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Short story:

The man who forgot

Malik Podikabala sat up in his bed with a jerk. His cherubic face was covered with sweat. He squinted his beady eyes embedded in his face and tried to focus them on the hazy tall luminescent figure standing at the foot of his bed. He realized that his corpulent adipose body too was bathed in perspiration and that his Japanese silk pyjamas were sticking to his wet skin.

He wondered how this was possible when his air conditioner was giving its usual low purr to keep his bedroom comfortably cool. He looked to his left and saw his wife sleeping peacefully. Malik’s hand automatically reached for his pair of spectacles by his bedside. When he had put them on, he not only had a clearer vision of his bedroom but also of the tall white figure at the end of his bed.

“Who...who are you?” Stammered Malik “and how did you get in here?” “I am the Angel of Death” replied the figure in a clear pleasant voice, “I am sure you would recall coming across me in the Bible or have you forgotten me too?” “But...but why are you here? Surely not to take...take me away. God knows I have so many charitable projects going and that I am needed for their continuation.”

“Malik that’s where you are sadly mistaken. The Lord does not need anything or anyone to see his plan for this earth implemented in exact accordance to his will. It is man that needs God for everything, every moment of his life. But calm yourself I have not come tonight to take you away but to warn you.” “Warn me? What is there to warn me of all people?” asked a bewildered Malik.

“I have come tonight to warn you about your memory lapses which you find to be very convenient for avoiding tasks that the Lord expects you to do. Remember that you can be very easily conferred with total amnesia if you continue to abuse your memory excuse.”

“But...but what have I forgotten to do in life? God knows that I never forget the poor and that I do more for them than anyone else in the Island.”

The glowing figure seemed to grow even taller as it loomed over Malik. “I shall tell you whom you have forgotten, you have forgotten God!”

“That...that is ridiculous” said Malik cowering under his sheet, “When I am so busy doing good deeds how can you possibly say that I have forgotten God?”

“I shall show how you have by refreshing your bad memory. Firstly, remember the state you were in when the Lord picked you up. You were like David who said in his Psalm 40 verse 2, “He pulled me out of a dangerous pit, out of the deadly quicksand. He set me safely on a rock and made me secure.”

God’s warning to men in your circumstances is found in Deuteronomy 8 verse 12 onwards, “When you have all you want to eat, and have built good houses to live in and when your cattle and sheep, your Silver and Gold, and all your other possessions have increased, make sure you do not become proud and forget the Lord your God.

“He sent hardships on you to test you, so that in the end he could bless you with good things. So, then, you must never think that you have made yourself wealthy by your own power and strength. Remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to become rich.”

“Secondly,” continued the white figure, “you must never think that your good deeds are going to lift you heavenwards. Do you recall what the Lord said, ‘Did you want to lift yourself upto heaven? You will be thrown down to hell!’ This is recorded in Matthew 11.23. Man’s good deeds are well described by the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 64 verse 6, ‘Even our best actions are fithy through and through.”

“May I please interrupt you?” said Malik peeping over his sheet, “My good deeds are pure through and through. I do not gain a cent by them but thousands of poor people are helped by them.”

“The trouble with your good deeds Malik is that man finds it very difficult to shed his vanity. That is why the Lord said, ‘You like to receive praise from one another, but you don’t try to win praise from the one who alone is God: How then can you believe me?’ This is found in John 5.44 and again in John 12.43 it is stated, ‘They loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.’ Why do you think Pontius Pilate handed over the Lord to the Jewish authorities to be crucified? Because ‘Pilate wanted to please the crowd’ as stated in Mark 15.15. Man can fool people and even himself to think how good a man he is but King Solomon in his Proverb 16.2 said, ‘You may think everything you do is right, but the Lord judges your Motives,’ Paul too confirmed this in his first letter to the Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 4, ‘we do not try to please men, but to please God, who tests our motives.’ You are engaged in a remorseless quest for public approbation.”

“Malik did you know that man is not judged by his actions but by his motives? This is because man has no control over his actions. Proverb 16.9 confirms this fact, ‘You may make your plans but God directs your actions.’ I Samuel 16.7 tells you how the Lord judges man, ‘ I do not judge as man judges.

Man looks at the outward appearance but I look at his heart.’ Malik today you have no friends only useful acquaintances. You have conveniently forgotten your relatives and childhood friends who are of no use to you. Proverb 27.10 states, ‘Do not forget your friends or your father’s friends.’ You are now like those described in Proverb 19.6, ‘Everyone tries to gain the favour of important people; everyone claims friendship of those who give out favours.’ You have now made God only an acquaintance.” “You are quite wrong wrong there Angel. Thousands of poor people love me now and say that I am the best friend they have in the world.”

“My poor Malik. How you do deceive yourself. The poor may consider you a friend but you certainly do not consider them as your friends. You only patronize the poor for the praise and publicity you receive.

The bigger your charitable projects the greater the praise and publicity you receive. It is better to help one person without expecting anything in return either in the form of praise or publicity but purely because he came to you for help and you were in a position to do so.

“The Lord explained how man should do his acts of charity in Matthew 6 verses 2 to 4, ‘Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.

Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.’ When King David decided to build a temple to honour the Lord, he said, ‘Yet my people and I cannot really give you anything, because everything is a gift from you, and we have only given back what is really yours already. This is found in 1 Chronicles 29.14. King David knew that all glory belonged to God and David claimed none.”

“We also find that men like you who have become rich and crave praise and recognition by their fellow men, are guilty of being ashamed to acknowledge Christ in public.

This is because they think by being neutral, they could obtain the praise of people of all faiths. Remember the Lord’s words recorded by Mark in his gospel in chapter 8 verse 28, ‘If a person is ashamed of me and my teachings in this godless and wicked day, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’ Now listen to me carefully Malik! The reason for all man’s errors in life was clearly stated by the Lord, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God’ In case you don’t even know where these words are found, they are in St Matthew’s gospel chapter 22 verse 29. I advise you to read The Bible more often than balance sheets.

Finally I wish all men like you never to forget the greatest fact of life recorded by St John in his gospel, chapter 15 verse 5. The Lord said, ‘for WITHOUT ME ye can do NOTHING.”

The next morning Malik woke when his wife shook him by the shoulder and said, “Malik get up! get up! Have you forgotten that we have to attend the reception given in our honour by the Moratuwa Social Service Club at noon?” Malik slowly opened his eyes and cautiously looked around the bedroom. Everything was usual.

The air conditioner was working at the set temperature and his silk pyjamas were not wet with sweat. He tossed aside his sheet and swung himself out of bed. He then stretched himself with his arms raised, his head held high and began to laugh loudly. His wife was quite surprised by both Malik’s surprisingly agile exit from his bed and his loud guffawing.

“What on earth is the matter with you Malik?”

Malik pulled himself together and said, “I had a horrible nightmare. It seemed so real, I am so relieved that it was only a dream.” Malik then put on his favourite The benignant Mr. Pickwick expression, slipped his feet into his bedroom slippers and walked towards the bathroom.

He stopped suddenly and began staring at the floor with his mouth open in wide eyed wonder. On the floor at the foot of his bed was a feather as large as that of an Ostrich but unlike a feather of any bird on earth it was absolutely, completely and immaculately pure white in colour.

..................................

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