Friday, March 29, 2013

The Miracle Rising

The Miracle Rising

     It hurt when the storm came. I had not felt that kind of pain in a year. It had always used to hurt before the rains came. But when this storm struck so unexpectedly that it did not have had time to hurt before. When the sky darkened and the wind and rains came, I felt that old ache again. It frightened me.
Then I heard what people were saying. I refused to believe it. When they said that The Teacher was dead I almost laughed. I told them what The Teacher had done for me. How could he die on a cross? When I saw his followers, they were crying. That huge man, one of the fishermen, he was almost as big as me and weeping like a child. I felt their anguish. I wept too. The Teacher was dead. I was so sad I almost couldn’t walk.
     Time before, I had gone for years without walking. And then The Teacher came to me. When he healed me, he gave me so much more. More than just by body was changed. I don’t want to ever forget that day.   

I am on the ground, leaning against the wall by the gate. This day my leg and back are hurting more than usual. It must be about to rain. The ruined bones of my back always ache more before a rain. Today, I decide I don’t want alms. I’m too furious. I shout curses at passersby. I curse the donkey that had kicked me and made me like this. People mostly ignore me. They give alms to the women or the elderly. A big man like me ought to be working. I would be working had it not been for that donkey.
Nothing is fair. Nothing is right. I should be walking around earning money. I had been a strong man. I used to lift heavy bails. Now I am starving and in pain against a city wall, relying on the whims of others to be able to live. My anger seethes and boils like burning stew in a cookpot.
Then I see him. The Teacher walking with a group of men. My anger grows even more. These men are laughing and talking. The Teacher must have said something funny because they all stop walking to laugh. Even The Teacher is leaning on his knees and wiping his eyes. When I see this group of men with their friendship and happiness I want to hurl my pain and misery at them. This is what I think: Even if it were to double my pain and suffering, I would share it with others so that they would stop being so cheerful. I want them to be miserable just like me.

Now on this dark day made my back hurt again. They said that the teacher was dead. They told me how he had been beaten and whipped and then nailed to a cross. The pain he must have felt. It would have been so much worse that what I ever endured.
I spoke the words aloud: “How could he have died? He healed me. The bones in my back were crooked and broken. I was in pain. He touched me and healed me. How then, how could he allow himself to be so hurt that he would die, bleeding and in pain on a cross?”
No-one knew how to answer me.
The rain began. This was no refreshing spring rain. This was a cold, bitter rain like the kind that comes and blots out the world, washes away the dirt and dust and then leaves everything bare, cold, wet and lonely. I let the rain fall on me. My bones hurt, but not the way they used to. Perhaps I only imagined the pain from years of it happening. Inside me, the sorrow hurt more.
Other people stood in the streets and let the rain fall. Still others ran for cover. I knew many of the ones who stood and let themselves be rained on. Friends of the teacher, those who had heard his words or felt his touch, including me, we stood in the streets and let the rain hit us. It hid our tears and we all seemed to want to wash away the anguish. His close followers were no-where to be found. Those followers had been with him that day.

I start shouting at The Teacher and his friends. The men look abashed. The Teacher, however, I can’t believe what he does. The man looks at me and smiles, almost laughs again. Youngsters will sometimes point and laugh at me. But a grown man usually doesn’t even look at me, even if he gives me alms. Now this man is looking right into my eyes. And he smiles. He smiles as if I’ve been with his group of friends and I ought to be walking and laughing with them. The insults and curses in me are stopped dead. I try to speak, but I can’t. What can I say to this man? I can’t ask alms of him now after all I had shouted at him. But he looks at me as if I had never said anything to him.
It’s like this: He seems to understand, even feel my pain and bitterness. The rage I show is on the outside. Inside I am hurting and miserable. And he sees through that rage. My insults and curses mean nothing to him. And he smiles at me as if he knows me and I’m his friend.
But this friendliness does not make me feel better. There is still so much darkness in me that I do not take well to his cheerful looks. So I began to try to shout again. The words are stuck in me and I can’t think of what to say. I repeat words and groan. I finally burst out an insult at his mother. One of the men with him lurches forward. And the teacher puts out his arm and stops him.
“That’s enough,” The Teacher says. Even though he’s not close to me, the voice feels like it is spoken next to me. Now he looks at me without the laughter. His look has expectation. He begins to walk toward me. The rage and pain in me seems to cower.  

The hours over the next day were full of sorrow. I met a woman who quietly told how The Teacher had changed her life. The way the story went, He had saved her from stoning. Another man talked of the blind seeing. There were even talks that The Teacher had raised a man from the dead. When I heard that, I was torn. I had been crippled. Then I was not. The Teacher could do these things. But then why was he dead?
The morning of the first day of the week I was bleary-eyed. I had not slept well, despite having a whole body, my bones felt like they wanted to ache. But I don’t think it was that. I think it was my heart that was in pain. I remembered the day He took my hand. I had felt such joy. I thanked him, of course. But as I stepped out into the cold morning air, I wished I had thanked him more.
Something woke me. I thought perhaps the earth had moved. I stepped outside. The sun was about to rise and I looked in its direction. The light blazed out and I shut my eyes and felt the air turn warm. What a simple pleasure. I used to curse the sun for spite. After that I used to enjoy the solitude and warmth of the sunrise. Now the loneliness…

