Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Second Chance

A voice from far away was calling her.  “Joanne?  Joanne?  Can you hear me?”

Do I really have to wake up?  Just when I was getting comfortable… “Hmm?”

“Wake up there, dear.  Time to wake up.”

“But I was having such a pleasant dream…”

The voice was male.  And old.  It didn’t crack or break in any way.  But it still sounded as coming from an old man.  And he was surprised. “Really?  What was it?”

She pondered for a moment. “I’m not sure.  I don’t know it really matters.  It was kind of fuzzy, but bright.  It was just… pleasant.  It’s been a long time since I was comfortable falling asleep.  You know, I’m sure, how difficult it is to remember a dream just after waking…” She stopped in shock.  Her eyes opened to a older man in a long, white robe bending over her.  “Wha?  Who are you?”

He nodded at her, as if she had not asked a question at all.  “Yes, I know.  There are many things that I am happy to forget.  You too, I am sure.”

She tried to back away from him, but found that the bed wouldn’t allow her to. “Excuse me, sir?  What are you doing in my bedroom?”

“Actually, Joanne, you are in my bedroom.”

Joanne opened her eyes.  He was right. The walls were bright, not covered with smoke residue and mold.  It was constructed as if from adobe, and the doorway was curved and thick—maybe a foot thick.  With no door at all.  Apart from the bed, where she was covered with only a thin, white sheet, there was only a desk, a closet and a full length mirror to mar the perfect emptiness of the square room.  It was small, but she’d lived in smaller spaces.  Heck, she’d lived in tents. Before.

“This isn’t my… why… it looks all strange.  As if I’m in a foreign land.”

“Actually, dear, you are home.  For the first time.”

She looked at him hard.  He seemed almost familiar.  Clearly an older gentleman, balding with a white beard.  But his olive colored skin had few wrinkles to blemish his open expression.  Still, there he was.  With her.  Alone in this strange room. “Again, sir, I ask.  Who are you?”

He spoke quietly, “I am Avraham.”

“Your name is Abraham? Not Abe?”

He chuckled, then repeated, “Avraham.  With a ‘v’.  At least, that’s how I’m used to having it pronounced.  And I think you might think of me as ‘the’ Avraham.”

“The” Avraham?  Lincoln?  No, wait…“Abraham in the Bible?”

“That’s the one.”

Realization came over her.  She wasn’t in a hospital, or her room or with a friend.  She was alone, talking to this nice but odd gentleman.  If he really was Abraham…

“So… I’m dead?”

“Do you feel dead?”

Joanne stretches her hands and arms out, feeling the strength in her body.  “Well, if this is dead, then I wish I would have died a long time ago.  I feel great.”

Avraham chuckles.  “I do too.  Unlike you, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

Joanne stares at him, confused.  “Where are we, then?  Heaven?”

“Better than that, my dear.”

“What could be better than heaven?”

“The Kingdom.”

“Isn’t that heaven?  I mean, it’s called the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“Yes, that was Matthew’s term.  But it’s not in the spiritual plain.  It’s here on earth.  And trust me, you wouldn’t have wanted to be without a body.”

“But I’ve been working so hard to be in God’s presence.”

“And you will be.  Truly.”

“I thought I would finally be free from my body—this cursed body.”

“This body you have now isn’t cursed.  It is glorious and perfect.”

“Now isn’t the time for fleshly compliments, sir.”

“I didn’t mean that in a sexual way.  I am much past that,” he chuckled.  “Look at yourself in the mirror.”

Joanne gets up off the bed and marvels at the strength of her legs.  She has never felt so light, so energetic.  

After standing for a moment, she spun in a little dance.  I’m so lightheaded, no, wait.  I am thinking so clearly.  This isn’t lightheadedness.  I don’t know what it is.  I wish it would just last for a moment more before the darkness descended.  Walking across the room was like walking on air.  The room seemed so light, so joyful.  Joy.  I’m happy.  Have I ever been happy before?

“Come here, child, look at yourself in the mirror.”

She almost skipped to the full length mirror then stood before it, almost unable to keep still.  Before her was a complete stranger.  “She’s beautiful”

Avraham smiled.  “She’s you.”

