The words didn’t come
If they came, the time wasn’t there
If there was time, the desire was gone
If there was desire, there was something else to be done
“I’ll try again tomorrow”
“First, God brought me here;
It is by His will that I am in this difficult place
…in that I will rest.
Second, God will keep me here in His love,
And give me grace in this trial
…to behave as His child.
Third, God will make this trial a blessing,
Teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn
…and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Fourth, in God’s good time,
He can bring me out again
…how and when He knows.
So, I am here:
…by God’s appointment
…in His keeping
…under His authority
…for His time.”
by Andrew Murray
The autumn winds were picking up across the now barren cornfields, as Jamin traveled anxiously atop his uncle’s lone riding horse, Cowboy. It seemed his pulse quickened with each new chilling gust. He found himself wishing he wore more over his ears than his brimmed Sunday hat, but he didn’t regret getting all slicked up for this night. Dressed in his finest, he journeyed anxiously along the forty minute trail into town.
The harvest was finally over, and the first frost was expected tomorrow. He’d worked hard all summer for his uncle, never asking for any time off. What he’d wanted to do was leave the farm behind and run away with the girl of his dreams, but he’d remained. Now the time had arrived to tell her just how he felt. Regardless of the outcome of this night, he knew it was going to be a defining moment in his life.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken a pleasure trip into town. A year had passed since his life had changed, and he knew he was still changing. Every day, he seemed to take one more step forward–toward hope. He could feel the ways God was shaping him, making him better. A year ago, he was entertaining thoughts of suicide. Today he was utterly smitten by life, by God’s love. It was nice to be doing something just because he desired to do it.
The wind carried Jamin and Cowboy along the dirt path, and the sight of the openness of the landscape surrounding him struck Jamin with a churning sense of awe he was unable to shirk. This world was inconceivably vast, yet he was allowed to experience only a small glimpse of it, and even that filled him with overwhelming awe. He was simultaneously lost in the love he’d been given, and reminded of how much he truly belonged in it.
As he approached a familiar tree-sheltered bend in the road, Jamin observed the steeple shooting up just above the tops of the trees. His heart warmed with the new memories he’d acquired in the one-room country church and school beneath that steeple. He’d attended with his mother each weekend since his life had changed.
The cool, shallow creek trickling beside the church was where he was baptized. It happened last May, when the chilling spring rains provided enough depth to allow a full-grown man to be submerged without having to lie flat on the pebbled creek bed. What an image it had painted in his mind of the way Jesus had washed away his sin on the day he’d given him his life.
Jamin’s niece, Bonnie, and two nephews, Joram and Clyne, attended school each week in this same building. One day, Jamin dreamed, he would walk down the center aisle arm in arm with Nina as husband and wife. He caught himself grinning then, and chided himself for being such a sap. It was all just a dream and he knew it.
Now, he remembered how slim his chances of success were tonight. He and Nina always found each other in the market, but they’d never spent enough time together to actually get to know one another. Nina wasn’t going to be expecting him, and he had no idea what her parents would think of a strange boy showing up at their doorstep. Had Nina told them about him?
Like a fly through a broken screen, a feeling of insecurity buzzed into his thoughts. He should just turn around now. Nina probably didn’t like him as much as he thought. Their attraction was probably all in his imagination. What if he showed up at the door–if he was even able to find where she lived–and she chased him away? Worse yet, what if her father got involved? Jamin didn’t know what he would do if a man tried to use force against him like his father used to do. He didn’t want to think about that.
Just as Jamin was about to give up and turn around, a loving reminder popped into his mind that brought him back to the present. With renewed peace, he remembered that he didn’t have to give in to his fears anymore. Whatever happened to him wouldn’t define him, because he was defined by the one who had saved him from himself. He could choose to say no to his fears and insecurities, and he did just that–this time.
With a prayer for continued strength, Jamin gave Cowboy a gentle nudge, and they moved forward at a slow gallop toward town. He was done wondering what was about to happen. It was time to experience it in real time.
Nina was growing. She was three inches taller than when she’d last hugged her father. Her mind was filled with truths that completely redefined her view of the world. Her heart was filled with emotions that she had never experienced in such extremes before. She was becoming familiar with emotions like hate and bitterness. The spite she held against her mother grew each day. At the same time, new emotions of attraction and desire were beginning to bud in her bosom about a boy, named Jamin, who was taking up more and more of her thoughts.
