Sunday, March 29, 2009

Story

Mae Govannen,

Some of you have already read this before, but I felt that God wanted me to post it on this blog for those of you who haven't.

All She Could Do
Inspired by God

“Tirzah!”
The 19-year-old’s head shot up at the sound of the voice she had never hoped to hear again. There, running towards her, was her estranged and disowned sister, Rizpah. She hadn’t seen her since…since she was twelve.
“Tirzah!” her sister called again, still running with arms spread wide apart. “Tirzah, I’ve come home!”
“Go away!”
“But Tirzah, I—”
“I said go away. Leave. You have no place here,” Tirzah called bitterly, though the words stung her conscience. She should be welcoming her sister, not rebuking her. But she couldn’t. Because of what Rizpah had done.
“No, you don’t understand. I’ve seen Him! Tirzah, you should have been there! They caught me—it was a trap—and brought me before Him, but He forgave me. He forgave me, Tirzah!” Rizpah had tears coursing down her dusty cheeks. The black and green paint highlighting her eyes was smeared and messy; evidence of the battering Rizpah had certainly received at the hands of the authorities.
“What do you mean?” Tirzah cried harshly, recoiling from Rizpah’s embrace. “Don’t touch me!”
“Tirzah, please,” Rizpah begged brokenly. “You have to listen.”
Tirzah stopped her retreat, but still held a frown in place. From Rizpah’s hurt look, Tirzah could tell her eyes were brimming with hostility. “All right, but hurry. I don’t have time for this. Asa is waiting for his meal.
“Asa? Then you did marry him?” Rizpah questioned.
“Yes, and I have stayed by his side all these years, unlike what you did to Ahijah so long ago.”
“Tirzah, just listen. Please.” Rizpah paused only a moment. “As I said, they caught me—it was a trap, I’m sure, because he got away.” She ignored Tirzah’s repulsed grimace. “They dragged me to the square, and stopped a rabbi there. They asked Him what they should do to me, expecting Him to answer as they all do—‘stone her.’ But He just looked at them, and then stooped and started writing something in the dirt.”
At this, Tirzah’s eyes widened. Stooping in front of the teachers of the law was an act of disrespect. Who was this rabbi? A bold one, for sure.
“They kept asking Him what they should do, and then He stood back up and looked at them again. Finally, He said ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ ”
Tirzah was astonished to see a look of deep love and wonder in her sister’s eyes. Never, not since before the Act had Rizpah carried this look in her midnight eyes. Always they had been cold and vacant, like an empty well.
“Then He bent back down and started writing in the dirt again. I knelt there, covered in dust and muck, and watched as, one by one, with the older ones first, they all left. When they were all gone, He straightened and looked at me. Oh, Tirzah—His eyes, they…they were so full of love and compassion, and yet a deep shadow, too. But He said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
“ ‘No one, sir,’ I said.
“ ‘ Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.’ ”
Tirzah stared, wide-eyed. “Who is this man?”
“Not just a man, Tirzah! The Messiah! I am sure of it. His eyes told me. I could tell!”
“But, but—”
“Tirzah! What are you doing? You’re needed in the house.”
Tirzah started at her husband’s call. Turning on her heel, she shouted back to her sister, “That’s blasphemy, and you know it. If this man is the Messiah, then why hasn’t he delivered us from the Romans’ iron fist? Why didn’t he erase those seven years from your life and let you start over? If he’s the Messiah, why didn’t he save my daughter from the fire?”
“The…fire?” Rizpah looked taken aback. “What fire? You had a…daughter?”
“Yes, Rizpah, I had a daughter.” Tirzah stopped mid-stride. “Two daughters, in fact, but only one escaped from the fire the Romans started—the fire that almost killed our—my entire family.” The fact that her sister was still in disgrace did not escape Tirzah’s notice, hence the hasty exclusion from the family.
“Tirzah, I don’t know why the Lord allowed those things to happen. But don’t you see? He has erased those years from my life. Or has given me the next best thing. I know those years will always haunt me, will always dog my footsteps with irking persistency. But He’s given me a new beginning. I wasn’t condemned, don’t you see? I’ve resolved to leave my life of sin. Even if my entire family continues to disown me—I have something better.”
“Something better?” Tirzah shot back. “What could be better than a loving family and faithful spouse? Or, what could be better than the luxurious life you were leading?” She stopped short, seeing how her words had stung.
“It wasn’t luxurious, Tirzah,” Rizpah choked out. “I felt empty, and betrayed.”
“Betrayed? Oh—”
“I know what you’re going to say, Tirzah, and I know that I was the one who betrayed Ahijah. But you wouldn’t understand. Please. Will you forgive me?”
“Forgive you? After all you’ve done—all the hurt you’ve put us through, all the disgrace you’ve thrown wantonly on our family, you want me to forgive you? It was easy enough for that rabbi not to condemn you. He wasn’t put through all that pain and disgust that we were. But I—no. No, Rizpah. I can’t.”
Rizpah looked hurt, but only for a moment. However, instead of the black blaze of fury Tirzah was sure she would see, Rizpah’s midnight eyes held a depth of emotion that Tirzah couldn’t grasp. Neither could she understand it.
Whom was this woman standing before her? It looked like Rizpah—had the same honey skin and curling black tresses—the same high cheekbones and black eyes—but, no. Her eyes—they were different. No blazing fury or vacant apathy filled the ebony orbs. No bitter defiance or condescending hate pooled there, spilling onto her face in the form of lavish paints and eye make-up. Instead, there resided an inner peace and unfathomable understanding. This tender passion caressed her beautiful skin in unthought-of ways. Dusty tear-tracks, smeared kohl, and bruise-marks all testified to the sudden change that had occurred in her sister, somehow.
“What happened to you, Rizpah? What happened?” Tirzah whispered in wonder, and then marched abruptly inside.
Tears of compassion collected in Rizpah’s eyes as she watched her younger sister walk away. “I ran from God, Tirzah. I ran from God, and he pulled me back and whispered words of love in my undeserving ear. And I turned from my life of sin. That’s what happened, sister.”