Joanne shook her head, but Avraham spoke before her, “Look at the face, dear.  The same nose, the same sky-blue eyes—you just don’t have your brow descended over them.  And you are smiling.  Have you ever seen yourself smiling before?”

She hadn’t.  It really is Joanne, standing before herself, amazed.  Her eyes were wide, and yes, they truly are sky blue.  Why have I never seen that before?  It is like she had never seen herself before.  She looked down and noticed something even more remarkable.

“I’m nude.  In front of a man.  And I don’t care.  I don’t feel ashamed at all.”

“You are past shame, dear.  We are family, and we can be nude before each other if we want, because there’s nothing shameful about it.  Like I said, I am past sexual feelings.  And so are you.”

“But I don’t look old.”

“And I do?”

She tore herself away from her new beauty and looked at him.  “You are… ageless.  I have no idea how old you are.  You are… almost… young and ancient.  So wise.  So kind.  Like the perfect grandfather.”

He brightened even more than before, “Thank you, my dear.  That’s how I feel.  And I love you like your grandfather was never able to.”

She started and looked out the door, “Is my grandfather…”

“Please, don’t fret about the past, my dear.  Everything that was old has passed away.”

“I’m not afraid.” She remembered clearly her grandfather’s face, twisted in anger, as she sat crumpled, blood streaming from her nose.  That image haunted her throughout her life, fearing that the next person she met would be him.  Why am I not afraid?  She thought of him with sorrow, certainly, but without the anxiety of the next punch.  Is it because Avraham is so unlike him?  Or because she is so different.

Avraham continued to smile, “I’m sure you are not.  It is so wonderful to see you like this, my dear.  You are so brave.  I admire you so much.”

She cast her eyes down, remembering who she really was.  “I’m not so brave.  I’ve been a coward all my life.” Although her face expressed guilt, she felt none.  What have I become? Some shameless slut?

“On the contrary, you are the bravest person I know.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I know you better than you know yourself.  You are famous, you know.”

She laughed aloud. “That cannot be true.”

Avraham cocked his head at her, “What reason would I have to lie to you?  What’s the last thing you remember?”

She thought back to her grandfather again… no, not that far back.  “My friend was talking to me.  She’s from that church I go to sometimes.  Lindsay, that’s her name.  Huh,” she pondered, “I could never remember her name before.”

“And what were you doing when she spoke to you?”

“I was preaching.  About the Beast.”  She pauses, considering her message.   “It came, didn’t it?”
Avraham’s face fell.  “Yes.”  He was almost in tears.   Yes it did.”

“A government that was determined to destroy every last remnant of love of God.  And it did so by destroying those who loved God.”

“Yes.  And what else happened?”

“The police came.  Oh dear, did I call them the Beast?”

“Yes, dear.  But it’s alright.”

“No wonder they kicked me.”

“He didn’t kick you because of what you called him.  He kicked you because you were right.”

“He was the Beast?”

“A part of it.  The Beast is a whole system of people organized to destroy Yahweh’s glory.  To be so concerned about security that they would destroy anyone who threatened it.”

“Did he consider me a threat?”


“I was so afraid… how could he think that I was threatening?”

“Because he read your features too well.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“The police work very hard at reading non-verbal communication, especially facial expression.  They focus on two features: an expression of guilt and an expression of enacting violence.”

“There are expressions for that?”

“Not exactly.  But there is an expression of fear, which is the same expression of being caught.  And there is a wildness in one’s eyes that some have when you have lost control.  You, my dear, had both expressions.  But the officer misread them.”

“I would never have hurt him.  I thought he was going to attack me!  I knew that he was!”

“And he did, because of the fear in your heart.”

“But fear is no reason to attack someone!”

“No, dear.  But among the gentiles it is common.  Now, let me tell you something about your story you didn’t know.  Your ‘friend’ Lindsay was seeking you out specifically.   She had seen your behavior and was fearful of you.  So she decided to get you into a mental hospital.  So she met up with you on the corner with a recording devise. She brought it so she would have proof of your insanity.  And there you were, on the corner, saying what she considered to be ‘crazy talk.’”

“But I really saw it.  And God told me to speak.”

“I know, dear.  But even if she had known it, she would have labeled you schizophrenic and been more determined than ever to lock you up.  After the police killed you, she gave a copy of your speech to the officials, and she also posted a copy of it on the internet to defend the officer who killed you.  Carefully doctored, of course, so the officer could be held in the best light.  But it contained the entire recording of your speech.  Well, not the last sentence or two.

