The Word for Writers
by Gordon Lang
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“I am sorry, Demitries, but there is nothing more that I can do!” the sad-eyed physician agonized, “perhaps the Almighty will be merciful…!” In a desperate attempt to offer one last dying ember of hope, the suggestion remained unspoken. Demetries looked numbly to his loving wife and saw the tears brimming in her eyes, threatening to spill over and run down her cheeks.
“Thank-you, Doctor”, he mumbled, “it is enough.” The physician nodded solemnly, and slipped out the door, leaving them to handle their sorrow together. Sweet, little Tabitha – the joy of his life! How could life be so cruel? Just last month he had watched in delight as she skipped over the cobblestones on her way to the marketplace to play with the other children. She was, indeed, Daddy’s little girl! Her bubbly giggles and childish antics brought such a refreshing vigor to his otherwise ordinary existence. Now, as his wife melted into his arms, he tried desperately to find just the right words.
“What shall we do?” she wailed, “why does life have to be so cruel?!” Similar questions swirled in his own mind, and he could think of no comforting words with which to reply.
“Perhaps even this shall pass…” he offered, but the words had such a hollow ring, and did nothing to bring confidence to his spirit.
“Water, Mama….” the faint, rasping voice pleaded, breaking into their moment of mutual comfort. Deborah squirmed free of his embrace to rush to the water pitcher. Hastily, she poured water into the cup, and, with hands still trembling, she hurried to answer Tabitha’s desperate plea. Her skin was pale, her hair disheveled, and, as Deborah slipped her arm around the girl’s shoulders to support her, she noticed that her daughter’s gown was drenched with sweat. She gulped one mouthful, then another, then her little body went limp, as the water dribbled down her pallid chin.
“Tabitha!” Deborah cried desperately, “Tabitha! No! O God, No!” her voice was lost in a mournful wail. Instinctively, Demetries knew the cause of the panic in his wife’s voice, as he rushed into the room to witness the limp body, cradled in the arms of her mother. Uncontrollable sobs racked her shoulders, as Demitries numbly retrieved the body of his little girl from her mother’s embrace. Gazing at the lifeless form that lay in his arms, Demitries mind flashed back to the first time she had been placed in his arms – the day of her birth. The hope of that day – compared to the horror of this one – how could life be so cruel?! The shock of reality caused his own emotions to explode in a mournful wailing that seemed to last forever.
“What do we do now?” he heard Deborah mumble through her grief. It was a question he had dreaded for so long, a question to which he still had no answer. What was it his brother had told him? Something about a prophet from Nazareth – he had
stopped a funeral procession at the town of Nain, and he actually called a widow’s son back to life?! Could he – would he do the same for his Tabitha?! Maybe, just maybe, all was not yet lost. The possibility lit a fire of hope within him. Where was this Jesus of Nazareth? How could he be found? It was worth a try - if there was even the most remote possibility…
In a daze, he left the house. Where would the prophet be today? At the temple? In the town square? Would he even be in town today? He would try the market place first – yes, that was best! As he neared the market, he heard only the familiar sounds of commerce, but, what was that group of people doing? They seemed to be milling around a central figure – could it be? Yes! There he was! The teacher – Demetries could hardly believe it! Surely this was a day of blessing! Without hesitation he approached the Teacher, and fell on his knees before him.
“Teacher,” he implored, “my little girl died this morning. But if you would only come and lay your hand on her, I know that she would live again!”
“I will come,” the Teacher assured him, and, without hesitation, he began to follow him to their home. But, wait – what was this? Someone else was approaching the crowd. No it couldn’t be – please don’t let her interrupt now!
She emerged from the shadows, her body clinging to the gnarled cane that had become her closest companion. In her weakened condition she had learned to lean on that cane desperately over the past twelve years. How many times had she hobbled along the streets on her way to the physician’s house, hoping earnestly that this would be the day of her release? How often had she followed some bizarre ritual that had been prescribed as the cure to her hopeless physical condition? Her inheritance had long-since been exhausted, paying physicians’ fees - only to be disappointed by the realization that the costly prescribed treatments left her in the same condition.
Just last month she heard about him. His name was Jesus- a teacher from Nazareth. People said that he had healed the paralyzed man in the temple – right in the middle of his teaching – surely he wouldn’t mind her intrusion. But, she wouldn’t intrude – she would be more polite. She had heard that he had healed many people with just a simple touch, sometimes with nothing more than a gentle word. If the healing power were so evident in him – maybe, if she could just get near enough to simply touch His outer robe, she would be healed! Didn’t the law declare that her hemorrhage caused her to be “unclean”? Just appearing in public was risky, her very presence could defile so many people, but it was a risk that she had to take. It had been a lonely, costly, and totally humiliating existence for the last twelve years, but perhaps it would soon be over!
She could see the crowd approaching, she could hear the joyful sound of the children that always seemed to flock around Him. Yes – there he was – head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd, he had that friendly, but determined look about him. Here was a man that was definitely headed somewhere – he wasn’t simply out for an afternoon stroll. He probably wouldn’t have time to stop for her anyway. This would not be easy, the crowd was so thick, she would certainly be pushed and shoved by the milling throng – she might even be injured in her efforts. She stumbled over a child’s foot – the child cried out in surprise, and made some rude remark. In an effort to regain her balance, she jostled a member of the Sanhedrin, who glared at her impudently. As he shrank back in disgust at the sight of her, she saw her chance to scoot around him, bringing her closer to the Nazarene. Now she could see the bulk of his broad shoulders hidden by the outer cloak that covered his ankle-length robe.
