While reading through some of the sayings of the early desert hermits, I came across this:

“Abba Mios was asked by a soldier whether God would forgive a sinner. After instructing him at some length, the old man asked him: ‘Tell me, my dear, if your cloak were torn, would you throw it away?’ ‘Oh, no!’ he replied, ‘I would mend it and wear it again.’ The old man said to him: ‘Well, if you care for your cloak, will not God show mercy to his own creature?’ ”

A wonderful little story, to be sure! Exactly along the lines of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels. But when I took this story into my silence and imagined this scene in our present times, my meditations were led in a different direction:

I imagined a woman, finely dressed, that came up to me. Rather aloof, she commented to me that she found no use for God since the pastor at her last church had said that those who sin are doomed to hell. Then she asked or rather challenged me for my own opinion as to whether God would forgive a sinner.

Following Abba Mios’ example I asked this woman, “If your fine dress were torn, would you throw it away.”

She looked down at me, and with a huff said, “Of course I would! I have no use for a torn dress. I’ll just buy a new one.”

So I asked another way, “But what if the soles on your fine shoes were worn through, would you throw those away or have them fixed?”

Almost laughing, she replied, “I hardly wear a pair of shoes long enough to wear them about before I find another pair that I must have! But what does this have to do with my question? Do you think God would forgive a sinner?”

So I looked to God and asked, “God, would you throw this woman away for her faults the same way she throws away her fine clothes without a thought to repairing them?”

Sadly, I felt, He answered, “It is not I that would throw her away, but it is she that has thrown me away because of a single hole she found in the image of me that another man had created for her. And rather than look through that hole to see me as I truly am on the other side of that image, she has cast me away entirely for something else that she finds as being far better.”

“Well? What is your opinion?” she asked impatiently.

“I am sorry, ma’am,” I replied, “but no opinion of mine can help you.”

With that, she turned and stormed off, a trail of less than perfect clothes left lying in her wake.