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In the forest of our Creator

By Michael Sitzman

Section: Arts

April 7, 2006

I. A Wretch Like Me

Imagine a nice Jewish boy finishing his second year at Brandeis University. Since starting, hes become connected as never before with his people and his roots. He studies Yiddish and attends Shabbes dinners on Fridays because he wants to.

Picture this same student singing in Gospel choir at Protestant services, praying in Jesus name with the rest. Hed hoped to attend a Christian Bible study but didnt have time. A friend asked innocently if he was thinking of converting. Converting? No;

he doesnt even understand what that means. And no, hes not with Jews for Jesus. Admit it: Didnt the thought cross your mind?

Friends, its time for a story which I must tell in my own way. Gather round

II. How Sweet The Sound

In a mythical forest, a child was born without sight. So was everyone in the forest tribe. As a boy, he learned to find his way around by the sounds of the wilderness: The running brook, the wind through the canyon, the crickets call. But what filled him with sheer joy was the mournful sound of the loon. Something about it awakened in him the collective memories of generations.

His father told him tales hed learned from his own father, teaching the boy to be a proper tribesman, ever keeping the sacred, haunting cry of the loon, the sound of his people, close to his heart. His mother raised a family, showing by example how to discern the tender subtleties of emotion in the laughter and voices of his brothers and sisters, and how to respond likewise with nuance in word and tone. An altogether good life it was, timed to the rhythm of the forests sounds. And thus did they understand their world and its Creator.

III. Through Many Dangers

As the boy grew to a man, a novel need overcame him: The urge to venture out alone, ever farther from the tribe, exploring and testing himself. But sometimes temptation overpowers judgement, and one day he slipped trying to cross a swift river. He could usually tell its speed by the sound, but the canyons echo had deceived him. It might have been his end, but some people on the other bank saved him. They were not of his tribe

IV. Was Blind, But Now I See

Upon awakening, he discovered that the head trauma had destroyed his hearing. The source of his entire understanding of the world was taken from him, and he was thrust into a frightening new existence: Deafness. Unfathomable

More incredibly, though, was that he now found himself experiencing marvelous, incomprehensible, new sensations that only went away when he closed his eyes. His eyes! He could feel them on his face, but hadnt known what they were for. Now, for the first time, he was seeing.

V. How Precious Did That Grace Appear

The boy soon realized that this alien tribe, like him, could see but not hear;

still, at first, he did not feel at home among them. By and by, that changed, and, as years passed, and he grew to be a man, he learned new stories;

new strategies for survival in the very same forest;

new wonders in which to delight;

and new ways to connect with others in his big adoptive family

VI. The Hour I First Believed

The brook ran silently now, yet it had motion, and he could see when it was dangerous to cross. The crickets no longer cried, but now he could find his way home by the sun and stars instead. The beloved loon no longer called, but its feathers bore a beautiful pattern;

in fact, these people considered the loon part of their sacred heritage too, and they wore the feathers in their hair. But most of all: Though the tenderness in human voices was but a memory, there was now the sweetness of smiles and the unbearable loveliness of tears. And these sights, he came to realize, were just as good as sounds for providing a good life in the forest.

VII. And Grace Will Lead Me Home

The day came when our hero had to answer a certain call: To return to his people and his family while there was still time. Crossing the river that had once nearly been his undoing, the aging man of the forest made the journey back. How heartbreaking was the reunion, for he could not hear their shrieks of joy, nor could they see his silent, manly tears. Yet what they had in common was enough: They could all feel the warmth of hugs.

By and by, the old man regained his hearing, for it had never truly left him;

yet he also kept his sight. And though his people couldnt understand the foreign ways he had learned, it didnt matter. For all who live in the forest, be it with open eyes or ears, find that life there is altogether good.

VIII. As Long As Life Endures

Friends, whatever your faith, whether you are moved by the sight of a human smile or the sound of accompanying laughter: Both can show you the way. For both can reveal the truth and the beauty abounding in the forest of our Creator;

and indeed we will need to understand each others ways for as long as we shall live in the forest together.

Amazing Grace written by John Newton, c.1779.

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