◊†◊

Weeks later, Tirzah sat shelling lentils in preparation for dinner. Her mind was not on her task, though. Ever since Rizpah had come seeking forgiveness, a nagging feeling of regret had filled Tirzah’s mind, casting a cloud over her life.
Had she done the right thing?
Of course.
Or had she? Who was she to condemn and forgive?
But she wasn’t condemning, and the Lord had said to forgive…
He had also said to stone people of Rizpah’s kind.
She was her sister!
This was silly. Tirzah gathered her lentils and stepped inside her home, intending to finish supper preparations. A quick glance in the water bucket presented the need for water, and sighing, she set off to the well.
Once there, she lowered the bucket into the dark, abyss-like hole, hoping to finish quickly. Women and girls of all ages milled about, some waiting for their turn to draw water, and others gossiping about the latest happenings in Bethany. Gradually, Tirzah picked up the conversation of the nearest group of women.
“…He’s returning to Bethany today, they say.” Said one woman.
“Yes, and He’s staying at the home of Simon the Leper, though I can’t imagine why.” A second informed.
“They say He’s the Messiah, but I have my doubts.” The first woman enunciated loudly.
“Well, I for one believe the rumors. Did you hear about the miracles He’s performed?” A third woman asked.
Curious, Tirzah started in the women’s direction. A suspicion glimmered on the edges of her mind, but she withheld it. She had to be sure.
“Who is this Messiah you talk about?” She inquired when she was standing among them.
“Why, Jesus,” the first woman said.
A strange sensation raced up and down Tirzah’s body at the name. Jesus. “What is so great about him, and how do you know he’s truly the Messiah?”
“We don’t, but it is hard not to believe it. I envy the ones who travel with Him. He’s said to be a great teacher, and perhaps even the Christ, though I have never seen Him.” Said the second.
“Well, no matter. I must get back to my husband.” The first woman left, and the others soon followed, leaving Tirzah standing with her thoughts.
Could it be the rabbi who let Rizpah go?
Silly. It couldn’t be. Never.
But what if he was? Should she go see?
Nonsense. She didn’t even know what he looked like. How would she know?
Jesus. His eyes. His eyes, Rizpah had said.
But she couldn’t go before him dressed like this, even if he was the Messiah. She was only a commoner. If he were the Messiah, which surely he wasn’t, she would have to come bearing gifts.
Come as you are. Bring only what you have to offer. It is enough.
Stupid, silly girl. Who could possibly—
Tirzah silenced the dark voice and started on her way home, heedless of her empty bucket. She had to do something. Anything. Everything.

◊†◊

Once she was home, Tirzah dumped her bucket in the corner and ran through the tiny house, searching. There had to be something she could bring. Running from corner to corner, she combed the rooms. Then, in her wooden chest, she found it: the alabaster jar of nard—one of the most expensive perfumes in all the land. Tirzah had received it from her mother, whose mother had entrusted it to her. It had been in the family for three generations, and she had been keeping it for a special occasion, or for when they needed money. It had to be enough. It just had to.
Clasping the jar to her chest, Tirzah ran from the house, ignoring her husband’s calls. She knew what to do.

