I will never forget the day in kindergarten when we baked gingerbread cookies. Each child got to decorate his or her own cookie with candies and sparkles. Then we placed them in the oven and waited. Soon after the teacher removed them from the oven and left them on the cooling tray. I waited eagerly for my cookie with the blue Smartie buttons. (Smarties are a popular candy in Canada, the UK and several other countries, but are unavailable in the United States.) But now, at the end of the day, as I walked up to claim my cookie I found that it was gone. The gingerbread man with the blue buttons was gone. In its place was some other cookie left behind, presumably by the same miscreant that had stolen my work of art. My teacher expressed her regret and then handed me that other damned cookie.
The whole drive home in the back of my parents’ car I fumed. A cooler head might have pointed out that the cookie I now had, while not the one I had prepared, was nonetheless a reasonable consolation prize. It would still give me that cookie pleasure. And hey, stuff happens. That’s life. So just enjoy your cookie and get on with the day. It isn’t worth it to sit there and brood. You’re only hurting yourself!
But I would not be consoled. I would not be reasoned to. By the time we arrived home I was consumed with seething rage. I looked down at that disgusting thing in the plastic bag beside me, and I wanted nothing more than to grind it into dust. After my mother parked the car I got out and walked to the edge of our yard beside a big ravine. Quivering with fury, I removed that damned object and held it tightly in my hand. Then, as the hot tears began to roll down my cheeks, I cast it into the ravine. Temporarily satisfied and yet still strangely tormented, I turned back and walked toward the house.
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One of the most difficult questions of all is how rational persons could choose to be separated from the love of God eternally. However, my puzzlement is reduced just a bit by my experience with this cookie. Subject of an injustice (for in a perfect world every child should surely have his cookie) I chose to reside in my anger, to stoke the flames of my rage, to stir up my bitterness, until I ensured that nobody would make me happy. I would rather go cookieless.
Is it possible that self-destructive dispositions of this type could grow over time into something truly devastating to the well being of the individual? Don’t some people become consumed by rage and bitterness, regret and hate? Can we be so sure that this rage and bitterness, regret and hate, could not culminate in the desire to cast off God himself and his offer of relationship because of ills suffered and injustices endured?