Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)
TITLE: A Remembered Riddle for Arnie
By Cecile Hurst
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What is both empty and full?
Inside the ordinary house at the end of a block of other ordinary looking houses filled with old souls that belonged to young people and a riddle, there was an unordinary box. It was ornate, with rivers of pink quartz streaking down a single gutted piece of dark chestnut wood. At the top there was a slat, as if for ballots; and on the bottom a key hole that twisted, open-and-close, a large circular piece of very finely fitted wood when a tiny key was inserted.
The children took turns popping answers in. Arnold first guessed an empty bucket, full of air. Sarah wrote her tummy just before dinner – empty, yet full of noises. Myron laughed and confidently entered ‘Arnold, full of ideas but empty of brains’ (for which he got in trouble). Tonya wanted to put water – full of wetness and empty of dryness, but the other children talked her out of it; she instead chose Pete asked the box a question: ‘Is there even an answer to this riddle?’ The next day he received a letter… Simon pondered long and hard and then decided on the box itself: full of papers, empty of answers.
They kept up like this for half a year and then on New Years were told they didn’t have to go bed, instead they were going to have a party. The two adults – who were still young themselves – twisted open the unordinary box and shook out the some two-hundred responses and gave each child a glue-stick.
“Paper the wall!’ The command was given; and in a wave of craze they started the task, giggling gluing, snotty globs stretching and falling on the carpet as they tried to reach more papers without moving away from the wall.
When they were finished, still high from the wonder of it all and the popcorn and Coke they were given, the adult who was still young himself, told them the answer to the riddle that belonged to none of them.
“We’ve all been through a lot. Haven’t we?” he asked. A chorus of solemn nods silently moved the air. “Some of us came out of closets, some of us were picked up from the side of the road.... some of us,” he motioned to Tonya, “from garbage cans. We’ve all known what it is to be hungry, to be alone, to be forgotten, to be unloved – but we’re all here now and we don’t feel those things anymore, do we?” Small smiles lit the room. “Now why is that?” he asked the little crowd.
They all knew the answer, so nobody spoke.
“Jesus found us, didn’t he? Philippians 2:7 (ESV) says ‘but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.’ Jesus knows what it is to be rejected and alone. And he died for us, so that by the forgiveness of sins we never had to feel that again.”
“Thank you Jesus,” said Simon, and all the others followed.
“That’s right, thank you Jesus,” the adult smiled. “Now for some news that makes Sherry and me both sad and happy… you’ve all got parents.”
A ripple of excitement sped through the room, then little Sarah started to cry. Hugs and confusion, laughter and apprehension jumped from child to child. Sherry said they should sing a song, which they did – quietly – though it was New Years and they really could have sung as loud as they wanted. After, when it was announced that it was time for bed, it was Arnold that asked, “I don’t understand… what’s the answer to the riddle?”
“He didn’t really make that clear, did he Arnie?” said Sherry.
Arnie shook his head no, agreeing.
“It’s you love. You are empty of sin, and full of Jesus. And no matter where you go, or who your parents are, you can be empty of all the effects of sin – like loneliness and fear, because being full of Jesus means you are full of perfect peace and love and hope.”
25 YEARS LATER
Rev. Arnold Spencer stood outside of an ordinary house that was different, looking at the peeling paint, the boarded windows – it was empty he realized, but still full of memories… riddled ones.
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