Sunday, September 26, 2010

John 3:16 (a short story by Robin Lynn Davidson)

Mary opened her eyes, but remained completely motionless. Something felt wrong. She couldn't put her finger on what it was, but it was there in the air, prickling the hairs on the back of her neck. She listened intently for any sound that might give away what it might be, but there were no sounds. Maybe that was it--the lack of sound, the heavy stillness in the air. She looked around and saw only darkness. She couldn't even tell if the room she was in was familiar or not. Memory eluded her. It was that moment of grogginess after waking, when you aren't sure of anything--where you are, what time it is, or even who you are. Yet that moment seemed to stretch on indeterminately.

Mary rolled to her side and tried to blink away the feeling of unease and peer through the gloom. She determined she was laying on a mat on an earthen floor. She decided that lying there was cowardly, so she pushed herself up to a sitting position and then struggled to stand up. She tripped over an oil lamp, so she trimmed and lit it. She explored the house she found herself in and found it to be deserted, save for a mouse in the corner, who was cleaning his whiskers, making her glad she had decided to get up. She found some bread on the table and ate a little before venturing from the stone house. She found a crude pitcher near the door, so she assumed there must be a well somewhere. She started down the dusty street, looking for another woman to point her in the right direction, but there was no one about. The sky was becoming lighter and lighter so surely people would be up and about before the sun's unforgiving rays would begin to beat down upon them. Before long, she found a well in what appeared to be a town square of a rather large city. She drew out some water and started back the way that she had come.

Mary was becoming more and more alarmed at the absence of sound and human sightings in such a large metropolis. Where was everyone? She was beginning to feel as though everyone were in on a joke that she had been left out of. Could they all be around a corner, laughing at her? She had been the butt of jokes before, but surely the whole city could not be involved in such a prank! Was it a Sabbath day? No, as near as she could figure, it was a Friday. A feast day? No, she had a brief recollection of Passover being celebrated yesterday. Had the entire town gone somewhere? No, she couldn't recall any logical reason why no one should be about.

When she reached the small house, she set about with some chores to keep her mind busy and the panic at bay. She fed the chickens, gathered eggs, milked the goat, swept out the house, tidied up, and did some baking.

As the day wore on, the alarm welled up inside of her. She walked out of the house and no longer cared if she looked silly or if anyone laughed. She marched to the neighbor's house and called at the door. No answer. She walked in and saw no one. She searched every nook and cranny and still found no trace of any neighbors. She went to the next house and the next house, finding no one and still no one. The further she went, the more afraid she became until she was terrified. She ran through the empty, still streets, sobbing and calling out for anyone who might hear her. But there were no returning answers. She wandered aimlessly for a long while and eventually returned to the little cottage and sat, not knowing what else to do. She buried her face in her hands and wept softly.

"Jehovah-Shammah," Mary whispered. "Do not leave me alone in this world. Do not abandon your daughter. Please, El-Roi."

Who am I kidding? Mary thought to herself. Jehovah-Jireh has probably sent his promised Messiah in the night and left me behind. I am no one. A poor, ignorant young girl with nothing to offer his kingdom. Elohim loves his people but I am just one among many, easily forgotten.

Suddenly Mary heard a noise, like a great crowd of people shouting. She jumped in surprise, then recovered quickly and took off running towards the direction of the noise. She ran so long and so hard she thought her lungs would burst. She ran to the other side of the city, to a hill, and then she stopped. That was where the noise had been coming from, but there was no crowd. All she saw there was one man. And he could not have been making that noise.

She sank to the ground in weakness and sorrow. Mary's shoulders sunk and her head drooped. The sight of the man had drained all of the energy out of her body. He was obviously being punished for something. Even if he deserved some sort of punishment, Mary couldn't think of anything the man could have done that would have warranted the treatment he was receiving. But, just by looking at him, she could tell that the man had done nothing wrong. She could see it in his eyes. One glance and she could bear it no more--her gaze fell away from his and she covered her face with her hands. In that glance, she felt as if he had really SEEN her and knew her.

"Daughter," said a gentle, yet strong voice. "Do not look away."

Mary reluctantly looked up to the man again. This time, when she looked into his eyes, she saw a love there that she had never seen before. But, the love wasn't just spelled out in his eyes. It was also written in the blood that was spilling from his body, from the crown of thorns on his head, from the nails that were piercing his hands and feet, holding him to a cross. She gasped.

"Who is he?" she whispered, in awe.

"He is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased."

"Jehovah-Yahweh..." Mary's voice was barely audible. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was dry. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. "But...why is he...dying?"

"Because I loved the world so much that I gave my one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Have you not learned the prophet Isaiah? He is pierced for the world's transgressions, crushed for their sins, the punishment that brings them peace is upon him and by his wounds they are healed."

"But, where is the world? I mean, where is everybody? I have looked all day and I can find no one."

"Today, my child, you are the world. You mean the world to me. My son came to die for you."

Mary thought she might faint. The knowledge of that was too much to wrap her mind around. Before she had time to think, she was on her feet and running. She found herself at the foot of the cross, sobbing.

"No, no, no! I am not worth it! My life is not worth your life! How can you love me so much that you would die for me? Don't you know that I am nothing?"

"Of course I know you, child. I made you. I created your inmost being and knit you together in your mother's womb. I have watched you grow. I have a purpose for your life. And you are worth it to me. I love you enough to send my son to die for you. Not just the whole world, but you alone. You individually. If you were the only person on earth, he would still die for only you."

"Why?" Mary nearly screeched wretchedly.

"Because without his taking the punishment for your sins, we would be separated forever, my child, and that's not something that I can live with. I want you with me. For all eternity. This is my gift to you. Will you accept my gift?"

Mary's heart suddenly soared at the sound of the voice and the love she felt enveloping her completely. She felt a warmth permeating her entire body and would not have been surprised to have found herself glowing. She had never felt love like this before and was sure that she never would again. Yet, she was sure that this love that was being offered to her would carry her through her life and beyond the grave. She looked up into the face of the man dying for her alone, her face still wet with tears, but gratitude written on every inch of her expression, and whispered, "Yes!"


This is a work in progress. I am debating about how to write this story. Another option would be to nix the confusion that Mary starts off the day with and make her just go through her normal day, except for the weird fact that everyone is missing. She might think more about her missing family, which would, in a round about way, incorporate other characters. My other idea for this story is that the "Mary" is a modern day girl who wakes up in Israel at the time of the crucifixion with no knowledge of how she got there or why or where anyone else is. The reason that I am thinking about writing the story that way is to make it easier to relate to the character because this story is about everyone. Jesus did die for the world personally, not corporately. If you have any comment about it one way or another, please share.

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