Nina was changing. She’d experienced more of life’s rugged truths in the last year, than in the rest of her life. It hurt.
Life had never felt so heavy, so sad, as it did right now. Her heart hurt. She was bearing a burden for her mother that she should never have been expected to bear. It wasn’t right. Her mother wasn’t right.
Nina wasn’t right. She was starting to wonder what right was these days.
Ever since that night in the dingy shadows of a broken lamppost, she’d been different. How was she going to keep living like this? How would she survive? Even the things that she’d once loved to do seemed like a challenge. She couldn’t focus. She couldn’t function properly. Everything was too hard. Even eating was a chore.
Nina tossed the fresh apple she’d just bought to the ground. She chided herself for being so wasteful, but what was the use? Who would know? Who would care?
It was market day again, and Nina had left with two wrinkled potatoes, some rubbery, wilted cabbage, and a half-eaten apple. Jamin wasn’t at his stand this week, just his uncle, Nathan. Nina had been too distracted by herself to even notice Nathan watching her–between helping his customers–trying to catch her eye. He was a kind man, she knew, but she had little interest in talking to anyone this morning. She wasn’t even sure if Jamin could have cheered her up this morning.
That thought made her want to cry. What was wrong with her? Jamin was the sweetest, kindest person she’d ever met! If there was one person in this filthy world that could make her smile it would be him, but it didn’t matter anyway. He wasn’t there. She wouldn’t see him for at least another week, and even if he did come to the market next Saturday, he would be too busy to spend any time with her.
Nina had reached her home now, but didn’t want to go in. She left her basket inside the front gate, and kept on walking down the block. She didn’t care where she went, as long as it wasn’t back to that house.
The voice jumped into her thoughts so suddenly, that it caused her body to jump too. She looked up with chills, into the eyes of her father.
“My gracious, child,” he exclaimed, holding his hands wide, “I hardly recognized you! You’re all grown up!” His arms were around her then, and she squeezed him back with all of her might.
He let go too quickly, but she stepped back anyway and looked up into his eyes. He seemed lower to the ground now than he used to, and she realized then just how much she really had grown. Her heart swelled up into her throat, and she could feel the tears coming back, but this time they were at least partly happy tears.
“Oh my, don’t cry, dear.” His eyes filled with concern, and he pulled her close again. She recognized the familiar smell of him, as she cried against his shoulder, and it filled her with such emotion that her quiet tears turned into sobs. He just held her then, and she was thankful that he didn’t ask her why she was crying or what was wrong with her. He was always so understanding.
“I am so glad you’re home, Daddy.” She whispered, and he squeezed her tighter.
How can you seek forgiveness,
If you don’t know who you’ve wronged?
How can you seek salvation,
If you don’t know you’re in danger?
How can you be unhappy,
If all you’ve sought is happiness?
How can you feel empty,
If you’re always filling up your heart?
How can you find fulfillment,
If nothing you’ve tried can satisfy?
How can you find the answers,
If you haven’t asked the questions?
How can you ask the questions,
If you don’t want to hear the answers?
How can you find God,
If you endlessly avoid His beckoning?
How long will you wait?
If you want to find God’s grace,
Why don’t you just ask?
A story is more than just an explanation of events. It reveals life. It unveils the unseen elements of everyday life that are not always noticed at the time they occur.
These are the reasons I love to write stories. I love to think back through a memory and pull out all of the thoughts that went along with an activity and recreate them on paper in such a way that even the simplest of moments seem almost magical in the way they all work together into something so much bigger than anyone could have imagined at the time of their occurrence.
It’s the bigger picture of life–the elements of life that show there is a purpose for even the most unexpected and coincidental of circumstances–that makes life so beautiful. It is the complexity of life itself that makes a story worth telling. I cherish the moments that come to me as such clear examples of this orchestration of events into a larger plan.
The morning after meeting the young stranger in the canoe was one such example.
I was moving before my eyes were even completely open.
The morning sun had just started to lend some light to my tree sheltered cabin, and, as my eyelids moved out of their sleeping rest, my eyes caught the silhouette of a fleeing intruder.
I grabbed for the large knife hidden just beside my bed, and lurched after the shadow.
