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Walter, a simple but profound man, knew what it meant to empower and bless, and bring out the best in others.

I worked for Walter. He was only 30 and I was 20 but that 10-year span between 20 and 30 is like 25 sometimes.

I drove the tractor into the ditch and bent his Opel, but he took it all in stride.

The deal was that I would work for six months. I would get two weeks of holidays and the equivalent of $15 per month, all necessities provided. I worked hard—cleaning the barns, harvesting sugar beets, checking the hen barns every morning—though I drove the tractor into a drainage ditch and bent the frame on his new Opel by dropping a wheel off the too-narrow road when I gave too much space to an oncoming car. But Walter took the accidents in stride.

After the first three or four weeks, Walter suggested that I take a week off, though I was not to count it as holidays. Before I left in the fog the next morning, backpack high on my back, sleeping bag tightly rolled up and stuck up under the frame, Walter pressed $30 into my hand, double what it was agreed he would pay me per month.

When I walked back up the winding lane into the yard a week later, getting the stenchy eye-burning whiff of the chicken manure from the barn ventilation stacks, I had resolved that I would repay this kind man with extra work.

The next morning I was up a half hour earlier than our agreed starting time, and I started to look for ways to do the extra work. By the end of the second month Walter remarked that I was working beyond the call of duty. This time he rolled $45 into my hand and announced at the breakfast table that I would be given the next week off, and he added that this, too, was not part of my holidays. This was simply bonus time.

"Go and see Europe," he laughed, "and come back and tell us of your adventures, of our continent. We have really seen very little of it, not so, Heinz?" He nodded to one of the hired men, who had not ever been further than 80 kilometres from his little home village where he lived in the house in which he had been born.

I walked out to the road a second time, smiling at my 'good luck,' amazed at the graciousness of this simple but profound man who knew what it meant to empower and bless and bring out the best in me.

I scanned the rolling hills in both directions along the narrow German road, watching to see from which direction the first car would come, because its direction of travel would decide which way my journey would take this day. I thought of what I would say to Walter when my time with him was finished.

Four months later, I stood outside the door of the house on the cobblestone pavement. My bags were packed, and a car had come to take me to another place, another adventure. Another young man was coming to replace me. While Walter laughed easily, I think he wondered at my recklessness in hugging him and telling him, "Walter, I have worked for you for six months. You have been generous beyond my wildest dreams in time off and pay given. I feel that after six months, I am eight months behind in what I owe you. You remind me of Someone."

The generosity of God, the graciousness of God, is nearly beyond the descriptors that we word-players can find. I don't "meet God halfway." It's like I inch a centimetre toward Him; and He gallops a mile to touch me. It's not so much "When I go out seeking Thee, I find Thee seeking me" as it is me looking out the window thinking about His possible coming, and He has already driven up the lane.

Sometimes I see myself living my life in a greatcoat that I have tightly wrapped around myself to protect me from others, from exposure, from outside facts that would alter my views. On those few occasions when I have the courage—or is it the fear?—to open up to God, I open the greatcoat just a little, and He floods my body, my being, my soul and spirit with His warmth, with His power, with Himself. And I am amazed at Him, even as I pull the coat tightly around myself again, still thinking that I must do it myself, like a two-year-old standing in her high chair with no way to get out, but insisting on being able to do so.

God gives Himself to us, to His creation, beyond our dreams and imaginings. He is generous, He is gracious. He is the ultimate gift giver. We can never pay Him back for what He has given us in Himself, in His Son, in His Spirit, and as we hand back to Him our crumbs, He just pours more on us. He is more than we can imagine. He is Walter, but a million times more, and then another million times.

Danny Unrau is pastor of Fraserview MB Church, Richmond, B.C. He is the author of Rogues, Rascals & Rare Gems, and Saints, Sinners & Angels, published by Kindred Productions, 1997.

Originally published in the book, Saints, Sinners & Angels. Reprinted in Mennonite Brethren Herald, March 18, 2005.




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