The Parable of the Man Stuck on a Roof

It so happened that in a far-away land, a flood arose and slowly crept up the highlands, causing people to flee in panic to the highlands, or to their roofs.

A man likewise, trying to escape the flood ran up to his roof.

He started praying that God would send help from heaven, intervene in his situation, and rescue him from the rising levels of the flood.

“God! Save me!” he cried in desperation. “This is an isolated part of the country side, and I am far away from my neighbours! Let your hands come down from heaven to rescue me from the onslaught of these relentless waters!”

At first nothing happened, but the man continued to pray aloud. He was about to give up hope that he was to receive a visible sign of God’s intervention, when a woman in a kayak rowed by from the distance. “Hey mate, are you alright over there? I thought I saw something glimmering in the distance and I thought I might swing by in case someone needed help,” she said.

The man looked at the kayaker and said, “Don’t worry about me. You see God is going to send help from heaven really soon. Please go on your way.”

“Alright then. I don’t see anyone else for miles, and I do have a space in my kayak. You sure you do not want to hop on?”

“No,” replied the man. “God is going to send help from heaven real soon.”

So the lady in kayak rowed away.

The flood waters continued to rise, and the man on the roof, continued his fervent prayer.

In good time, a fishing vessel sailed up, but again, the man refused to get on board the boat, saying that he was waiting for God to act. Thus the fishing boat went by and on its business.

By this time, the man had spent many hours on his roof and the flood waters had already risen to his knees. He prayed aloud and with many tears, “Lord God, I know that I am a sinner, save me from the flood for I am about to drown. Why are you not doing anything?”

When the flood waters had risen to his chest, a cruise ship came sailing by. “We saw the glint of the reflection hitting your spectacles and came to investigate. We have plenty of space. Hop on!” said the Captain of the cruise ship.

One would have thought that anyone with some semblance of sense would have grabbed at the opportunity and climb up the vessel up to safety, but not our stoic friend over here. Again, he waved the Captain away. “Look here. No offence but God is going to act anytime now.” So the Captain steered his ship away.

The waters continued to rise and by this time with a great rapidity. So the man could not even feel the roof beneath his feet. He paddled in the waters for several more hours, before finally succumbing to exhaustion, and drowning beneath the waves.

When he met God, he started complaining and accusing God of not helping him. “Look God, I was so faithful and I waited for you. Why did you abandoned me?”

And God said, “You know, I sent three vessels of my help to rescue you – each bigger than the other, in the case that you might have missed the first, but you refused to be helped by them.”



Our Christian life may find a parallel in the above parable. Our expectations and attitudes about God and how God works, cloud our perspectives and blind us to the interventions and the miracles of God. Our finite human minds often cannot comprehend the bigger picture that God has for our lives. We in fact, spend a lot of our time trying to limit and to contain God in boxes of our own making. In Matthew 6:7-15, the disciples, brought up in the Jewish traditions expected prayer to take on a certain format and form. Yet were blown away when Jesus revealed a form that was heartfelt in its simplicity, yet covered all the grounds of prayer in the Our Father.

In 1 Kings 19: 11-13, we read of how Elijah went up to Mount Horeb to have recourse with God: “Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?” While we would have expected God to be found in the spectacles of the earthquake, and the storm, we come to realise that even though these elements speak of the glory of God and accompany the Divine Presence of God, these loud and roaring elements do not constitute the full Presence and Essence of God. These Divine Manifestations are a visible and tangible sign that God is Maker of all and present, but do not purport to give a full understanding of the Divine, who like the silence in the calm breeze, is indescribable, unfathomable, mysterious, and ungraspable. It is also interesting to see how two biblical figures – Moses and Elijah, who were gifted with the theophany of God on this holy mountain reappear with Jesus in His transfiguration on another mountain. (Matthew 17:1–9; Mark 9:2–9; Luke 9:28–36).

Like the man in the parable, who is stuck on the roof and calling out to God for help, we may be drowning and needing some sort of breakthrough in our lives. We may also be wondering why despite what we are saying in prayer, God appears to be silent.

Yet, the first language of God is silence, and in adoring God in the Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament, the invitation is to listen out to what the silence has to say. Often times in the silence, our truest selves and what occupies our hearts is revealed. For example, we could be in front of the Blessed Sacrament and our sins that we have tried so hard to hide, keep coming up as we pray and try to concentrate and be present to God. This could be a sign that that is an area of our lives that we will need to surrender wholeheartedly to God – not to hide away in chatter and superficial talk, but in the Silence, truly listen out to what God has to say about those areas in our lives. As we encounter the Silence of God, there could be people and images that pop up in our minds. These could be distractions, but upon careful discernment could be invitations to lift them up in prayer as we console the heart of Jesus by being present to Him in our prayer time.

There is a lot of noise, hustle, and bustle in our daily lives, and the invitation to be receptive to and in the Silence of God, may be overwhelmed by many things that need to be done, and many needs that need fulfilling. Worse we try to fill the silence because the silence is awkward and causes us to feel uncomfortable. Yet, in trying to distract from the silence with inane mind chatter, we are often missing out on the breakthrough and Grace that is offered to us through Silence.  Perhaps, we would need to first retune our mindsets to the meaning that silence holds. Silence is seen as an absence – an absence of sound, an absence of activity. Yet what happens when we start to look at silence as being full. It is pulsating with life and in silence we begin to encounter the things that are often ignored but needed for life –  we become aware of our life rhythms – our breathing, our pulses, our heartbeats. The real issues about life are encountered in silence. And the Lord God is inviting us to cast aside the noise that prevents us from truly encountering God, and to enter into the Silence. This is so, that we may be attuned to the gestures and actions of love that are magnified in Silence, just as how words are not necessary among those who truly love, because they are not listening to the superficial conversations, but they are listening to what is unsaid in the silence of each other’s hearts.

The Parable of the Man Stuck on a Roof, could have had a different ending, if that silly man was more attuned to the action of God. What if that man were actually listening?


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan