Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)
TITLE: Bartholomew's Final Lesson
By Deborah Engle
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“Oh, yes! My final lesson - I am most anxious to begin.” His fledgling angel wings fluttered in his excitement.
“Then we will go.”
Shaphan’s steps led them past many wonderful sites and young Bartholomew was eager to learn the significance of each one.
“I do not quite understand. The streets are made of pure gold, but they are transparent as glass! How can that be?”
“There is no sun or moon, but we are bathed in glorious light. From where does this come?”
Bartholomew’s eager questions suddenly stopped. Understanding, Shaphan only waited.
After a moment Bartholomew quietly uttered, “Do you see it?”
Shaphan gazed upon the Wall of Remembrance that shone afar off. Even from this distance, it took his breath away. “It is an awesome sight, is it not?”
“It is beautiful. There is something about it, though...I am not able to describe it. Was this not to be included in my lessons?”
“On the contrary, this is the culmination of all you have learned.” Resuming their walk, they continued to gaze at the structure. “This will give you a new perspective on all of your future assignments, but it will be a distressing experience for you.”
“Distressing?” Bartholomew drew in a deep breath and quickened his step. “It appears there is no choice, for I am drawn to it. What is this thing?”
“It is called the Wall of Remembrance. When we are closer you will see.”
As they continued their trek, Shaphan witnessed the usual conflicting emotions revealed on the face of his novice - indescribable peace and overwhelming despair; immeasurable joy and devastating heartache. It was always like this the first time.
Finally standing before the edifice, Bartholomew saw row upon row of wondrous silver, gold, and bejeweled bottles. Together, they imparted a luminous glow to the whole structure.
“It is breathtaking!” declared Bartholomew, “but I feel incredibly sad. Why is it that this awesome image makes me feel desolate?”
Shaphan nodded his head in agreement. “It tends to have that affect on everyone. I warned you this would be difficult, but it is vital to your training. Your sadness comes from the contents of the bottles. Each one contains the heartfelt tears of one of God’s precious children, tears He does not forget.
“But God’s children are very blessed ... why are there so many tears?”
“Because with devotion and commitment comes suffering. The Church is in the world but not of the world, and God’s children often face opposition. With the struggles come many tears.”
“Oh. How sad.”
Walking down the length of the wall, they continued to talk. “The trials of life can become overwhelming. Many of these bottles are filled with tears of desperation.”
“Desperation? How do they cope with that?”
“Why, God is never far away. All they have to do is look to Him to receive rest, peace and hope, but it seems that for most, struggle is part of the process they must go through before they really understand God’s faithfulness.”
Bartholomew stopped to consider what he has heard. “So then, in the end, it becomes a good thing.”
“It does.” Shaphan nodded his head, then continued. “Some suffer great remorse over sin, and have been in danger of being swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Numerous bottles are filled with such tears. Fear, disappointment and pain also contribute to this bittersweet display.”
As Bartholomew reached up to straighten his halo, he observed, “I think it must be very difficult to be a Child of God. So many things bring tears to those in The Church.”
Shaphan said, “You are right about that, Bartholomew, but there are tears that are welcomed by God’s Children.” Having reached the end of the wall, they rounded the corner. “We will see those now. Some are tears of joy or gratitude; others come from hearts of devotion and submission. A great many are tears of compassion for the world that does not know the Father.”
“Such tears would not be unpleasant. Even as we pass by, a feeling of euphoria settles over me. ”
“That is the point of this excursion. The success of your missions will rest on your ability to recognize the difference. The Angel Adage is ”Observation, Discernment, and only then, Intervention.”
“The responsibilities of an angel are extremely challenging.” Frowning, Bartholomew abruptly turned and started to run.
“Where are you going?”
“To my room - I have to study, I have much to learn!”
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