The Physicist

This is a short story reflection of the tension I feel between God’s holiness and humanity. His goodness is in question. My doubts are many. I trust Jesus, but not fully. I disobey Him, sometimes on purpose. I want to forget Him and forge my own path but find His kindness meeting me in solitude and drawing me back to Him all the time. I am like a little kid in the presence of a physicist, angry and afraid of things I can’t possibly understand. And that’s how this story begins.

I meander around the physicist’s equipment, far above where my little arms can reach. I don’t understand anything of what he does. I just know it’s complicated. His eyebrows furrow a lot – the intensity of focus he puts into his work is unmatched.

I dare to interrupt: “Play with me?”

He turns at once, kneels to my level. The warmth in his eyes make no sense in contrast to the coldness of his confounding instruments. I shudder, afraid of all that is mysterious and holy.

“Don’t be afraid, little one,” he says in a gentleness that flows like a rippling brook.

I say nothing, but glance down at the bright blue ball I have in my hands. I toss the ball halfheartedly towards the physicist. He pretends to be taken aback by the strength of my throw, teetering over and falling to the floor. I can’t help but giggle as he sits up with a playful grin.

He tosses the ball back to me, but I miss catching it. The ball careens into a bunch of important-looking glass tubes that crash and explode and before I know it I’ve run into the physicist’s arms.

I don’t know why I ran to him.

I’m shaking with fear and pulling away. “Are you mad? Are you mad?” I whisper frantically. He holds me an arms-length away from him and touches my cheek. His eyes still hold a playful gleam, but there are also tears mirroring my own.

Smiling, he boops me on the nose with a tap of his finger and leaps to his feet. He goes to the corner of the room and pulls out two brooms and a dustpan.

“Cleanup on aisle 2!” He shouts, saluting me and handing me the smaller of the two brooms. I smile then hang my head in shame. Again, he kneels to my level. and lifts my chin. I stare past him, avoiding his gaze.

“You can tell me,” the physicist says, pushing a strand of hair behind my ear. “I already know,” he continues, finding my gaze. He looks serious. I turn away.

“It wasn’t an accident,” I whisper, gesturing to the hundreds of pieces of still-smoking broken glass. “I wanted to see . . . what . . . you would do,” I explained.

The physicist waited patiently. “And . . . it was kind of fun . . .” I finished lamely.

The physicist sighed knowingly. “How do you feel now?”

I look around the room at all the infuriating instruments. “I don’t know,” I reply honestly. “I don’t know if I’m sorry or not,” I admit, crossing my arms in a gesture of self-protection. The physicist nods, sets his broom down, and sits with me on the floor. “Don’t you have to work?” I ask, hoping he will stop paying attention to me. I’m feeling uncomfortable.

“This is my most important work,” he replies, stretching out and leaning back on his elbows.

I have a sudden urge to destroy more things in the lab. I hate all of it – all the things I don’t understand. How can the same man who plays catch with me work with such terrible tools?

We sit for what feels like an eternity. I keep expecting him to leave – to give up. Finally, he gets up, walking out of my line of sight.

I imagine now I can do what I want without his interfering.

Suddenly something brushes against my knee. It’s the bright blue ball, rolling slowly past me. Confused, I turn back towards the scene of the crime. The physicist stands amidst all the shattered glass and offers, “Play with me?”

And that’s how I began to love the physicist.

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