Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Expire (08/01/13)
- TITLE: Don't Blow Out My Candle
By Pauline Carruthers
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A butterfly crash-lands against the window; drops, delicate wings folding in defeat. Then, there is only stillness.
Sitting in his bed, Charlie waits and watches, knowing how it feels to crash to a standstill. He can see Ellie in the garden, ripping out the flowers with the weeds, the un-mown grass flattened around her feet. The weeds were running riot in the garden, invading the space cleared for the herb border. A surprise for Ellie. She brushes a hand across her eyes as if wiping away a tear. She hated gardening, though she loved the riot of colour Charlie had created. The flowers were fading now; dying out, lacking water and tender care.
“You sure you don’t want a piece of the pie I made for lunch? It’s your favourite!”
The door slammed and he knew she would be gone for a while. He sunk down into the bed again, choosing to ignore the doorbell. It would be Tom, their neighbour and close friend, who had become a Christian just a few months ago; gradually changing from a cynical old grump to a man who acted as if he had a future. Even though he was retired. Tom’s smile was like a candle in the dark, drawing people to Jesus, like moths to a flame. Charlie’s mind slipped back to the morning he and Ellie had taken him to the Easter Service, watching as the light had finally dawned in his eyes and he had given his heart to Jesus. Now, Tom filled his retirement days helping out at the Homeless shelter, or repairing old discarded tools for shipment to African farmers.
Charlie and Ellie had been Christians for years, so why had God allowed this to come into their lives? He couldn’t understand. He had been motivated, still on top of his high powered job. So why replace him with a younger man? What does a man do when he suddenly finds he’s reached the end of his term, become null and void; his working life ended? Charlie had chosen defeat.
He gave the butterfly another glance as he slid pitifully from the bed. No sign of life.
“Obsolete, discarded,” he thought.
There was no pie in the fridge. What had she done with it? He grudgingly picked up a pack of ham. The date on the pack was last week!
“ Just like me. Past its sell by date; expired, no use anymore!”
The thought occurred to him that Tom had once had the same attitude, but he hadn’t given in to it and look at him now. God was blessing him. He slung the ham back into the fridge, trudged back to the bedroom and flopped into bed again.
He could feel himself sliding back into the pit. But still he lay there, cocooned in self pity, willingly accepting the depressing thoughts, relishing his misery. He didn’t care anymore; no-one cared. Yet, a tiny glimmer of hope was pushing itself into his mind, reminding him that His life was in God’s hands; that whatever happened, he did have a hope and a future. He thought of his garden; of the old grapevine under the window; of years of only producing tiny, hard bitter fruit. He had planned to uproot it and plant roses. The grapevine was redundant. Yet all it really needed was a good digging around the roots, the right food and loving tender care from the gardener. A few weak stems cutting back to strengthen the main branch and plenty of life-giving water.
Charlie felt a sudden dawning in his heart, as if love was seeping through a crack. Maybe he was like the vine! Needing his weaknesses pruned to strengthen his faith. He needed to get out of bed, tend the grapevine and allow God to cut out the unruly shoots in his own heart. Then fruit would come to both.
“Lord, Don’t let my flame burn out,” he prayed; as silent, healing tears washed his cheeks.
Charlie smiled at the thought that there is no expiry date for a Christian,. Just ever changing circumstances, as God uproots the weeds and ploughs the soil, preparing the soul for the harvest.
A sudden movement by the window caught his eye. The butterfly’s wings began to flutter, slowly opening, closing, gathering new strength. In a moment it was gone, revived, refreshed, bronze tipped wings wafting the air; and Charlie could almost feel the strong hands pulling him up, out of the pit.
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