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Maclean Patrick Sibat
Not For Sale
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The rain came without warning. I was not ready, I carried no protection against it. Umbrellas don't go well with me. I pulled my collar up, hoping to block the gushing wind from harassing my neck. A lame attempt at keeping myself dry.
My eyes stung.
"Acid rain." I muttered under my breath as I pushed through the downpour, head low, hands numb with cold.
This was a bad night to be on the streets. Bad night to be out in the cold, running about like blind mice on stilts. I began cursing my decision to attempt this nightly venture. But I needed answers and I needed them quick.
I ignored the traffic passing by as I made my way pass the cinema. I ignored the homeless man struggling to keep his cardboard shelter dry. Poor man, he'll probably drown under this rain. He managed a glance as I raced by, in his world life races by him yet he probably has less worries then me.
Cross the street and passed the residential shophouse lining Carpenter Street. I ignored the arguing couple whose drama was played out for the whole neighborhood. At least close the shutters when you start throwing punches at each other. I ignored the sirens, as a police car came up to their street.
Ignored it all, I needed answers.
It's been a year. A year since I spoke to Him. The One some call the Big Guy. Others call out to Him either in jest or desperation. Don't utter His name in vain but utter they do.
There are those who visit Him each week. They visit, merely paying homage; nothing personal, just visiting. Some murmur his name in silence, while others shout it off a wooden box by the street corner. I gave up my wooden box a year ago.
He took everything from me and left me with nothing. He made a mockery of my life. I had left everything for Him yet gain nothing when all my chips were down. Tonight I am facing Him for answers.
Every night for the past two weeks I've had dreams. They say you dream in black and white. Fine with me but the blood screamed to me in full color.
At first I passed it on as stress from working the docks hauling fish when we bring in the ships in the early morning. The smell of fish, blood and sea-water can drive ones lunch down the drain. Yes, it was stress. But every night the same vision came to me. Blood, red striking blood and those hands. Hands reaching out to me, hands calling out to me, beckoning me to follow and to accept an invitation to return. Return to the place I swore never to return to.
Water on my face broke my flashback. Lesson learnt, don't daydream on a rainy night along the side of the road where traffic can give you a dirty bath.
I arrived at my destination.
It stood out as a beacon of hope in this city, a safe haven from the harsh reality of living life in the Big City. It called out to the homeless, the poor, the sick, the hopeless and for one like me - the faithless. I managed the extra climb up the stairs. My focus fixed on reaching the doors. This is where I'll find my answers. This is where it started and where it will all end - The City Church.
A familiar voice greeted me as I stepped through the door.
"Father Phillip" I greeted back, as I slowly made my way up the aisle. The wooden benches glowed a majestic brown. Illumination, which came from candles lining the stage and pulpit.
"The power is out. But the candles of the faithful serve other purposes besides for prayer. I must admit, the Sanctuary looks beautiful like this. Don't you think so, Ryan?"
I nod in agreement. He had a point and I have nothing against that.
"Ryan, what brings you here tonight? I must add it's really not a good night to be walking the streets."
"I've come to...talk. I need to talk to someone."
Father Phillip adjusted his glasses and standing to his full height ushered me to a bench. He offered me his handkerchief and gestured me to wipe my face.
"It's been a long time since we spoke, Ryan. Too long...it's been too long."
"I know. It's been about a year; Father Phillip..."
"Call me Phillip."
"Phillip...I need answers to questions. Questions to issues that those of the faith can answer."
"Ryan, you are of the faith."
"No...I left the faith."
"Ryan, you left the service but not the faith."
"How can you say that? I turned my back on Him! I left...I left Him in anger. I am faithless!"
My raised voice echoed through the Sanctuary but it did not seem to bother Father Phillip. No, he was more interested in me. A person seeking answers, seeking closure on the past. Someone seeking hope in a time when hope jumped out the window.
"Ryan, do you really think that by turning your back on Him, He would turn His back on you? If he did that, my parish would be empty and those that attend, would all be ordained ministers of His word."
Father Phillip allowed his words to sink in. I could not give an answer because he was right. For a year I shut Him out of my life. Uttering His name was taboo, every bridge was burnt and even a thought was forbidden. I closed that door, yet He came knocking.
"Phillip, since that day; a year ago, I have shut him out of my life. In an instance He took everything from me. Everything that I held dear was snatched. I hold Him responsible."
The rain came down harder. I could hear it hitting the roof but that did not bother Father Phillip. He merely adjusted his glasses and looked me straight in the eye.
"My dear Ryan, it was an accident. An un-fortunate accident, that sadly took away all that you held dear but Ruth and William would be heart-broken to see you in the state you are today. It's time to move on, a year is too long a time to be angry. It serves no purpose."
A deluge of images flood my head. The rainy night, the policeman at the door, the terrible news that tore my world apart. I remember the funeral, I remember saying, "It was all wrong". That lives of faithful people should not be taken; simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I remember the trial, I remember The Drunk's expression when he was convicted of manslaughter and at my disguss. He was driving under the influence, he did not see Ruth and my son William crossing the street. By the time they saw the car coming, it was already too late.
I remember turning my back on the Church. Walking away, vowing never to step into it again. I remember Father Phillip standing on the sidewalk, watching me walk away. He merely told me that God would not give up on me. God does not give up on those He calls.
"Ryan, God does not give up on people. He calls you when you least expect it. He still holds you dear regardless of what you may think of him."
Placing his hand on my shoulder, I could make out a tear in his eye.
"I miss them too. You lost a wife and son. I lost a sister, a nephew and I also lost a brother in the ministry. You walked away but God never did. He allowed you the right to decide what you wanted. But He is constantly knocking on your door. Patiently waiting to be ushered in. He waits for your response. You who have been bought over by blood, His Son's blood, will not be easily removed from the fold."
Blood. The dreams. He was calling me back, reminding me that it was by blood that I was bought over. That by grace my life is in His hands.
"It's time I opened that door, Father Phillip."
"It's time you started speaking to Him again.... Pastor Ryan"
The rain stopped.
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