My Love, My Love
Bethany rubbed tears from her eyes with the heel of her hand against the cloth of her shawl. It was not the crispness of the spring morning beside the Jordon River that caused her tears to flow, but memories of a love that would never be. Never!
Beyond the rise from the river bank she saw the bobbing head of a camel approaching, then her father that led the camel. She knew the herd followed. Seeing Bethany, her father waved. Even at this distance she could see his smile, his white teeth glistening in his sun darkened face. Every girl should have a father like mine, Bethany thought. His love for her sustained her and made her grief bearable.
She must work quickly now. The camels were stopping, spreading their front legs and lowering their head to slurp a bellyful of water. Bethany moved carefully between them. Dodging two bulls jousting for position she avoided being mashed between the aggressive competitors. Tugging on the winter wool they were shedding, she placed the brown fibers in her basket.
Their fetid breath and flatulence no longer drove her to her knees. If your father raised camels, it became a part of your life. After a drink, the rumbling sounds of regurgitation in their long neck could be heard as something swallowed came back into their mouth for chewing. By the time she had finished stripping the last one, many were contently chewing their cud. Their soft brown heavily-lashed eyes seemed to smile at her as they followed her movement. They did not forget harsh treatment. Even when firmness was required, she treated them kindly. They held grudges for years.
Setting the basket of camel hair down, Bethany picked up the dung basket. “Father, are you taking them to pasturage now? I’ll pick these up. There are more than enough for Mother’s evening fire. She is cooking your favorite stew tonight.” She had long ago stopped marveling that camels excreted their dung dry enough to be burned immediately.
“Take water also, Bethany. Catch Syd to carry everything. Bring him to me this afternoon and we will walk home together.”
Bethany caught Syd, an older well trained animal, and made him kneel. She loaded a water jug on each side and tied on the dung basket. Reaching for the basket of wool, tears began to flow.
So much had happened since last spring. Last year, her mother helped spin and weave the brown fiber Bethany used to make a sturdy camel hair coat. Afterwards, after much pleading, her father had taken her to find their neighbor’s son in the Judean wilderness.
His parents, godly people they had been, were dead. Bethany had given him the coat and some sweet pastries. That night, sitting around the camp fire, they had enjoyed each other’s company immensely.
Although he promised to come before winter, a message arrived saying he had work he must do first. Later she heard crowds were coming to hear him. He was declaring the Messiah was coming and baptizing those who publicly repented of their sins. Many were following him.
Bethany was heartbroken that he had not come. His mother and father would have rejoiced over his faithful service to God, and so, she thought, must she. His calling no one could deny.
Word came of opposition and his arrest. Her husband to be, that had been her dream and she thought his, had been put to death. Some followers of Jesus had buried him. She did not know what had happened to the camel hair coat she had given him. There was so much she did not know. She could never love another as she had loved John.
Bethany tugged on the rope to get Syd up and moving. The camel spit, showing his displeasure. “I know Syd, you would rather be with the herd. But, be thankful for something. I could be riding.”
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