 “A few years later, as the Beast truly arrived and started working within churches against the true lovers of Yahweh, the recording was rediscovered by these oppressed religionists.  They passed it around on the internet, and made transcripts of it and it became a message of hope and strength as the lovers of Yahweh dwindled.  Martyrs died quoting your words on their lips.”

“And this is how I became famous?”

“Yes.  Perhaps only among a certain group, but you became one of the most important Christian figures of the last days.”

For a few moments, she sat in stunned silence.  “But how could you possibly call me brave?  I had no control over what I said.  It was a compulsion.”

“I love your false humility!  Don’t you remember who you were?  You were the most frightened woman in your town.  You ended up on the street because you feared your family and anyone else who might offer you help.  You ended up in church only because the Spirit compelled you to, not because of any good reception you received there.

            “Before any resurrection is completed, there is a brain and personality scan done on every raised body. There is an ideal model which each brain is compared to.  There are infinite excellent variations to each model, but genetic modifications from generation to generation caused many terrible flaws.  Before a person’s resurrection is completed, we make minor adjustments to perfect such minor flaws as make it a trial to live in the Kingdom. I have read your file.  Your fear capacity was over the top.  This has been corrected, as well as your schizophrenia.  Yes, you really did have a mental illness.  It wasn’t all demons. Or God.  Your schizophrenia made it more likely for you to accept messages from the spirit world, both good and bad. But your brain was dysfunctional.  We’ve corrected that.

            “My point is this: Before you stood at that street corner, as the police spoke to you, you were crazy with fear.  You were overwhelmed with it.  But, despite that, you stood and did what God wanted you to do.  You said what needed to be said.  You did it despite your crippling weakness.  And because of that, you brought a message of strength to the one of the most oppressed groups that ever lived.

            “You, my dear, are a hero of the highest order.”

Despite the surprising lack of guilt she felt, Joanne’s relief was immeasurable.  She was so overwhelmed by her joy that tears spilled from her eyes, descending quickly down her face.  “I—   I’m not a bad girl?”

Avraham’s eyes became moist as well.  “No, my dear.  You were very, very good.  We are all so proud of you.”

If it were not for the new strength in her limbs, she would have collapsed.  As it was, she fell  upon Avraham’s shoulders and sobbed on his shoulders.  He knew, though, that she was not unhappy.  He knew that she had needed this for a long time.  He held her, patting her on the back, crying tears of joy for her.

            After many minutes of washing her guilt and weakness away from her, she stood and wiped her face.  “I feel… I feel so good!  I’ve never felt so good! I could just… sing!  Have I ever sung before?  Out loud?  Maybe in church, in a whisper.  But I just want to… shout!  Run!  I’m ready for anything!”

Avraham laughed, “So, then!  Are you ready to meet Yeshua?”

“Yeshua, who’s that?”

“You would know him as Jesus.”

“Jesus… Jesus!  He wouldn’t want to meet me…”

“Stop that!  Of course he wants to meet you.  He’s been waiting for you.  He wants to thank you personally for your bravery. And give you your first task.”

“Jesus himself…”

“The very one.”

“…Wants to thank me.”

“He’s in his public room.  There will only be a few hundred there before Him.  But I need to let you know that hundreds of thousands will be watching from afar.  You’re very popular, you know.  Oh, yes, I told you that.”

“I couldn’t possibly… wait.  Actually, you know what?  I CAN do that.  I’m looking forward to it, actually.”

“There’s my girl!  Let’s get you dressed properly.”

“What have I to wear?  I’ve never been at a formal public function before.”

Avraham laughed, “In Jesus’ court?  A white robe, of course.  It’s in the closet.”

Joanne dressed quickly, then requested some tools to fix up her hair.  Avraham nodded, “I’ll get you an attendant who will help you get fixed up.  I’ll leave to get the public room ready for you.  I’ll see you again soon.  But I just wanted to ask you one question before you left.  In your life, have you ever felt that you wanted to start life over again?  To clean up your past mistakes and to do things right?  Have you ever felt like you wanted a second chance?”

“So many times, you can’t imagine.”

“Well, my darling, this is it.”

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