Recently I was out for my jog. Although it was after 6.30p.m, the sun was still beating down on us, making the run even more strenuous than it would usually be. Eyeing a stretch of shade on the other side of the road, I signalled to my friend that I was going to cross the street for some respite from the heat. My decision proved to be more timely than I could have imagined; hiding behind a little building on the spot I would have passed by had I not traversed the road, a teenage kid, donning a skeleton mask, was lying in wait to pounce in front of passers-by to scare them out of their wits.
As his failed prank lay exposed, I laughed at his audacity and amiably asked him to put on the mask which he sheepishly did. Resuming our punishing jog, we proceed to our finishing line some distance up the road, and then turned back the way we had come.
Still at the top of the hill, we caught glimpse of the same kid now crouching behind a bush, whilst two men, his unsuspecting and hapless victims, fast approached the place of ambush. ‘Just look at this’ I told my friend. The scene that unfolded in front of us was as humorous as it was belligerent. Springing into action and arresting their otherwise peaceful walk with his unwelcome joke, the mischievous dude first threw these guys into a fearful panic, and then into an uncontrollable fit of rage. Hissing violent threats peppered with unrepeatable expletives, the older man made sure that this daredevil would think twice before he ever decided to repeat his ‘skeleton mask’ stunt again. Thankfully the situation soon calmed down and everyone went on his way.
Admittedly the whole affair was quite entertaining – maybe I wouldn’t have thought so had I fallen victim to it myself a bit earlier on. However later on, as I replayed the scene in my mind, I couldn’t help sniggering.
But at a more serious moment I wondered? what drove that kid to do what he did? Does he know that despite the moments of youthful and impetuous behaviour, there is a deeper meaning to life.
If I ever saw him again I would stop and have a chat with him. I would tell him that God is no prankster but He does give us real joy; that Jesus is no clown but He does give mercy to relieve the burden of guilt from the heaviest of hearts; that the Gospel is not some collection of entertaining stories but the way of eternal life; that even if we do much worse than he did with his prank when we sin, the Lord is not out to pay us back in anger as the two guys wished to do, but to patiently offer His forgiveness over and over again. I would share what I learned over the years – that despite life’s suffering and setbacks, God is not a cosmic hoaxer and we are not the miserable victims of a cruel joke but the sons and daughters of the Father who loves us and saves us; I would invite him to join us in one of our youth community meetings where he would be welcome to discover the true meaning of life and journey with others in it.
I intend to share this with him if I ever bump into him again. In the meantime I will remind myself and others and strive to live by the truth proclaimed by St Paul:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him
It’s beyond fun and funny, pranks and fleeting pleasures – it’s real if we only believed and live as He wants us to.