In Search of God by Conrado V. Pedroche (Short Story)

Once upon a time, in the days when the world was younger, there lived an ugly boy. No uglier boy had ever been born in the whole neighborhood, and for a long time the unhappy parents triedto keep him from straying from their house, so ashamed they were of his looks. They loved the boy, yes, but they could not understand why he should be so ugly. Naturally Juan was a lonely child.

"I am going to look for God," Juan announced one day. "I am going to ask Him why He made me ugly.

"With faith in his heart, Juan set out in search of God. He did not doubt that he would see God. Through valleys, across rivers, over mountains he traveled.

One day, resting under a coconut tree, he fell asleep. And soon he heard a voice. Whether he wasdreaming or not he could not say but he heard the voice, and the voice said:"Friend Juan, don't be afraid. I am the coconut tree under which you are resting. I would like to know where you are going at this time of day."

"I am going to see the Lord," Juan said. "I am going to ask Him why He made me ugly."

"Will you be able to see Him?", the coconut asked.

"I'm sure I will," Juan answered.

"If you see God," said the tree, "will you ask Him for me why I have never borne fruit? I have been standing here for many, many years now and I have never been blessed with one single nut."

"If I see God, as I am sure I will, I will ask Him that for you," Juan promise the co conut tree.

Juan went on his way. Soon he came upon a river. He sat down by the bank to rest. While be wasresting, he saw a crocodile with a big tree growing on his back.

"Friend Juan," said the crocodile, "I know you are on your way to see God. Will you kindly do me a favor?"

"Of course," said Juan. "What is it that you want?"

"Please ask the good Lord why He caused such a monstrous tree to grow upon my back."

"I will gladly do that," Juan said.

On the third day of his journey, Juan stopped to rest near a brook. While he was fanning himself with a palm, he saw a farmer approaching.

"If you see the Lord as I believe you will, ask him why my pants have stayed short all these years. I want them to be as long as the pants worn by other people," said the farmer.

"I will gladly do that for you," said Juan.

After another week of journeying, Juan woke up from a good rest in the shade to find old man with a long beard bending over him. He knew at once that He was God. He knew without asking,for at that moment he felt his heart within him thumping with joy and fear.

"My boy, " said the Old Man. "You were sleeping very soundly. Did I disturb you?"

"No, Lord," Juan said. "I must have fallen asleep because I have been journeying for many days. I have come looking for you."

"I know," the Lord said.

"On my way I came across a coconut, a crocodile, and a farmer. Each of them asked me to carry a message to you, Lord," Juan said."What does the coconut want?" asked the Lord.

"The coconut tree wants to know why it has not been blessed with fruit although it has lived for many, many years," Juan related.

"That's easily explained," God said. "The coconut tree grows exactly between two yards owned by two old friends. If it bears fruit, it will only be the cause of trouble between the two neighbors. Do you understand, Juan?"

"Yes. Lord," Juan answered, "I will tell the coconut tree."

"Anything else?" the Lord asked.

"When I was crossing a river, I met a crocodile. He wants to know why a tree grows on his back.He says he finds it too heavy and ungainly to lug around."

"The crocodile is in the habit of harassing the neighborhood with his constant raids on poultry yards, taking back to the river such things as pigs and chickens, sometimes even children. I have caused the tree to grow on his back to show him how heavy his sins are. He must carry this tree everywhere he goes until he reforms," the Lord pointed out.

My friend, the farmer, wants to know why it has been his lot to wear short pants all life," Juan relayed the farmer's question.

You see," God said, "If he wears long pants, he will want to go to the big city and work in an office and sit in a swivel chair while at work. He will forget all about farming. If that happens, who will till the soil? The farms will be neglected. Tell him to stick to the soil. His work is nobleand he should love it.

"I will tell him, Lord," Juan said. "And now, please tell me why you made me very ugly.""My child," the good Lord said quietly, touching Juan's stooped shoulders, "Does it matter very much to you?"

"Yes, Lord," said Juan. "It is inconvenient to be ugly."

"If the heart is good, how one looks does not really matter" the Lord explained.

"I believe you, Lord. You know best what is good for your creatures," Juan said. "Your heart is full of faith. You have never wished evil on any man. You have always shown willingness to help those in need, never counting the cost nor expecting any return for your efforts. Go back now. Your faith will be rewarded," the Lord said.

"I believe you, Lord," Juan's heart was filled with trust and gratitude.

Juan went home. Though weary and exhausted, he wasn't too tired to inform the coconut, the crocodile, and the farmer of God's answers to their questions. They were all satisfied. They trusted in God's wisdom. As soon as he reached home, Juan lay down to sleep. In the morning, when he stood before the mirror, he realized that a strange thing had happened to him in the night. His ugliness was gone!

"Great God in Heaven!" he cried, falling on his knees in profound gratitude, his faith greatly strengthened.