Several years ago at New Life we used to have Sunday evening experiences we called “Immersion”. We talked about immersing ourselves into the story of God and how that might shape our character. I’ve been doing a bit of creative writing lately, so I looked back at some of the pieces I used to write for those experiences. What follows is one of my favorites.
I am old now; older yet than the great-grandfathers and their children. My eyes are dim, but in the perfect clarity of youthful dreams I can still see my father. The sun has risen many thousands of times, and the earth yielded its fruit in season again and again since he has gone, but I will not forget him.
Most who ask me ask only about the day he left. Grasping for some tidbit of sensational news they gibber mindlessly on, hoping that in my great age they’ll confuse me into talking about something I’ve always kept private. But I’m not as confused as my age would indicate. I won’t give them the satisfaction of knowing. He left. That’s all I will say. He was there, and then he was gone, and I knew him no more except in the all-too-distant memories which enter and exit the pathways of an old mind cramped by too many other memories.
But in dreams I still walk the way I did as a child, the way where I know I’ll see him again. I walk through the fields lit by the early morning sun, past the big tamarisk tree that casts its long, pointing shadow towards the river. My dreaming feet don’t stumble as my waking ones would, and I pass through the river’s shallows, the water murmuring past the rock where we sat when I was young and my eyes clear enough to see more than just shapes and shadows on the edge of what is real. My feet still know the way, past the last clump of trees, now barren of their leaves, naked and stark in the cool morning light. When I go there I see him walking; walking and talking, though I see no one else with him. Mother has told me not to follow him here; that to do so is to violate his trust, but I’ve come regardless – come to see where father walks, and what is important enough to keep him from me.
Father knows I am there, but does not tell Mother I have followed. His eyes, like deep wells, are filled with the affirmation I so deeply desire from him; the knowing look which tells me my curiosity is alright, even commendable. And then he speaks: “Do you know why I come here?”
My words are eager with anticipation at his question. “Father, you speak, but no one listens. You walk, and no one walks with you. The others say you are mad, that you walk and talk to yourself, and that it is only madness that leads you out into the fields alone. They say you will be torn to pieces by some wild animal, and that will be your punishment and mine for your folly. But I see with my eyes, father, and you are not mad. But still I do not understand. I am sorry, father, I do not understand.”
And then Father turns his eyes upon me, and begins again to tell the story we have all learned from our mother’s knees. “In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth, Methuselah. Darkness was on the earth, which was without form and void of life, except that his Spirit moved like wind upon the waters. He created all that we see. The earth and all that lives upon it. The plants, the animals in their places he has made. The stars we see when the sky is black are his work. The sun to rule the day, by whose light we labor and by whose warmth we are sustained and the moon for the cool night – these he has placed with greatest skill. And what did he do last, son, last before he rested?”
“He made Adam, Father. He made our father from the dust of the earth.”
“Do you believe this?”
“I do, father.”
“No, son, do you believe? Not just because I have told you or because your mother has repeated it to you, but because you know it is real, because you believe the sons of Adam are the sons of Elohim who may once again walk in the fields with him in the cool of the day. He comes to walk with me, Methuselah. He comes to talk with me. Do you believe?”
“It is too much to believe this, Father.”
“Then you think I am mad like the rest have said?”
“I do not believe that either.”
My father puts his strong hands beneath my jaw and lifts my chin so my eyes can look deep into his own. He sees my doubt, and my fear, and how much I want to believe that which seems impossible. I see the compassion in his tender face. He is not angry, though I expect him to be.
I walked home with his eyes boring into my soul, wrestling with how I might believe such a tale. I resolved that I would follow my father until I believed as he did, until the eyes of my own soul were capable of seeing what he saw.
And so I followed. My own sons and daughters came in their time, and still I would steal away to see him walking and talking in the cool of the morning as the sun rose and the earth flooded with light again. I saw him look at my own sons, and knew the unspoken hope he carried, that I might believe so that they might believe as well.
Then came a day when I followed my father past the tree, beyond the stone, into the clearing behind the last, lonely trees and I watched as he walked and talked. From nowhere the trees shook with a wind I could not feel. The tall grass swept into a terrible frenzy, and Father stood with eyes only for me in the midst of a grassy sea heaving with an invisible storm. And then he was gone. And then I believed.
I do not tell of this day to the village gossips because I am ashamed. Embarrassed that I did not believe my father when he first told me. Humiliated knowing that despite his uprightness I doubted his integrity. They ask because they want something to talk about. I do not tell them because I want to believe; to believe that the sons of Adam may walk in peace with Elohim, who is pleased to walk with those who simply believe.