I don’t think he meant to be rude, but when the icy words “Were you close?” spilled from his lips my heart began to ache. My uncle Taylor had only been gone for 3 months, yet every time someone asked this question with insensitivity, I could feel my eyes well up with tears. Most of the time I would hide it and calmly mutter; “He was like a father to me.” Today, I couldn’t take it. Overwhelmed I bit my lip to keep from crying and turned toward the door without saying anything. Before I knew it I was racing down the two steps behind the back door of my cherry brick house. Unprepared for this irate emotion that was intertwined with despair, I ran.
I knew exactly where I was going. It is where I had always gone when I felt sad or frustrated. Wanting to be alone more than anything, I left a house of chattering people and chased after the comfort of solitude. Tiny cinders crunched beneath my shoes as I swiftly made my way through the back yard. My golden hair blew in the breeze and swept across my face as I dashed through our nurtured landscape. As tears streamed down my cheeks, I breathed in the crisp evening air. Dark feathered clouds began to roll over the navy blue skies as the sun began to set. It seemed as if the sky would soon be weeping with me.
Reaching my destination, I paused mildly, out of breath. Without thinking I nearly collapsed onto a thin rubber seat suspended on a tall metal frame. I clutched the chains of my childhood swing and began to pump my legs. Like a pendulum, I moved back and forth through the air until I was forced to smile because of how high I was going. Watching my ebony shadow swing with me, I couldn’t help but forget the cares of the world. It was one place that seemed to make me happy. I was soon so elevated that it felt like my feet could touch the tops of trees. Soaring through the air, I had a funny idea. It was something I hadn’t thought about doing since I was 10 years old. I wanted to jump.
Right then the dinner bell chimed. Legs first, I leapt off of the swing. Releasing the chains I had been grasping so tightly, I began to fly. The wind pulled my hair straight back and I laughed ecstatically. As I peaked in the air, a curious thing happened: I stopped. Frozen in motion, I was suspended in the air. It was what I imagine sitting on a cloud would feel like. For a moment it was peaceful. Every breath was deep, and every movement weightless. The perfumed air was calm, and the breeze whispered secrets of tranquility as it does before a storm.
I was no longer a part of the spinning world, but paused in an unknown universe. The once setting sun was at a standstill. Not a sound was made. The eerie silence grew as I seemed to defy gravity.
My gaze could not leave the burnt orange sun, for it too seemed to grow. As the outline of sun’s circle expanded, I watched it begin to cover the sky. Cottony clouds soon disappeared and while the frightened navy sky seemed to vanish. The sun covered the heavens as if it were a flaming lake, and yellow and orange beamed so brightly that it sparked into fire.
Tongues of fire leapt from the sun’s mouth and drew near me. The flames became the torment of my grief. Hanging in immobility, the heat exposed the deep wound in my soul that wouldn’t seem to heal. It was like I was at my Uncle Taylor’s funeral all over again. I covered my weepy eyes to escape the brilliant sun, but even in the shade of my cupped hands, my eyes could see. I squinted at the brightness, yet even with sealed eyes I could feel the intensity of the heat. I wanted to hide. I wanted anything to shelter me from this raging fire, but I was deferred by my weightless, gravity defying state. The fire exposed my soul, and what was opened could not be closed. I was vulnerable, weak, and unhappy.
The flames formed a tunnel around my body until I grew weary because of the heat’s intensity. In utter despair, I cried out with a loud voice. The fire oddly didn’t burn me, but it was dry and hot. It was cutting to my core. As my voice pierced the silence, my blood curdling scream joined the wind that blew wildly against my face.
Then just as quickly as I had stopped in the air, I fell from my suspended condition to the ground. It was as if I was being dropped from a fiery tornado. Paralyzed for a moment, I remained on my back. As my eyes blinked, the sun’s rays leaked into the corners of my eyes. Restored to its usual state, I drank in the sun’s light. It no longer burned with intensity but was mounted in the middle of the sky. My skin was not tightened from any burns, but instead, it felt cleansed.
Propping myself up with my hands behind my back, I sat up. “This isn’t my yard” I muttered under my breath. I pulled my knees close to me and sat in the shape of a little ball. Tickling the edges of my arms was harvest wheat looking grass. As I rose to my feet, straw bent and crunched beneath me. As I turned, in every direction there was nothing but golden grass. I was alone in an enormous field.
“My work is complete.” a deep voice said merrily. I whirled around so fast my hair nearly slapped my cheek. My eyes beheld the fanciest smile I had ever seen. The man who spoke didn’t even have to introduce himself. Though I had never seen him before, I knew who he was.
He directed me to come closer. I obeyed. Before me was a wooden table with crimson fabric draped over the edges. Many chairs lined the table, but I knew one was for him and one was for me. Dishes filled with elaborate food sprinkled the table. The aroma of the finest food was a sweet fragrance in the air. Eloquent dishes, goblets, and painted china carried wonderful portions of every good food and drink one could wish for. It was a feast fit for royalty.
“How can you set a table in this wilderness?” I asked meekly. “I feel as if I have lost everything dear to me.” He smiled, and gently answered, “The affliction you faced was not an obstacle to getting to this banqueting table, that affliction is how you got here.” His words warmed the breeze. While his steady voice painted the sky a brighter blue. The sun still hung over us, but a smile managed to creep onto my face as the man placed his hand on the back of a wooden chair and pulled it out for me. It was an invitation, a call. He was asking me to join him.
~It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues (Psalm 119:71)~