The Window Challenge
© 2003 by Rosalind Morris
One blink later, the windows shattered. A thousand daggers of glass penetrated the left side of my face. The winds, so fierce that I could barely breathe, knocked me onto the floor. The metallic smell of my own blood filled my nostrils, further aggravating my suffocation. ‘So this is how it ends,’ I thought to myself as I lay in the floor hoping that the storm was over. It was not over.
As the walls started to crumble around me, my survival instincts surfaced. I obviously could not depend on help from God Almighty, and I was not going to give up without a fight. Knowing I could not get far with the pain of my face and the force of the winds, I quickly moved to the coat closet, still standing at that time, and closed myself inside. It was a small windowless room where nothing could fall on me except the walls themselves. I was never so glad to have so many thick coats. Shaking, I grabbed them from their hangers and buried myself under them. They were thick enough to cushion the blow as the next wind gust blew in the walls of the closet.
Somehow, I survived the storm. My house did not survive; my dog did not survive. The left side of my face barely survived, but I made it. I woke up three days later at St. Francis Medical. My face had swollen to the point of heaviness. One arm was hooked up to an IV machine, while the other was in a cast. Something wicked pounded in my head. I tried to ask for some help, but I was unable to find my voice. Then the nice nurse walked in and increased my morphine. I was out again in blissful escape. That was how it was for two weeks.
“Why didn’t you leave, son?” The question came from my Dad. All of a sudden, he was beside my bed. My eyes had barely opened when he badgered me with his asinine inquiry. He had thrown away the privileged role of concerned father. We had not spoken for months before the storm.
“Tornado sirens go off within minutes of the actual tornado. Where was I supposed to go?”
“Away from the window would've been a good choice.”
“Well um listen, I’m glad you are okay.”
“Sure, Dad.” Dad came out with great effort on my part.
“Listen son, I’ve been praying…”
It hurt to laugh, but I could not stop myself. “Really? You’ve been praying?”
“Yes, and I…”
“Wait! I gotta let you in on something, dear old Dad. I did some praying of my own. Right before the glass dove into my flesh, I was talking to God!” I pointed to the bandages on my face with my good hand. “This was God’s answer to my prayer, and quite frankly, we are no longer on speaking terms. Kind of like you and I. Which brings me to this question. Why are you here?” Instead of answering my question, he bowed his head and muttered something under his breath. “You are not talking to Him are you? Because if you are talking to that traitor, you can just get out of here. I loathe Him even more than I loathe you.” My heart monitor began to beep frantically.
“Calm down, Frank. You don’t need to upset yourself. I am here because I love you. I haven't always done things right, son. That is obvious because you seem to be under the impression that my anger means that I don't love you. I have been angry with you. I am not happy with all of your decisions, but I have always loved you. I should not have let my anger keep me from calling you. I apologize for that, but I have always loved you. I always will love you.”
“Whatever, Dad.” It came out slightly easier that time, but it still took effort.
“I am even sorrier to hear that you've chosen to blame God for this. First of all, you heard the sirens and the tornado. You could've moved away from the window son. That was not smart.”
“Well, see that was the deal, Dad. I stood there on purpose. I made a deal with God, a challenge really, that if he protected me from the storm, I would come back to him. I reminded him that he said he would give His angels protection over me, and I asked him to prove it. As soon as I got the words out, I received His answer.” To say that I was bitter would have been an understatement. I could tell that I had totally stumped my father. He had this look on his face like he was trying to conjure the right words to “witness” to me. I thought it best to put a stop to that up front. “Oh, you can save your sermon.”
“Franklin, do you know what happened to Sparks?”
Sparks was my German Shepard. I had him for about five years, and he was truly my best friend. “Sparks? I’ve been so messed up, that I forgot about him. Have you been feeding him?”
“No I haven’t. Son, Sparks did not make it through the storm.”
That hurt. I closed my eyes against the pain. Hot tears stung under my tightly closed eyelids. My whole body shook with sobs, but they did not last long. For a few moments, I let myself dwell on the pain. After that, I sucked it up, more determined than ever never to speak to the God I once knew. What kind of merciful Lord would kill a man’s dog? As soon as I assumed control, my father began to speak again.
“How about your house? Do you know what’s happened with it?”
‘There’s brilliance for you!’ I thought to myself. “Well, considering the fact that it was hit by a tornado and the windows burst out and the walls blew in, I am assuming that it's no longer standing.” My smart aleck reply made him mad, but he tried to hide it.
“Your house is now a pile of wood. It took them eighteen hours to locate you in all the rubble. They found your dog crushed under the weight of your full wall bookshelves. The doctors say that even though you had tried to bury yourself under a stack of thick coats, the blow from the oak that fell directly into your closet should have broken more than your arm. You were in a comma for two days. They did not expect you to come out of it. When you came out, there were questions about your brain function. We were not sure if you were going to be able to speak again. Is any of this registering, Frank?”
“Yeah, you proved my point. I asked God to protect me, like he claimed he would, and he didn't do it. He let me get hurt, destroyed my house, and killed my dog.”
“You have totally missed it, Franklin!”
“Oh well by all means, Dear old Dad.” For some reason the ‘dear old dad’ reference was phenomenally easier than ‘dad.’
“You are still alive. You can communicate as if a tree had never fallen on your head. You are not bleeding internally. God kept His end of your bargain, Franklin. He brought you through the storm.”
Somehow, amidst my anger, I heard what he was saying to me. The storm did not take my life. It took my dog and my house, but I was still alive. Coats or no coats, I could have easily died before the rescuers arrived eighteen hours after the storm. The reality of the situation hit me. I wanted to yell and scream about what God had taken away from me, but it no longer seemed important. I was suddenly grateful to God, but for some reason I resented the emotion.
“I think you should leave, Dad. I need to be alone.”
“Franklin, you've been running from God for years. Don’t you think it is time to stop?” When he asked me that question, the Spirit of God came into the room enveloping me. I had known His presence from my youth, so it was a familiar sensation. Pride told me to push Him away, but it was a love that I could not ignore. As the walls of my house had crumbled, the walls in my heart did the same. Like shattered window splinters, my pride had blown away.
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