Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)
TITLE: No Other Way
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Growling brutes snap viscously with bared teeth as if practicing the fine art of torment.
War, that’s what it is! This pastor, this truth-teacher must be eliminated.
Attack him! Diminish him! Embarrass him! Overcome him!
Their bulging eyes glare, representing slander and greed. Meanwhile, darkness envelops each member attending the church council meeting.
“My hands are tied – it is as if you’ve defrocked me,” the pastor chokes. “I resign! I’m giving six months notice, and then I’m gone!”
Look at him…squirming under the weight of discouragement. Our best weapon was to usurp his authority. Good job, men!
The jeering, hissing creatures bow to their compatriots as the meeting adjourns. Thanks to you several council members for your generous assistance on our behalf.
Gloomy darkness lingers like a weighted blanket. The curse descends.
A deathly dirge plays its sorrowful eulogy in each heart. The pastor’s decision has been made. Some celebrate victory but suffocate in tar pits of their own selfish ambition. Others wilt with sadness as they recognize their ministry vision has seemingly been overthrown by evil intentions.
The pastor’s wife wails in the hallway while indignant council members, the brutes’ pawns, flee the building with averted eyes before her anguish descends upon them.
C’mon guys, she’s a perfect target. She’s already hurt and angry…she’ll listen to us.
The dark heaviness grows darker, thick and ominous. Her cries erupt into plaintive sobs. The pastor grabs her arm and heads for the door in a gallant attempt to escape.
Let’s hit her where it counts – deceive her heart so she directs her fury at her husband instead of those who are responsible. Heh heh, clever, eh?
Without warning, the door slams open and a little child saunters into the ominously shrouded church, humming a tune.
What’s that child doing here? Take care of her – one of you take care of her! Get her out of this place! She’ll ruin our darkness; she’ll…..
The child is a little girl, perhaps eight years old. She is dressed in jean shorts and a plum-colored t-shirt, and wears scuffed sneakers on her feet. Her eyes radiate Light - the assurance and expectation that shines from a lighthouse beam - and as she breathes a sigh, it seems to explode in warmth to envelop the shaking couple.
“I come…because there isn’t any other way.”
No other way? Where does she think she’s going? Get that child OUT – NOW!
The pastor and his pale wife screech to a halt before the girl.
“You what?” the battered pastor questions. “Where is it you are going? Are you lost? Do you need help?”
The child plops down in a heap, her full lips pursed as if in thought.
“I have come…because…there is…”
“I know, I know, you said there is no other way. Now what did you mean by that?” His sorrowing heart labors in his chest. Why more problems? Why must he face this situation with a lost child – right now?
The pastor’s wife blanches and reels as if ready to faint; her husband gently lowers her onto the floor next to the child.
I told you – we’re in trouble now. They’re actually going to listen to her.
“I’m supposed to tell you something,” she chirps as she tosses her golden curls and crosses her legs, Indian-style. “The greatest among you…”
What is she SAYING? Kick her – beat her up – DO SOMETHING!
“Don’t worry, honey,” the pastor whispers. “I am not the greatest among this bunch – not any more. They’ve made it impossible for me to stay...to lead this church.”
Undaunted, she continues. “The man who is the greatest - and I think that must be you - is someone who knows what it means to change and become like a little child.”* She blinks coyly. “I know, too. It means to depend on Someone Else no matter what happens.”
The woman peers into the face of the child; their eyes meet and conjoin as one liquid pool of glistening Light. The little girl continues to speak, this time directly to the crumpled woman before her.
“I have come…to bring life….”**
Drat the interference! And we were doing so well tonight, too!
With that, she uncrosses her legs, stands, and turns to leave. Her eyes throw streaks of Light as she glances back over her shoulder, shredding the brutish darkness. “You know…the narrow gate…the narrow path. There is no other way.”***
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