Broken Smiles

Sometimes, I despise my own behavior.

If I saw a man drowning in dark water, I would dive in without hesitation and pull him back to shore.

If I saw a woman step in front of a moving train, I would shout a warning and yank her back to safety.

If I saw a lost child in the street, I would help him find his way back home.

So then why, I ask myself, do I stand aside every day and let people all around me—family, friends, strangers—take one step closer to the gates of hell as we both shrug and smile? Quietly, gently, I let them go, though everything inside me should be screaming for them to stop. And even when I do scream, it's only on the inside, where they don't hear me.

How can I simply let them go, knowing what awaits them? And yet at the same time, I struggle to share my faith. Oh, God, I can be so very weak.

If only it were as simple as physically pushing them out of danger. If that were the case, it would be so easy to show them the truth, to bring them back to safety. But no, the danger is spiritual. Unseen, but none the less real, and so all the more dangerous. If I tried to explain it all, I know they would probably laugh it off and keep on walking to their deaths.

I can't stop them, Father.

But I know You can. After all, you stopped me. You loved me enough to turn me around completely, even at a terrible price. Please, please do the same for them. And use me in the process, any way you want to. I want to reach out and take each opportunity before it slides through my hesitant fingers again. And the strength to do that can come only from you.

God, I have so many misgivings. I have an ever-lingering fear of pushing people away, like I've watched so many other believers do. And I'm not exactly the perfect witness myself. You know my struggles better than anyone.

But I still trust you with all my heart and soul, even though I don't trust myself. These are the very people that you made, whom you know so intimately, and whom you loved so much that you willingly gave up your life for them. You wrote the promise of their redemption in the stars before the beginning of time, knowing, even then, what it would cost you. These are your lost children, your prodigal sons and daughters, whom you see walking towards the gates of hell with a shrug and a broken smile. When I see them, it breaks my heart, and I know you see them infinitely better than I ever could. Bring them back, Father. And use me in the process, any way you want to. Starting with this, my prayer.

—Dedicated to Preethi, a good friend who is always ready with The Message.