Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WAIT (08/30/18)
TITLE: How Much Longer???
By Noel Mitaxa
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They had already retreated to shelter in another night of isolation. Where in the world were they? Who knew – or cared - where they were? And exactly where were they going? What future was he offering his sons in the endless delays that made each day no different to its forebears.
Glancing around, he could see feeble, flickering oil lamps glowing inside the shelters; a distant second to that overhead celestial spectacle; and offering no challenge to the shadows of the desert that stretched its gloom out all around him. That gloom was infiltrating his morale, and it had been for - how many years now?
“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” was a frequent cry. It was wearing thin.
It was always directed at - or about - those two brothers who had at first been celebrated as their liberators, but who now seemed to have lost their way. But who could take their place?
“Issachar, you’ve finally come inside,” whispered his wife Deborah. “The boys want to hear about the old days before they go to sleep. And you tell those stories so well!”
He glanced down, seeing their young eyes shining with still-undiminished optimism. His heart surged with love for them, against the frustration that filled his daytime thoughts, with curiosity edged with doubts about all the older folks had described.
What could he tell them - with any sense of conviction? About seeing a river turning into blood? Or darkness so thick you could feel it? Or could he repeat the claim that the whole entourage had strolled through a sea – whatever that is - as if they were on dry land, with water all around them, but not on them? And what about how soldiers had rushed after them – only to be engulfed by the waters coming back to where they belonged?
The boys had heard the older men talk about building cities out of stone and bricks. Permanent cities, that didn’t need to be packed up every few weeks - like theirs - and moved to some new waterholes for fresh feed for their stock. How could he connect them with such a distant world - even in their imagination – and feel any credibility in the endless waiting for the promise those two brothers had fed to everybody?
He settled on the saga of swarms of locusts that ate every trace of pastures and crops – leaving them like the desert all around them. It wasn’t hard to describe the desert – but to convey crops and pastures was a real challenge.
As his story finished, and unconscious innocence claimed their attention, he smiled and nestled against Deborah. Feeling the reassurance of her trust, he closed his eyes and began to relax, reflecting on how the Eternal One must be somehow involved…
Nobody was starving. Somehow – wherever they settled – edible white stuff appeared on the ground. Theirs to collect. But only six days a week! And they could always kill sheep or oxen for stronger nourishment, with the occasional bonus of flocks of quails arriving in enough numbers to vary the protein intake.
Apart from the natural loss of older folks who faded with the years, their numbers were holding up.
Yes, maybe tomorrow will be different…
In another shelter, two brothers were weighing up their progress. And their preparation for this trek.
“Aaron, what more do these people want? How much longer can we keep going?” asked Moses.
“We’re not here for them alone, my brother, but to lead them into the land of God’s promise,” Aaron replied. “I know that spending all this time in the desert is not what he had in mind, for if everyone had listened to Joshua and Caleb, we would have been there within two weeks. But God has his hand on you. You had to escape from Egypt, and you’ve had forty years of getting to know this whole wilderness. You know its seasons, its watercourses and where the best shelters are.
“I know I didn’t help with that golden calf episode while you were up on the mountain, but now I’m prepared to wait and support you for as long as it takes to get there.”
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