Monday, November 9, 2015

Meeting a Russian orphan

Last week was my birthday, so I went to a restaurant with some friends at night. On my way out, I made acquaintance with a Russian man, about a year younger than me. He told me a bit about his life and about the difficulties of his upbringing in a Russian orphanage after his parents had abandoned him.

He told me some rather horrific stories about the way things were in the orphanage. For example, after one of the other children (9 years old at the time) had been beaten up by a gang from the city, some forty or so of the orphans got together and exacted revenge for the beating. He said that was the only time in his life he had felt sorry for someone he was fighting, as the more numerous orphans took turns kicking and stomping on the gang who had hurt their brother. On another instance, before he had been abandoned by his parents, some kids offered his younger brother some sunflower seeds if he would abuse and victimize his pet cat. Being hungry and dirt poor, his brother agreed to “kick the shit out of the cat” for some sunflower seeds.

His life was more or less a series of unfortunate and shocking events such as these, though in recent times, having been adopted here in America and having recently combated alcoholism to take control of his life anew, things are nowhere near as bad. He told me he was not religious, and I asked him why. He said there may be a God, for all he knows, but he only knows one thing for sure: he doesn’t want God to take care of him, and he doesn’t want anything to do with God. He had experienced far more bad than good in life, and he was convinced that he always had to fight to earn the right to exist. He refused to accept that God had any part in his own survival. He told me that he prays every day like this: “God, don’t look after me. Look after someone else; just leave me alone.”

It was late at night as I was speaking to him. Part of his face was in the light, and part of it was in the shadows. I thought this was interesting: he was a tremendously nice guy, and a good soul from what I could tell of him, but he had this radical opposition to God; he wanted nothing to do with God whatsoever.

What to say to a person like that? How to understand a person with more soul and kindness in his heart than many Christians I know, yet who is so attached to making it in life on his own that he would (by his own admission) sooner accept damnation than to admit his need for God and to worship him? How to convince a person like this of the goodness of God, when he has experienced no reason discernible to him to think that God is good?

It was like a conversation out of a Dostoyevsky novel. It was fascinating to speak with him and listen to him tell me his story. I am sure I will see him around again, because I frequent that restaurant. Next time I think I will ask him what he thinks of Jesus.