“You’re hurt,” he says. Two words. Those two words spoken to me seem to say everything about me. Not just my ruined back and leg, but all the pain and sorrow that was with it. And he speaks it, not like an observation, but like he is, yes, teaching me something. He tells me I’m hurt as if I didn’t know. And the words startle me. Why, yes. I am hurt.
He is close to me. I don’t want to look in his eyes. I look at his friends milling about the gate. They are not disturbed by their friend stopping to talk to someone. A few friends are closely watching us. He’s standing over me now. I steal a quick glance upward. Had he asked me a question? No, what does he want?
Why can’t he just go away and let me shout in anger at everyone? There are days when the anger and shouting out are all I have. The rage sustains me better than bread. This is one of those days. I want to go back to raging. I need to. I’m beginning to feel out of breath without shouting. I want the man to move on. Instead he stands by and waits for me to say something.
I try to prepare myself to shout at him. I take a deep breath in order to yell at him to leave me alone. I choke out a sob. Inside I scrabble for the strength that comes from the anger. It’s gone. The rage has left me. Suddenly I feel so ashamed and exposed.
“No…” is all I can say. And then I begin to sob. It’s the same pain anguish I had always felt. But now it’s without strength. It’s hobbled, just like me.
He reaches down to my hand. As he takes it I try to pull it away. But I also let my fingers clamp down. His hand is rough like a workman’s. I look from his hand to his face. I have tears in my eyes. What has this man done to me?
Then I’m able to make out his face through my tears. It looks sad too. The man asks me what I want him to do.
What do I want? All I know was that I want my strength back. I used to be a strong man. But now the only strength I’ve known for the past years, all that sustained me through the pain was that rage. I want to hate again so I can ignore the pain.
How can he ask me what I want? And how can I tell him? I want him to leave me alone.
I choke out the word, “Go.”
At that he gently lets go of my hand. And when he does, a cold wave flows over me. The pain in my body sinks down beneath this feeling of loneliness that I’ve never felt before.

But that morning I didn’t feel lonely. Remembering that day was uplifting. For the first time in days, I felt as if I was not alone anymore. It was like the warm morning sun was my friend and had just given me an embrace. That warmth that came from the light was like something I remembered so well. Yes, it was like the touch of The Teacher. I smiled at the sun and thought words of thanks for its reminder to me of the touch of the teacher.
I didn’t retreat into my room. I took to the streets. My bones weren’t aching at all. The cool air and the warm light were invigorating. I almost felt like running. There was someone running in fact. I saw it was a woman. I thought she must be in danger. She was saying something as she ran, something to no-one in particular.
The woman turned a corner toward where The Teacher’s friends were staying. I walked quickly toward the street corner. When I turned it, she was already gone. I found myself running too. Suddenly a group of men, the followers spilled out of a door and came at me. Some looked angry, others confused. The woman was there, and her face looked like the rising sun.
Two men in the front of the group were at a full run and blew past me. The woman followed closely. I stopped one of the remaining men and asked him what had happened.
“He’s gone,” the man said. “They’ve taken him.”
I let the man go. He was gone? The Teacher was gone? He was dead. Did someone take the body? Why?
The men who didn’t run off stood in the street and looked bewildered. I must have looked the same. I looked in the direction the others had gone, toward the tomb. They couldn’t be lying. Was the woman mistaken or mad?
I walked away and wandered the streets, thinking. Somehow, I ended up at the city gate where I had sat on the ground just over a year ago. I found the precise spot against the wall where I had sat with my pain, rage and hate.

“Wait,” I cry softly. And I look, he’s still there. Through great pain, I reach up my hand to his. At that moment, all I want was his touch again. He takes my hand, oh when he takes my hand again, that coldness vanishes. Warmth returns. I don’t want him to leave me alone. I want to feel this closeness forever.
“I want to stop hurting,” I say. That hate and rage that I’ve held onto, it seems so small and insignificant now. I tell him, “I don’t want to hate anymore.”
And then he starts to pull on my hand. What is he doing? Pulling me to my feet? The bones of my back will rub together and I will pass out from the pain. But the strength, the warmth that I feel at his touch, I don’t want it to stop. And I hold tight to his hand.
And then there I am, still holding his hand, crying out, but not in pain. I’m crying out in surprise. I am standing. I can’t speak. The man’s friends are smiling. People around are staring. And the man, the man is laughing again. And then I start to laugh. I throw my arms around him and I lift him from the ground! The man’s friends cheer. The teacher lifts his hands and shouts words of praise to His Father. I have my strength back. It is as if it never left me. I set The Teacher down, throw both hands in the air and shout, joining the man’s friends in celebrating.

He had taken my hand here. I was pulled up out of it all. Not only was my body made whole, but I started a new life that day. He had made me new, saved me. The rage and hate retreated. As I listened to his teachings in the following months, the rage and hate went the way of the pain.
I had puzzled for days over why this man could save me and not himself.
Now his body was gone from the tomb.
Could that mean what I hoped it could mean?
And when the woman’s next news came out, I was one of the first to believe.

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