Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER (02/28/19)
TITLE: Who's There?
By Jack Taylor
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There were a hundred ways he hadn’t thought of dying. When he’d purchased his tickets, and hid away in the bowels of the ship bound for the farthest port, he had done it because he wanted to live. The fierceness of the storm caught him by surprise, much like the orders he’d been given to go preach in Nineveh.
Pulsating heartbeats echoed through every cell of his body like a drum intent on pushing him to the brink of insanity in eternal night. He wasn’t sure if it was his heart or the fish’s. Fluids flowed and sloshed around him but he didn’t dare open his mouth to drink a drop. Thirst clawed at his throat and tongue. Oh, how he missed the safe God everyone chatted about in the house of worship.
The songs he mouthed effortlessly alongside a hundred others now reverberated inside his head in endless echoes. “My refuge, my rock, my deliverer, my hope …” Where was this faceless, nameless, easy to praise deity who seemed so safe to follow? Who was this Master who allowed him to run then left him to be tossed by men into the heart of the abyss? Who was this God who refused to let him go?
Countless walks along the beach had never fostered the terror of this moment. The gentle breezes had never wound themselves into twisters which could capsize a mighty sailing ship. The lapping waves had never risen to towering tyrants slapping down the lives of helpless sailors. The dormant sands had never worked their way like sandpaper across his skin. Where was the sovereign who controlled all this?
A shroud of kelp stimulated his soul past the barriers which blinded him to the one he had once yearned for as a boy. His passions had pulled him toward prophetic joy and celebration. A hand of grace had renewed him and cleared his shame. Where now was this one who had claimed his prayers as he walked through mountain tops and valleys? Where now was this one who he proclaimed without fear among his people?
The realm of the dead was darker than he dared dream. The stench of decay was fouler than he ever imagined. In helplessness his soul squeezed out a whimpering cry of ‘help’. The endless motion up and down nauseated him to his core. And still he could not move. How much louder could he scream?
Boyhood questions swirled like vultures in his brain. “Dad, why does God love people?” “Mom, what does God look like?” “Teacher, how do we know who to worship?” Never ending questions from a longing heart.
Losing hope was the hardest as time passed. Flashes of memories stampeded through his mind – memories of a Savior who had wrenched him from sicknesses, relationship troubles, financial challenges and physical dangers. Oh, how his heart longed for such a One at a time like this. Just one more chance.
Images of others ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’ vied for space in his memory. Cardboard cutouts. False deities only worth spitting at. If he could spit. If he could declare the deaf and dumb chunks of handmade trash for what they were. Oh, if the One true God would remember him.
Psalmists had declared over and over that there was nowhere we could escape His Spirit. Even in the depths he was there. Darkness was as light. No distance or depth was too far. Only if he were here, in the middle of the depths of the sea. Oh, if only second chances were possible for those who ran, who fell, who wandered away.
Whimpering prayers, quivering repentance, shivering praise, desperate vows formed in molecules of hope, drifting from the darkest depths to the lightest heights. The slightest tremor in the belly of the beast. A surge of muscular contraction. A flood of vomit into the lapping waters of a receding tide.
Blinding light with burning rays. Oh, where is the God I loved as a child? This safe shepherd who lullabied me to sleep. This savior who loved me? Oh, how I miss him.
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