I returned home from the well to find my mother on her knees, sobbing over the garments of my dead baby brother. I rushed to her side. Baby Joseph had been dead for five years. Mother hadn’t cried for a long time. What brought this on?
“Tabitha…is…dead,” she cried, crushing the tiny robe to her heart.
My heart dropped into my stomach.
“No, Mother, no, it can’t be!” I slumped to the floor beside her. Together we smoothed the little tunic across our laps.
Tabitha made the tunic. Our neighbor, well-known in Joppa for her kindness to the poor and all manner of charitable work, was dead.
Mother was terribly ill after Joseph was born. For more than a year she cooked, cleaned and sewed for us. It was a horrible year for mother. I was too young to help. Just when she was feeling better, the baby died, and within weeks so did my father. Tabitha considered us family and took care of us.
Grief washed over us both, but mine was compounded with guilt; guilt and regret. The remembrance of yesterday morning stabbed my conscience.
I’d just spent the morning doing chores. My hands were hard at work, but my mind was bitterly thinking of what I’d rather be doing.
“Jazra, I want you to go and see Tabitha today. She has offered to teach you sewing. You’ll be married in a year and it will serve you well. Just because you are promised a rich man doesn’t mean you won’t have to do housework.”
“Yes, Mother,” I answered. I started to protest but I didn’t want to hear the lecture about how much we owed Tabitha.
I left the house that afternoon but I walked right past Tabitha’s home. The gardens on the outlying edges of town beckoned me to while away the afternoon with my dreams. I would see her on my way back.
It was difficult to enjoy myself. I didn’t often defy my mother. Instead of dreaming about my wedding, I groused in my mind about Tabitha. Yes, I complained about the most loved woman in Joppa. Her life just seemed so boring to me.
All of her time was consumed with helping the poor; sewing, cooking, tending the sick. Those were good things and needed to be done, but all day and night? She never visited at the well with the other women.
Lately she’d become a disciple of Jesus Christ. She could talk of nothing else.
Tabitha was standing outside her home when I passed back by.
“Jazra!” she called, greeting me with a hug and kiss.
“I thought I might have had the pleasure of your company this afternoon,” she said. Her words did not scold, but her eyes revealed the disappointment.
“I have been praying for you, Jazra. I am asking the Father to draw you to the Messiah, Jesus. He has changed my life. The joy is unspeakable,” she said, glowing.
“I am also praying that you will join me in my work. The need has grown so large that it is hard to do it alone,” she said, hopefully.
“Well, you know I’m to be married soon. Maybe after our first year,” I said.
How could she be dead? Mother rose from the floor.
“I’m going to go and help prepare her body.” She washed her face and left the house.
Could this Jesus forgive my disobedience to my mother? Could he forgive my lazy selfishness? Tabitha spent her life well, but I was wasting mine. My foolishness and ungratefulness mocked me. I couldn’t bear it any longer and rose to go and help my mother.
Tabitha had been washed and laid out on her bed. My mother and the other widows in the neighborhood had spread out all the beautiful garments she had been working on. There was much weeping. The number of people who came by to testify about her kindnesses was unbelievable.
The disciple, Peter, that Tabitha had spoken of so often, was ushered into the house by other followers of Christ. The widows showed him all her beautiful work. He sent us all out of the room.
Moments later we heard him say, “Tabitha, arise.” He called us all back in and presented her to us alive!
I fell to my knees a believer in Jesus Christ. Time suddenly took on a new meaning. It would be spent, consumed with living for Him.
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