Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hope (05/04/06)
TITLE: A Conquered Beast
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Carrie’s body seems glued to her fifth-grade chair; she stares at the pencil-marred desk before her. Graffiti glares back at her – taunts her – mocks her.
White-knuckled fists clench and crinkle her perfectly executed spelling papers and press them into her lap.
The beast is upon her.
It always starts this way. In the midst of a “normal” day, unannounced panic rises from within to stalk her. Gradually the presence of fear thunders closer until it seems ready to trample her soul…until dread, horror, and the threat of captivity are all that remain.
No one else knows about the beast because Carrie fears being labeled as mentally ill. Some psychologist might decide to administer electric shock – the treatment given to her mother. So in the midst of a panic attack she copes by staring at some inanimate object, like the carvings on the face of her desk. External focus proved that she is still not joined to her oppressor.
Slowly, slowly, the panic subsides, leaving Carrie weak and shaken. She secretively hides within herself and passively endures, knowing another such beast may soon strike without notice and drain even more life from her already diminished heart.
Despair threatens to rule - forever.
A white-haired Carrie sits propped in bed with the sheet draped loosely over her skinny knees.
The door slowly swings open and her niece, Jessica, skips to her bedside. “Hi Aunt Carrie…I brought you this.” Jessica offers her spelling test with a red “100%” marked at the top.
“Oh honey…” Carrie smiles and holds the paper at arm’s length, dipping her head to look through her trifocals. “I’m so proud! You’re a champion speller at school…just like your Aunt Carrie.”
Jessica ducks around the paper and looks her aunt straight in the eye. “I’m going to be just like you when I grow up, too.”
Carrie returns the gaze, and the paper falls on the bed beside her frail body. “Well Jessica…I must tell you something…I wish I’d learned this earlier…at your age…when I was in fifth grade.”
Jessica nods vigorously as if inviting her aunt’s wisdom. Her bobbed hair swishes like strands of corn silk brushed by a summer breeze.
“Do you know what the word ‘hope’ means? I used to think hope was kind of like a wish…you know? But hope is lots more than a wish, honey. Let’s say something happens…and you want it to change so badly…”
“…like being scared, Aunt Carrie?”
“Yes honey, like being really, really scared.” Carrie’s eyes squint as if deep in thought. “You pray, and you do what you have to do right then…just to get through the worst of the situation…but then you decide to do something else: wait.”
Jessica twitches her nose like a rabbit. “Why wait? Wait for what, Aunt Carrie?”
Carrie’s eyes soften. “Wait for that one thing…that one change that HAS to come, honey…that HUGE God-thing.” Carrie gestures with both hands outspread, and the sleeves of her light blue gown hang loosely, like angel wings.
“You mean…like when Mommy was sick?” Jessica’s face grows dark. “You kept saying to ‘wait on the Lord’ – but I wasn’t sure what you meant. And then…Mommy died…”
Carrie clasps Jessica’s hand. “But we never stopped hoping…did we? We waited and waited… because we knew God was doing something. We waited… because there was nothing we could do to help your mother…nothing except to remind her that we loved her. We waited… because we were sure God would do the right thing at just the right time. Waiting on God is often the best sign of hope…it means we trust Him to work things out.”
Jessica gently strokes Carrie’s arthritic fingers. “Okay Aunt Carrie, I’ll remember. Hope isn’t a wish; it’s like a promise – God’s promise. Hope means praying and waiting.” She looks to her aunt for confirmation: “Hope is expecting God to handle things.”
After Carrie’s funeral, Jessica discovers a note tucked away in her aunt’s Bible.
“What does it mean to wait in hope? It means I must do what I can right now, but then wait for the thing I can't do - the one thing that has to come later, the thing that is rooted in God’s character and promises rather than in my own power to bring it about.”
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5
The legacy of a conquered beast will continue.
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