“Just touch him!” her spirit screamed, “just reach around that woman and touch his robe – and all of your prayers will be answered!” This was the opportunity for which she had prayed, the moment that she had anticipated for the last six months. Finally, this was her chance! Her trembling hand groped for the garment, yes, there it was – her fingers closed around the handful of soft fabric. She felt the gentle tug just before she released her grip, and shrank back behind the man who was trying to elbow his way into position in front of her. There was no bolt of lightning, there was no clap of thunder, in fact, she didn’t feel any different than she had a moment ago! But, somehow, she knew in her spirit that her life would never again be the same!
He stopped instantly – the crowd followed suit. Curiously he looked around, surveying the people, before he asked –
“Who touched me?”
“Master”, his closest friends chided, “there are people all around you – and you say, ‘who touched me’?”
Yes, of course! Such logic would be her excuse! It could have been anybody that he had felt brushing against him.
“No”, he persisted, “somebody did touch me – I felt the healing power go out of me!” He paused – clearly determined to proceed no further until he received a satisfactory answer to his initial question.
“Don’t say anything!” her mind warned “don’t you know that you could be stoned for such impropriety?” Overwhelming fear now gripped her, as she stood motionless, wishing the earth would open up to swallow her. She felt her body start to tremble under the stress of the moment. Still he waited for an answer to his question – was he looking directly at her ?! She was trembling so violently now, that her legs refused to carry her weight as she stumbled towards him, and collapsed at his feet.
“It’s been so long!” she cried, as she tried to raise her eyes to look at him. “No one else could help me, so I came to you! Everyone pushes me aside, even the law says I am unclean! I didn’t want to be any bother to you, but I thought – ‘If only I could touch you …’ ” The implication was clear as her voice dissolved into uncontrolled sobbing. She awaited his stern rebuke, but none was forthcoming.
“Daughter,” she heard his gentle voice, “your faith has made you well; go in peace.” That was all he said – there was no rebuke for interrupting his time of ministry, there was no harsh order to present herself before a priest to be declared ‘clean’. She was free to leave! She was free from the bondage of an “incurable” disease, she was free from the reproach of the requirements of the law, she was free from the disdain of the members of her society… she was free, indeed!
“Maybe there will still be time for me in his busy schedule,” thought Demitries. He silently chided himself for even considering the jubilant woman as an untimely interruption. After all, was he not also usurping the Master’s time to answer his request? He remembered Deborah, at home, even now struggling with her own grief. How he needed her comfort - as he knew that she needed to be comforted. Once again he could feel the grief welling up within him. Sweet Tabitha – but maybe the Teacher could … no, he had to be able to…
He could hear the sound of mourning as they rounded the corner. The desperate wailing, mingled with the haunting sounds of the flutes, caused his heart to sink in despair once more.
“What did these people know of his grief?” he thought bitterly. Tomorrow they would be laughing and singing joyfully once more, while he and Deborah would be lost in their heartache, unless… He caught a glimpse of her in the far corner, in a roomful of ‘mourners’, yet so desperately alone. As their eyes met, his heart broke once again at the sight of those beautiful eyes – now vacant and hollow with her grieving. Trembling, she reached out to him as he approached, and she melted in his embrace – a fresh wave of grief washed over both of them.
“Get out!” the stern command interrupted their moment of mutual comfort. “I said – get out! All of you!” the teacher’s voice was now more than impatient.
“How dare you impose on this gathering…” the chief of the mourners sputtered impudently, “it is our duty to be here!”
“You have no duty here!” the Nazarene insisted, as he took the chief mourner by the elbow and forcefully ushered him toward the door. “The girl is not dead – she is only asleep!” The statement brought a round of bitter laughter and unrestrained sneers from the group. Still, as their leader was guided out the door, they all followed in stunned obedience. Nothing like this had ever happened before – how dare he interrupt such a solemn occasion! Should they remain outside the house until this madman had finished with his cruel joke? Would they still be paid for their services?
With the absence of the mourners, Demetries found his momentary despair begin to turn to hope once more. Again, the account of the widow’s son returned to his memory. They said he had been dead also – they had even prepared him for burial. At least Tabitha was still in her room – surely this was a more hopeful situation! And hadn’t the Teacher just said she was merely asleep? He wondered if she would stir as they entered the room – but there was no movement beneath the shawl that covered her little body as they approached the cot on which she lay.
“Are those tears in his eyes?” Deborah thought, as she watched the Teacher reach for the limp hand of their little girl. Could he also feel the sorrow that filled the room?
“Tabitha – arise!” – that was all he said, as he took her hand. Yes! There was a movement under the shawl now, as the opposite hand hesitantly brushed the covering back to reveal her radiant smile. The Teacher’s grip tightened on her hand and he gently pulled her into a sitting position on the cot.
“Mama! Papa! It was so beautiful! You should have seen it!” the child’s words of sheer wonder and amazement were smothered by two sets of adult arms as Demetries and Deborah were lost once again in unbridled emotion. This time, it was tears of joyful release that flowed unrestrained in the bedroom of their little girl. Two broken hearts underwent several moments of merciful healing as they considered the hope that was now theirs. After some time, they simultaneously turned to the figure in the doorway – and yes – there were tears of joy on his cheeks as well.
“Teacher – Master-…” Demetries stammered, “how can we ever thank you?” The question echoed in Deborah’s mind as they both threw their arms about his neck in a moment of spontaneous thanksgiving.
“Go, tell your family and friends what great things God has done for you,” came the simple reply. That was all he said, before he gently closed the door behind him, and left them to savor the delight of family togetherness once again.
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Wow! You captured the emotion of this scene in a remarkable way. Very well done.