by Jim Newton
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Once upon a time, not so long ago, a man sat at the side of a path formed in times of lesser heat and greater rain in a place not so far away as it once seemed in that time. He sat under a small tree that provided the only canopy from the extreme heat of a cloudless summer sky at midday. The find of the tree was an unexpected yet very pleasant surprise as anyone might imagine. It was a lonely path through that stark landscape of utter nothingness. The man leaned against the tree as he sat staring out into the void seeing nothing that he looked at for he was in deep thought about his passage over this barren land. He sipped slowly from his goatskin water flask as he thought. One might suppose he regretted this passage, but they would be mistaken for he chose this road through this land with great purpose. A purpose he was concentrating on while he sat sipping water under a tree that appeared as if from nowhere in a land that offered but little, if any, life giving sustenance to such a plant.
The man saw no other humans, nor did he expect to...find another human. Not necessarily, but somewhat hopefully, he expected to find the one being he longed to meet. After a time he knew not how long, his mind came back to the present from its trance. He took a twig from beneath the tree and began to dig down in the sand in an absent minded, half hearted manner.
While he occupied himself with the small hole he dug for what reason he knew not, he happened to look down the path and, to his amazement, saw a man walking toward him from the direction in which his journey was taking him. A mirage he thought. Watching him intently, as he came nearer, he could see a person dressed in commonplace attire. The man kept a steady pace as he came down that path with a smile on a face that seemed to be illuminated with an unusual glow about it which surely was brought on by the intense sun overhead.
After what seemed but a minute or two at the most, the man was standing in front of the traveler sitting in the shade. He asked if he might share the shade and sit with him. The traveler nodded and said, “Only God can own the shade, and he surely put it here to be shared.” The man sat down facing the traveler staring into his eyes that stared back at his.
The man spoke, “Do you think the one you seek will be found by digging a hole in the earth?”
The traveler was taken aback by the words. Who is this person sitting in front of me, he thought? After a few moments of mentally examining the stranger before him, he said, “What would lead you to think I seek someone?”
“There can be only one reason a man should be traveling in this inhospitable, deserted, lonely land,” the man said, “and only one person he could be seeking.”
The traveler replied, “In turn, you must be seeking him also. Is that not the logical conclusion to your statement?”
The man locked his eyes into the travelers eyes and, leaning slowly forward, replied with one word, “Or?”
“Or”, said the traveler in a confused manner. “Or”, he said again in almost a whisper. His mind was sent reeling by this word. He prided himself on being very intelligent to a degree that he was full of himself much of the time. But, now, someone had put something so simple, yet so powerful before him. The stranger kept his eyes locked into his. His eyes…so piercing, so different. Or, what does this mean, and why do I spend so much time on it, he said in his mind. Why not ask him the meaning? Ah, but my pride will not allow this. Suddenly, his thoughts united into one. A very shocking, yet, crazy thought. This is the only answer, or is it, his mind concentrating heavily on this thought. I surely must be insane from the heat and the lack of food. His eyes continued locked into the strangers eyes as his mind rolled the self doubts about his sanity around. Then, he spoke, “Or, slowly, very slowly he said, Or you are God?”
The man’s smile deepened as he responded, “I Am.”
“You are? The traveler, mystified, leaned back slowly and skeptically, saying, God… you really are God?”
“I Am the Alpha and the Omega. I Am, he said softly. I Am the one that is, was, and forever shall be. I Am.”
The traveler’s mind was reeling through belief and disbelief as he said, “Why are you here talking to me if you are God?”
“Did you not come here to find me?”
“Yes, but you are a mere mortal man before me.”
“That is what you see, yes. You expected to see a monster, possibly? Perhaps, a horse with a man’s head. I am the God that loves you. Why would I come in some grotesque form or try to make you fearful of me. As you might have imagined, I am quite capable of instilling fear, but, would that be the way of a loving creator? “No, he continued by saying, in this imperfect world, you cannot see me as I really am for that would burn away your imperfect body that I have covered your spirit with in this world I created to teach you the many lessons you need to be my son.”
Thinking fast and intently with belief beginning to rise within him, he said, “Why did you not let me find you without coming to this wilderness?”
“The Lord your God does not hide. I am always here, there, and everywhere at all times, in all places, in all things. I am every person you meet. I am the earth you walk upon. I am the stars shining above your head at night. I am the air that you breath. I am the Lord your God that loves you unconditionally. When you treat your fellow man to scorn, hate, or ridicule, you are doing these things to me. When you love another, you are loving me. You traveled through this wilderness to find me, and I am here to meet you as one of you for I love you.” As he spoke, his face brightened till it shown with an otherworldly radiance.
Belief smashed him in the face with a divine force. As any man faced with the glory of being in the presence of God, the traveler bent to the ground face down and worshiped the Lord. He said wonderful things in praise of God Almighty. He did these things for some time before rising upright. The traveler was shocked for he was now, seemingly, alone. God or the man was nowhere to be seen. The traveler was crushed. He had so many questions…oh, so many questions, but now God was gone, or was he? He looked down where the Lord had been sitting and there was an impression as a man would leave when sitting in the sand.
It took some time before the traveler started back down the path in the direction from which he had come. He set about his journey home with a joyfulness in his heart and a soul that seemed to lighten his steps tremendously even in the searing heat which, now, he hardly noticed. After a short distance, he stopped and turned for one last look at the tree under which he had met with God. He was in for another shock. There was no tree, only the vast open desert with a few scrub bushes and here and there a plant, but, just the same, no tree. What! Had he really experienced this…but the impression in the sand. As he stood there bewildered, he pulled the skin water flask up to moisten his mouth after the shock. Now, the flask, to his amazement was full. He turned slowly and, with a refreshed spirit and faith, began the journey, not just to home, but to spread the good news…never having noticed the extra set of footprints in the sand mixed with his. Not now, nor ever, would he make his journeys alone. No longer was he so much full of himself as he was with God.
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