Earlier this summer I became acquainted with The Mysterious Benedict Societyby Trenton Lee Stewart through a display at the local Barnes and Noble. First book in hand, I went home happily and thoroughly enjoyed the read. Though it is a children’s book series, the themes it discusses are universal and just as pertinent for adults as children. I often find that children’s books are a perfect vehicle for transmitting truth. The importance of the message shines through the simplicity and there are none of the distractions so often found in adult fiction. I get really frustrated with adult fiction because the stories get bogged down in “real-world” scenarios. Consequently, hope gets mired down in despair, and by the end of the book, you really can’t tell which is which. But I digress….
So this week I started the second in the Benedict series and was instantly rewarded with a most philosophically rich passage. To set the scene, our Hero Boy is trying to grapple with the aftermath of preventing a terrible evil from taking place (book 1). He feels that now having seen how evil people can be, he can never view the world in the same way again. He discusses these feelings with his mentor, who gives him some sage advice. Mr. Benedict explains that evil is not more powerful or more abundant than good, but that it is simply more noticeable. He likens the situation to a nightmare in which you spy a deadly snake at your feet, then looking around you notice more and more of them – until you are completely surrounded by them. In the same way, Mr. Benedict tells Hero Boy, the vision of evil can become all-consuming “since deadly serpents always catch the eye. But if serpents are all you see, you are not looking hard enough.”
Wow! What an immensely convicting and encouraging observation! This is a phenomenal truth. I tend to struggle with Hero Boy’s dilemma quite frequently (though I have nothing like his excuse) and desperately needed to hear this. This is concrete theology. This is what I crave – abstract truth becomes fleshed out and puts on its workout shoes to join me in life. When I read the news and all I see is despair and destruction, I’m not looking hard enough. When I look at my circumstances and all I see is trouble, I’m not looking hard enough. When I look at another person and see an enemy because they’re not like me, I’m not looking hard enough. In short, I’m not seeing God.
And right there in the middle of a children’s book, completely unlooked for, was the answer to one of my soul’s most troubling questions. It’s the same reason I started my blog in the first place – to train the eyes of my soul to see – really see, the face of God in everything.
Blessings to you,