BY: BON JIN KOO
As I began to write another entry in my journal, my pencil greeted me with a sharp splintering sound followed by a satisfying snap. The snap quickly became unsatisfying. It was a good pencil.
“How can I praise Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym now?” I thought aloud.
“Shut up, boy!”
I flinched at the harsh voice. I waited for the familiar laughter to come and embrace silence as my comrade, but the swish of the tent flap announced otherwise.
“What you muttering about now, boy?” said Crater Man.
“My pencil broke,” I said. “May I borrow your knife to sharpen it?”
“So that you can slit my throat?” roared Crater Man. “Hasn’t your pitiful deity demanded enough blood?”
Crater Man began to kick and spit at me. My skin eventually grew hard to his blows after many nights of abuse. “You shall love your enemies,” Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym told me in my dream the night I was captured. My hatred for my captors lingered, but I feared Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym; he imbued a kind of power I never felt before. But tonight, not even he will stop me.
“Forgive me, Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym,” I whispered.
“What? I can’t hear you boy!” yelled Crater Man. “Do you want me to beat you some more?”
I brandished a knife I had stolen a couple weeks ago and prepared to drive it into Crater Man’s heart. The fear I saw blossom on my enemy’s face was sufficient for my revenge, but I could not stop there. I braced my mind for the collision of metal and bone, but I felt warmth instead. Blood? No…this felt familiar..!
An older man held his hand on my wrist, the knife inches away from Crater Man’s chest. Fear quickly turned to embarrassment for Crater Man, anger to curiosity for me. This was a man I had never seen before, but how familiar his presence! Almost like Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym…
“Is that any way to treat our brother?” said the older man.
“Brother?! I mean, General Adams, this scum threatened to kill me!” Crater Man cried.
“It’s no surprise to me if the rumors about you are true,” General Adams said.
“What r-rumors, s-sir?”
“Leave this place,” General Adams said sternly.
Crater Man’s face contorted with confusion and fury. He stormed out of the tent without questioning the general further. General Adams placed his hands on my shoulder and comforted me.
“Have a seat, my brother,” General Adams said. “We have much to discuss.”
The general and I exchanged words for hours. I learned that the political aspect of the war was much more complicated than I had ever imagined, though violence always became the main obstacle to negotiations. Adams became a commanding officer out of reluctance but sought to seek peace between warring factions through more diplomatic means rather than weapons and fear. He told me that after the war was over, someone needed to come back to restore the country and share God’s love to its people.
“Who is God?” I asked.
“The one who gives me the power to stand before an army,” General Adams whispered. “And to love little ones like yourself.”
“What do you mean by loving ones like me?”
“Let me show you.”
The general brought out a bowl of water, kneeled, and reached for my feet as if to begin washing them. I withdrew my feet in shock.
“That is a servant’s job! The lowest of tasks!” I exclaimed.
The general smiled and gently brought my feet into the water. His hands were rough; I could feel years of pain and labor. Yet that insight did not pinpoint for me the source of his power. Where did it come from? Who is this God? “Imagine a king…no, a king of kings!” General Adams said. “What if he came to wash your feet?”
“Why would a king do such a thing?” I asked.
“Ah, but my king is different,” General Adams chuckled. “He washed my feet out of love, so I try to do the same for you. But you must first accept it.”
He finished washing my feet. The general brought out a new pair of shoes and tickled my feet before he put them on. I was not ticklish, but a giggle escaped from my mouth.
This man knew love. Did his God give him power and love as well?
“Who is God?” I asked again. “Is he a deity?”
“What is the name of your deity?” General Adams answered.
“Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym.”
“That’s Hebrew for ‘unknown god,’” General Adams explained. “My God… and your god… are one and the same.”
“How do you know?”
“There is a story about a man who loved God more than I did,” General Adams said. “His name was Paul. The people he tried to share God’s love with worshiped many gods. They had many altars dedicated to different kinds of gods, and one altar the people dedicated to an unknown god.”
“Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym?”
“Yes! Paul said, ‘What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.’ He told them God is a personal God, one who is jealous for their souls and deeply in love.”
“Who is God?” I asked once more.
“God is love.”
“But it is so dangerous to love,” I said. “My heart, my soul… my mind is open to the other. What would he do with them?”
“Brother, if you, a mere man, can sense the fragility of our hearts, also know how easily love can damage the heart, and yet, know how necessary a heart needs love,” General Adams explained. “How much more would a king who brings his people so close to his heart take all the more care to love them?”
“That is a risk,” I concluded.
“It is a risk to love,” General Adams said. “What if it doesn’t work out?”
39 Years Later
I stand before my nation, once broken and desolate, but now a name known throughout the world. I discovered its name was Israel, a name long forgotten in the decades of war. I remembered the love that the general demonstrated to me as a prisoner many years ago. For my entire life until our meeting, I worshiped Bil’tiy Yadua Elhiym, an unknown god, never realizing it was the same God that gave the general such strength and gentleness.
“Chancellor! Sorry to disturb your meditation,” a worker reported. “A group of refugees wish to enter the country.”
“They’re Americans, Chancellor.”
“What of it, Peter?” I asked. “Do you not remember that an American saved me? You shall love them just the same.”
“But it is such a risk!” Peter argued. “We just recovered from the war. What if they’re spies? Terrorists?”
“It is a risk to love,” I said. “What if it doesn’t work out?”
Peter shrugged as I placed my hand on his shoulder and comforted him.
“Ah, but what if it does.”