“You can either stop now, or wait until I stop you!” I growled, “The former would be better for both of us.”
It didn’t work. The intruder dashed out the door, and I followed just a few steps behind him. My newly awakened body wasn’t extremely anxious about moving this much freshly awakened from a deep sleep, but I pushed forward and started gaining on him. The light was stronger in the clearing outside my cabin, and I could now see that the trespasser was none other than the young stranger I had been hosting. With this knowledge, I slowed my pursuit and changed directions. He was running toward the river, and I was pretty sure I knew why. If he was planning to lose me in the woods and then escape in his canoe, I would just beat him at his game and go straight for his canoe. I solidified my suspicion of his intent, when I realized that he really didn’t have any other options.
Why all the secrecy? I wondered again, as I jogged silently toward my writing sycamore.
I reached the canoe just as he came out of the woods a few paces downstream. Because of the darkness and the fact that he was spending more time looking behind him, he didn’t see me waiting by his canoe until he was only a few steps away. He shouted a yelp of surprise when realized my presence, but froze as our eyes connected. For a moment, the night was still again.
There was a dark stubbornness in his eyes, unlike any I’d seen before. I remember the thought crossing my mind, as our eyes locked for those few moments, that whatever he was running from had to have a real hold on him. He was a young man overcome by something he’d tried desperately to hide, and my lack of pretense was a language with which he was not familiar.
The stillness between us ended quickly, being that he was much less interested in waiting than I. Realizing that his flight instincts hadn’t helped him as he’d hoped, he went for the next best thing–fighting. He was surely a trained fighter, but I had a knife and he didn’t. Before he’d moved more than a step toward me, I gave him pause with the harshest growl I could muster.
“Don’t be a fool.” It was all I said, but the flash of steel from my hunting piece in the moonlight spoke loudly enough to convey my implications to him. He stepped back in aggitation, and threw the pack he’d been carrying down on the ground.
“Fine, if you want your junk back, you can have it. I don’t need it anyway! I can take care of myself.” He spat the words, more than spoke them, but his eyes were fixed on the ground. He was still such a kid; couldn’t even look a man in the eyes.
“If you needed supplies, all you would have needed to do was ask.” The sternness still hadn’t left my voice. “Why…”
“Don’t ask me any more questions, okay.”
For the first time since I’d met him, my young guest, intruder, thief had let down his guard, looked me square in the eye, and had spoken plainly.
“Look, I know I should have just talked to you, but things aren’t that easy. The more you know about me, the easier it will be for them to track me. I never should have stopped here, and I apologize that all I’ve been is trouble. All I really want to do is get far away from this place, and I would really appreciate it if you’d just let me go. If you have supplies that you’d be willing to give me, I would be very grateful, but I really just need to get out of here.”
He fell silent and his eyes fell too. The troubled youth that I’d seen looking through his eyes only moments ago, now enveloped his entire posture.
“You don’t need a fight. You need a friend.” My voice had softened now, and, stepping forward, I put my hand firmly on his shoulder. “I don’t know who or what you’re running from, but I do know you’re going to need a better plan if you’re going to make it in these woods. You won’t find many in these parts as gracious as I. You’d probably be dead if you’d broken into anyone else’s home tonight. You don’t know how to hunt, trap, or lie for that matter.” I waited for his reaction. “If you’re going to live the life of a loner, you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself.”
“I can take care of myself.” He interjected.
“I think tonight’s events prove otherwise.” His eyes admitted his agreement.
“Now, if you want to get in that canoe and head off into the darkness, that’s your prerogative, but these woods are not tame. The farther north you travel, the more dangerous they become. This river, for one, turns into white water just a day and a half upstream from here. Then there are the mountains, and the Namerians beyond them. If you want to survive, you’re going to need a plan. That’s just all there is to it.”
He stood looking torn for several minutes, then nodded like he’d arrived at some internal resolve. “So you’ll help me, then?”
I laughed, “Well, it appears I just volunteered myself!”
He smiled, but his determination had returned. “What do we do first?”
“I’d say we should move this canoe off the water to start with, but first things first. For the last time, what is your name, son?”
The last bit of reluctance fell away from him, as his eyes looked through the growing dawn into mine. “I am Gnamel, son of Leen, nephew of King Garman of Calderwood.”
~By C. Evans