores and antique shops to occupy his time.”
“Anything to keep from thinking about Eleanor and his parents. All the time his anger was growing. One day, on one of those drives, he spotted another antique shop in the neighborhood he grew up in. The owner was named Alan Carter, John vaguely remembered the man, but couldn’t exactly place him. He was friendly enough.”
“They toured the shop, and he was about to leave when he asked if there was anything in that back room. The answer made John stop in his tracks. ‘Nothing but a broken statue of The Lord Jesus.’”
“John asked him to repeat his statement. ‘It’s a statue that I’m repairing, but it still needs a lot of work. I’ve had it for a number of years, but just haven’t gotten the right materials to fix it properly. Every time I tried I seem to get interrupted.”
“An angry smile came across the boy’s face. ‘How much do you want for it, as is?’ The man didn’t want to sell something that was broken, but John insisted. John offered him a hundred dollars, the man wouldn’t take more than two dollars for it. John agreed, and they loaded it up.”
“On the way home, he debated where he was going to place it in his home. A lot of scenarios went through his head, but he couldn’t get a way from one thought, place it in the garden. John smiled, he’d do just that, and when Eleanor came to bring the ring back, they’d take a walk one last time. He wanted her to see what he thought of her faith.”
Agnes had listened to all this, and was a little uncomfortable, but she didn’t know why. She could understand the young man’s animosity, but unlike him, she wasn’t cruel. Then Agnes thought of some of the things she said to her Grandmother, and the tears down her face. Pastor Hayward didn’t look up, he continued with John’s story.
“The primary problem with the statue was in the chest area, and the base. The hole at the foot of the statue was bigger than the chest cavity. John called her that night, and set the meeting for the next day. He went to bed like any other night, but that night he was restless.”
“Weird dreams woke him up, then memories of his parents, and of Eleanor filled his head. As the images came, the anger grew. It was so intense that almost without knowing it, he found himself in the garden. There was some bricks for a project by the porch, he picked one up and headed to the statue.”
“Screaming, he threw it towards the head of the statue, but the brick didn’t quite make it, and hit the hole in the base instead. Surprisingly, it didn’t do much damage, it only exposed more of the hole that was there. A piece of paper was barely sticking out.”
Pastor Hayward wasn’t looking at Agnes now, he seemed to be staring off in the past. “John picked the brick up with one hand, and the paper with the other. He thought I’ll read the note, then wrap it around the brick, and finish the statue. Until he read it, and dropped the brick beside him.”
“The note read, This statue is a gift to the Church we Pastor. No one will ever see this note I’m sure, but Helen thought we needed to put something inside the base in case there’s ever a storm. We had a hurricane last year, and unexpected storms can do a lot of damage, which leave people asking questions like how could God let this happen?”
”Helen wanted the reader to know, Jesus has no problem with brokenness. That’s why He came to start with, because Adam, Eve, all of us are broken, even our little baby John needs Jesus. The day that Adam and Eve fell in the garden, God’s heart was broken. They didn’t go through their storm alone, and you don’t have to either. Signed Noah Hayward, Pastor.”
By now tears poured down Pastor Hayward’s face. “I stayed in that garden all night sobbing, the anger giving way to the bitterness and anguish it was hiding. Somewhere in the morning I fell asleep clinging to that note. Eleanor came to the house, and when she couldn’t get ahold of me, came around to the garden.”
“She saw the statue, saw the mess I was in, and didn’t say a word. I handed her the note, her eyes got so big. She put her arms around me, I was still squalling, and put me in the car. We drove to her Pastor’s house, and we talked for hours.”
“I didn’t get better over night, but God opened a door with that broken statue, to let my anger, and my bitterness, and my doubts flow out. It turns out, I wasn’t doubting there was a God, I very much believed, that’s why I was so angry.”
“I asked the Pastor what I had never asked as an eight year old boy. How could God let my parents, who gave their life for Him, die?” Pastor Hayward looked at Agnes, and kindly smiled. “Pastor Thomas said I could preach you a sermon, or I could tell you a story.”
“The story he told me, wasn’t about a child, but about a Dad. About a Father Who loved His children so much, He let them make their own choices. Because of those choices, sin and sickness entered the world, and those two things contaminate anything they touch. He also told me that, while God allowed us to make our own choices, He gave us an alternative to choose over the bad.”
“He said, John The Lord Jesus is called a man of sorrows. Imagine it, God could make Himself any kind of life He wanted, and yet He chose a life that was also filled with sorrows. History says it’s most likely that Mary’s husband John, the one that raised Jesus, died before His Ministry began.”
“Christ suffered sorrows as God, and suffered sorrows as a Man. All of it for one reason, so that God could rescue man by becoming a man, and knowing our sorrows, so He could dry our tears. He didn’t hit your parents with a car, the drunk driver did. He just let a storm break a statue so that, at the right point, you would listen, and find out there is a path to see them again.”
“Agnes, atheism wasn’t my problem, I never really was one. Anger, bitterness, and loneliness were my problem, but instead of talking about it, I chose to be angry. Anger in the short term is easy, but over time it’s costly, and it will drain you.”
”You know what the doctors have said about the surgery. They say it’s a fifty fifty chance whether you’ll ever walk out, but if you allow Christ in, and the bitterness out, I can promise you this. You will leave this place better than you came in, and you’ll have a life that’s better than you can ever imagine.”
It didn’t happen that day, or the day after, but she did walk out. The doctors said, even with the surgery her recovery was a miracle. Her Sunday School students, and her physical therapy students would listen as they rode her horses for years to come.
Agnes found Christ long before she got her legs back, but that wasn’t the miracle she told the kids about. The miracle she said was that God came with a broken heart to save her. He sent a broken man to share his story with her. An now He uses a broken woman to walk to the hurting. God has no problem with brokenness, it’s the very reason He came to begin with.