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Paw Paw's story

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

As rain hit the metal roof, lightning lit up the sky and thunder continuously rumbled, Dwayne was laying in his bed scrolling through TikTok. Scrolling the latest trending videos, which normally made him laugh, he sat with an emptiness which was regular for him to feel at this time of night. Dwayne’s mind would be invaded as he tried to go to sleep of questions about life like, “What is this all about,” “Why am I here” and “Why am I like this?” Ever since Dwayne’s parents got divorced a couple years back, Dwayne has struggled to make any true friends and his existing ones couldn’t be considered true friends,) only really talking to him if they were at school or maybe at the rec center playing ball.

Dwayne was lonely as ever, consistently contemplating if life would be better for his family if he just was not here anymore. Everyone who had the option to leave him seemed like their lives have just gotten better since they stopped being his friend, so maybe it would be the same for his family. Dwayne spent many sleepless nights thinking of his suicide list and of the seventeen reasons (representing his seventeen years of life) he had wrote down of why he should just end it all. It glared at him from his bedside table tonight; he didn’t want to pick it up. This sleepless night was different. Rather than being sleepless because the hopelessness of life was slowly suffocating him as if an elephant was sitting on his chest and his anxiety holding him captive, Dwayne was thinking of a story his grandfather, “Paw Paw,” told him before he died. He hadn’t thought about Paw Paw much since he died because it brought strong feelings of regret that he didn’t spend more time with him, but tonight he couldn’t get the story out of his head.

The story was one about a man named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus lived the first century and was a man with a lot of shame and guilt. Zacchaeus worked as a tax collector for Rome. Who ruled all the known world and ruthlessly overthrew countries and established their own puppet leaders. Rome allowed a native of the land to rule and have the system that they had before, except that the new government must answer to the higher authority of the Roman government and, of course, pay taxes. Since taxes were vital for an expanding empire, tax collectors were of high importance. Either Roman soldiers or local people appointed by the new government could serve in the role and were even allowed to take a little extra money in taxes to keep for themselves. Zacchaeus lived in Israel and was an Israelite. Zacchaeus was upset with life and didn’t know how to escape being controlled by the Roman government or how to fill the emptiness that he felt. He thought money would fix it, but that only made the hole wider.

Then, Zacchaeus started hearing whispers about this guy named Jesus who claimed to fulfill the scriptures and be the Messiah. The Messiah was the savior of Israel and all humanity who would lead all of humanity back to living under the Kingship of Yahweh himself and this Messiah was Yahweh in the flesh. Well, he is Yahweh but isn’t Yahweh… there are three separate beings that make up the one God Yahweh. To be fair, I never was able to understand it completely. But the man claiming to be Yahweh was named Jesus. And Jesus, by claiming to be the Messiah, was welcoming everyone to a new way of life, the life that God designed in the very beginning.

As Zacchaeus was thinking about all of this sitting at his tax collector’s booth, he saw a massive crowd passing by and heard that the crowd was following Jesus. Therefore, to get a look for himself, Zacchaeus ran as fast as he could ahead of the crowd and climbed up a sycamore tree, all just to try to catch a sight of Jesus. Zacchaeus thought he looked like any normal Galilean Jew, but there was something compelling about his presence, something almost magnetizing that drew Zacchaeus to him. It felt as Jesus saw him and knew him without even looking at him and in the middle of this moment Jesus called to Zacchaeus and said “Hurry, come down, I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus, now scared out of his mind, ran to Jesus because he was drawn in by his call but was also trembling at the same time and the closer Zacchaeus got, the more he felt a very intense tingling sensation to his core. Overwhelmed with emotion before Jesus could even speak to him, Zacchaeus shouts “Lord, half of my possessions I am giving to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Zacchaeus finally could see what life was all about. It wasn’t about comfort or riches – it was about living life for one purpose: to serve God, who Zacchaeus knew was standing right in front of him. He also suddenly knew that the way you serve God is to serve others. Zacchaeus seemed to be reborn; he felt completely new in that moment, as if he stepped into an entirely new reality.

Dwayne snapped out of it as the train whistle sounded less than a mile from his house and he broke down weeping. A story that seemed like an old fable before all of a sudden made sense. Dwayne realized he was living life all for the wrong reasons, which was why he felt so empty and why he had pushed everyone close to him away. Through his tears, Dwayne made the same decision that Zacchaeus made 2,000 years ago: to give everything that he had to King Jesus and to live the rest of his life for His glory, not his own. Dwayne felt as if he were a new person. Dwayne felt a rush of adrenaline like never before coursing through his entire body and sprinted to his mother’s room and told her all about Paw Paw’s story and how he finally got the point.

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