◊†◊

Tirzah knew exactly where Simon the Leper’s house was. Everyone did, so they could make a wide berth of it. Tirzah, however, was about to perform the unthinkable.
Running through the narrow, crowded streets, often stumbling in her haste, Tirzah hardly gave a thought to what she was about to do. All that crossed her mind was ‘hurry!’ Gradually, though, dark thoughts crept into her mind. Always there was a gentle whisper to counter them.
What if He isn’t there?
I will always be here, beloved. Come and drink of my love.
Stupid girl. What would He want with you?
I will gather My people to Me as a shepherd gathers his flock about him.
Don’t listen to Him!
Be still, My child, and listen to My voice. Always will I guide you in the paths of the righteous, if you but call My name and repent.
The dark thoughts left her at the third answer from the Voice. As Tirzah wove in and out of the throng of travelers, merchants, and locals, she pled repeatedly that He would be there, at Simon the Leper’s house.
Finally, after many twists, turns, and stumbles, Tirzah came upon Simon’s home, set slightly apart from the surrounding buildings. Slowing her reckless pace, the woman calmed her breath and racing heart. As she stood before the low-roofed house, Tirzah rethought her actions. Should she really do it? Yes, of course. The quiet Voice inside her head had made that clear enough. Glancing down at the alabaster jar clenched in her tense fingers, she thought, I don’t have to pour all of it out. I’ll just spill a little onto His head, and then I’ll leave soon after. That way He won’t ask questions, and Asa and Jochebed won’t miss me.
With steeled nerve and trembling heart, Tirzah set one foot in front of the other, advancing into the house she never thought she’d enter. The cool shadows washed over her, and she pushed back her shawl. Eyes growing accustomed to the darkness, Tirzah padded softly towards the sound of voices.
Abruptly, the narrow corridor ended, and she emerged into a long, low room. Reclining about a table were many men—perhaps fifteen to twenty. Swallowing hard, Tirzah advanced. She searched the faces of the men present, hoping, always hoping. Would He be there? Suddenly, she saw Him. He had been watching her ever since she had set foot in the room. As she looked into His eyes, Tirzah finally understood the measure of peace and understanding that had pooled in Rizpah’s eyes those weeks ago. For she beheld the same emotions in the depths of Jesus’ eyes as He gazed at her. And looking into those eyes, Tirzah did the only thing she could do. Breaking the bottle, she poured the perfume on His beautiful, holy head.

◊†◊

“Foolish girl!” One of the men cried out, his voice hot with indignation. “Why waste this perfume? It is worth a year’s wages. Why, you could have sold this and given the money to the poor.”
Tirzah stopped, her hands trembling. Had she done the wrong thing after all?
“Yes! How could you? You wasteful, ungrateful wretch! Look, you have just poured out food, drink, and money! Stupid!” Another man spoke up, voicing his anger.
One by one, the men hurled insults at her, rebuking her harshly. Tirzah shrank back, tears trembling on her lashes. Oh, God, how could I have done such a thing?
“Leave her alone.”
The quiet, commanding voice silenced the flying reproofs and established an air of calm in the dim room.
“Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Tirzah’s heart lodged in her throat. What was He saying? She had done a beautiful thing to Him? But she had just wasted a year’s wages! How could He not rebuke her?
He turned to look at her once more, holding her eyes with His piercing gaze. “Go, My child. You have done all you could do. You have brought all to me. Go in peace, and go in forgiveness.”
And then she remembered Rizpah. Forgiveness. Rizpah. Go. All.

◊†◊

Running from the room, Tirzah went in search of Rizpah. She had a message to deliver, a message from her heart. From the depths of sisterly love, she had a message.
Rizpah, I forgive you. I love you and forgive you.
That’s all I can do.

6 comments:

Jo-snazz said...

Wow, that was good. Where did you find it?
~Joanna

Ellie said...

I wrote it. After I heard a sermon at our church. Like it says, it was Inspired by God.

Eärwen said...

I can't wait to read it! :)
I dont' hvae time right now, but I will!

Sarah said...

Oh. My. Gosh. ELLIE THAT WAS THE BEST STORY EVER!!!!!!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU WROTE THAT!!! :D:D:D:D:D:D:D That was AMAZING. You are an AMMAAZZING writer. :) I love ALL of your stories/books :) keep writing!!

IdinaTook said...

WOW! Nice. DANG I wish I could write! :P I just do it for fun, but I know I stink. haha! lol

So, yeah, don't worry about giving me feedback on my writing. I am redoring the last part. :D

Hannah said...

Thanks for the comment! *laughs* I have five younger sibs! :D

Blessings,
Hannah

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