Roy Exum: His Heart Is Pure

Friday, March 16, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I’ve been sent Kelly Atkins’ marvelous story via email, “God Lives Under the Bed,” by three totally different people in the past 10 days and today might be just the day to share it. If for no other reason, I want to set the record straight on what has become a classic tale. Lordy, it has buoyed the spirits of many like myself. Kelly first wrote her “anonymous” story 25 years ago. Ever since it has been reprinted, altered, and is now believed to have an unknown author but, as one who is used to my stories being shuffled like cards I know better. I read it years ago in Christianity Today when Kelly was still getting credit and am happy to return it to her. Today she is the wife of Mike Atkins, the Senior Pastor at Grace Church in Orlando, and says the story is absolutely true.

She writes, “The article was written in 1992 as an assignment for an Essay Writing course in my graduate program at Wheaton College. As part of the assignment, we were required to submit the essay to a contest in Campus Life, a then student-focused publication of Christianity Today. I’m glad I was forced to; I would never have done it on my own. The essay was published as the second place winner.

Laughingly she adds, “The grade from my professor was a B+. Which goes to show that sometimes B’s and second places work out just fine.”

I first read the story in Christianity Today some years ago and she confirms it has been published many hundreds of times since 1996, with and without her knowledge (I know all about that).

On the eve of what promises to be a great weekend, please let me share …

* * *

GOD LIVES UNDER THE BED

Written by Kelly Adkins, also an Orlando Magic fan

I envy Kevin. My brother, Kevin, thinks God lives under his bed.  At least, that's what I heard him say one night.  He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, 'Are you there, God?’ he said. 'Where are you?  Oh, I see. Under the bed...'

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in. He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he's 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will.  He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them. 

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? 

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our  dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores. 

And Saturdays – Oh, the bliss of Saturdays!

That's the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. 'That one's goin' to Chi-car-go! 'Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights. And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn't know what it means to be discontent.

His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth or power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met. He never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent.  Kevin is never happier than when he is working.  When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun and he does not leave a job until it is finished. When his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others.  His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere.

And he trusts God.

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to God, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God -- to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an 'educated' person to grasp. God is his closest companion. 

In my moments of doubt and frustrations, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.  It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap. I am.

My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances -- they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God's care … Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn?  After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won't be surprised at all!

(Postscript: Kevin is now in heaven. He died of colon cancer in 2007 at age 45. “I still miss him terribly,’ Kelly said.)

* * *

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’" – Matthew 19:14 NIV

* * *

 “It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven't done badly. People won't have time for you if you are always angry or complaining." - Stephen Hawking, the brilliant British physicist Stephen Hawking who fate curiously allowed him to die earlier this week on what scholars call ‘Pi Day’ (3.14)

* * *

“I dreamed of heaven the other night, and the pearly gates swung wide. An angel with halo bright, ushered me inside. And there to my astonishment, stood folks I'd judged & labeled as quite "unfit," of "little worth," and "spiritually disabled." Indignant words rose to my lips, but NEVER were set free, for EVERY face showed stunned surprise, not ONE expected Me!" – Unknown

* * *

“Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.” – from ‘The Water Giver’

royexum@aol.com


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