It was a wild night. Denis shuddered with each spattering assault of rain on the windows. The wind rattled the frames. He swung his feet from the bed, toes groping for slippers in the sudden chill. His hand fumbled for the torch among the books. There was a growl and crash of thunder shaking a sky divided by a brilliant spear of lightning. In the now Stygian dark the thin torch beam pooled at his feet.
He moved slowly from room to room ensuring that the doors and windows were still secure. The storm had stolen the supply of electricity from the town. Without the occasional flashes of lightning the storm was only sound: a crashing, thrashing, rending sound.
Denis was afraid of storms. Not for him the adrenalin rush, the electrical charge of excitement. Not only was the noise overwhelming, storms presaged disaster, damage and distress. A particularly loud thunderclap shook the house and rattled his bones. He stood, unnerved. The torch light flickered and died. Suddenly he was angry, hysterically angry. He raised his fists and shouted.
“What are you doing to me? Why does it have to be me? You’ve taken Marnie. You’ve driven Duggie away. I’ve got nothing – nothing, d’you hear? I’ve lost my job, and they want to take my home. What more do you want of me? Marnie was wrong ...”
He hesitated, his voice choking into silence. Tears ran down unheeded. A brief flash of light showed him a chair close by. He stumbled to it and sat down. His anger was exhausted by his protest. He sank into weary self-pity interrupted by the surges of light and sound as the storm continued.
Gradually he succumbed to the enveloping comfort of the armchair. His mind was numbed by helplessness and bitter memory. Marnie, his beautiful, precious wife. He needed her so much, why did she have to die? Why did she need to die such a painful death, so long drawn-out? He watched her fade from singing, laughing girlhood to mute acceptance of her pain.
Dugald expressed his father’s dilemma. “Why can’t you do something, Dad? Don’t you care?”
The people from the church were kind. They visited Marnie often, bringing her news, bringing her gifts, bringing her encouragement, praying with her. They helped with Duggie too, including him in their family outings, taking him to and from the church while Denis sat with Marnie reading to her from the Bible that she loved; playing the CD’s she enjoyed.
He heard the news of people who were healed. His heart cried “Heal Marnie too!” He watched the flesh on her bones disappear and he questioned the God who ignored her need, his need. His questions went unanswered. His teenage son rejected him. Fewer people came to visit. The days grew longer. Marnie’s breaths were shorter, her body lighter.
A nurse came daily to do the things he could not do. He helped her lift the frail form and wept with dry eyes, but still she knew. She whispered, “Don’t cry for me, Denis, the Lord is helping me through.”
There was scarcely a tremor when soul followed spirit and the body was left unoccupied.
Now Denis sat unaware of the retreating storm, sunk and alone in dark despair. Where was the God who was supposed to care? Where was the God who promised so much and gave so little? Where was the God who wasn’t there?
Out of the darkness of his memory a thread of sound grew until it filled his mind.
Alas! And did my Saviour bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
A song that Marnie loved so much, she sang it until her breath failed.
Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature’s sin.
Denis grasped at an elusive thought. The Lord, the God who didn’t heal Marnie, the God who made everything, the God who had all things in possession, this God laid aside all that was His, grasped the only means of bringing health and life to a sin-sick people, and scorned the cost to himself. Now he knew why Marnie sang:
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
‘Tis all that I can do.
Hymn writer, Isaac Watts
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