Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cora's Story: Part 3

(Ten years later)

“Mama. Mama! Let me in. I have news!” I had been sound asleep, dreaming of something soft and peaceful when the loud knocking woke me. My daughter, Hannah, who was usually so calm, was shouting at the top of her lungs in the middle of the night. I groaned as I got out of bed, noticing keenly that I was not as young as I often believed I was.

“What is it Hannah? Is it the baby?” I asked, worried now. My Hannah had just given birth to a baby boy several weeks ago, and I wondered if it had taken sick. “No, Mama. It is much worse than that,” she said dismally.

What could be worse than a sick child, I wondered. “Well, Hannah? What in the world could be troubling you at this hour?” I asked, slightly annoyed that she had not left me to my sleep if it was not my grandchildren.

“It’s Jesus. He’s been arrested and taken to Pontius Pilate, and they are going to crucify him tomorrow,” Hannah said, tears sliding down her cheeks. Inwardly, I groaned. Not this again. My Hannah had devoted herself to serving Jesus ever since the day that he ‘healed’ Isaac. I still did not believe it was his doing, but Hannah had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah as Mary had claimed.

What nonsense. My Hannah was fooled too easily.

“Hannah, don’t start with me. He’s not the Son of God, and maybe he did something to deserve crucifixion,” I said bitterly. I felt a twinge of guilt, and knew that I was lying. I had always taught my children that no one could do anything worth a death as horrible as being crucified, and here I was not even consoling my frightened daughter.

“You’re wrong, Mama. You’ll see one day,” Hannah said, real pain showing in her eyes. She got up and left, and I looked out the window and watched her walk down the street. I sighed heavily, knowing that I would be arguing with my daughter like this for days to come. I climbed back into bed, and Michael rolled over to look me in the eyes.

“I believe Jesus, Cora. Why don’t you?” he said, tears shimmering in his eyes. I looked at him in wide-eyed disbelief. He had never expressed any belief in this man, and I was shocked to see the faith he had showing passionately in the tears that slid down his face. “Michael! You can’t be serious!” I cried. He looked at me in sadness, and then rolled over again and went back to sleep. I tossed and turned that night, trying to make any sense of the crazy belief both my husband and daughter held with. They must be crazy!

Sleep did not come until the early hours of the morning, and when I finally woke up, it was past breakfast time. I opened my eyes and saw Michael leaning over me, trying to wake me up. “Cora, get up quickly. I need you to come with me,” he said gently. I figured he needed help with the chores and felt like a terrible wife for not getting up and making him breakfast. Quickly, I pulled on a warm dress, and pulled my shawl over my head for modesty. When my husband began to put on his shoes, I looked at him curiously. Where were we going? I was too tired to ask, however, and I made myself put my shoes on and follow him out the door.

“Michael?” I asked curiously. “Trust me, Cora,” was all he said. I yawned tiredly, and followed him along the road. We walked toward the center of the town, and I saw crowds lining the streets. Many of the people looked strained and some were even crying. I did not take long to wonder at this, though, since I was still befuddled from sleeping so late.

When we got up to the hill at the edge of town, however, I saw what was about to take place.

Michael had taken me to see the crucifixion of Jesus.

“Michael, no. I can’t watch this,” I said anxiously. No matter how much I disliked Jesus, I couldn’t watch him die!

“Cora, I need you here. You are my rock, and I need you to lean on. This is a dark day, and I, too, am afraid,” Michael said, his voice breaking. I looked at him in bewilderment. Never had I seen my husband show such emotion! Already, tears were coursing down his cheeks, and I had never seen him cry before. I resigned myself to the difficult day ahead, and allowed him to lead me closer to the front.


I heard metal hit metal, and I looked up ahead in horror. Mary’s son, the man called Jesus, was being nailed to the cross.


My stomach lurched, and I was grateful that I had not eaten anything that day. The noise was horrible, and I could barely stand still I was so agitated.


The third nail went through the man’s feet, and I looked at Jesus’ face. Agony and sadness crumpled the man’s face, and yet I could see his determination to not cry out. How could the man be so brave? It must have been excruciatingly painful, and yet he did not yell like the other men did.

For the first time in a long time, I saw something special about the man. Something that was not present in any man I had ever known.

Had I been wrong?

The soldiers hoisted the cross up, and Jesus hung limply from it, tears finally streaming down his cheeks. I looked to my right and saw Mary, my long-ago friend staring in horror at her song dying in such pain. Images flashed through my head, and I thought about how that could have been MY son. The pain inside my former friend was evident, and her face was streaked with tears, her chest heaving with sobs. I turned around, not wanting to watch Jesus die, and looked all around me.

There were more people than I had first realized. In fact, there were more there than I had ever seen gathered before. What hit me next was the looks on the faces of the people. Tears were evident on nearly every face, many were crying out to Jehovah for help. These people were followers of this Jesus, and I had never seen such a devotion to anyone before. It reminded me much of how my sweet Mary had been towards Jehovah before I had utterly abandoned her.

I turned around, and Jesus’ eyes met mine. In all of his pain, he still conveyed a compassion that broke my heart.

In that instant, I knew I had been wrong. Very wrong.

My knees buckled, and I fell to the ground on my face. Michael leaned down beside me, but I would not let him help me up. I sobbed, crying out to God to rescue me from my bitterness, and take my life instead of the life of the man on the cross. I cried for the years I had wasted and the people I had hurt, but most of all for the main barely breathing before me, who was being sacrificed for something he didn’t do.

“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried, and the anguish in his voice made me sob all the harder. Was that not what I had felt when I had disbelieved Mary? That God had abandoned me? How wrong I had been!

“It is finished.” Those quiet words, made everyone in the crowd look up and see that Jesus was dead.

The man who had healed my heart, now left the world, and I had not apologized to him. My grief overwhelmed me, and once more I pressed my face to the earth.
A soft hand on my shoulder made me look up, and through my tears I saw Mary.
“I have waited for you to believe, Cora, and now you have!” Mary said with hope in her voice. I was overcome with the forgiveness she was able to show me though it was people like me who had caused her son to be hung on a cross...

“Oh, Mary! How horrible I have been to you. I don’t know how you will ever forgive me, and now your Jesus will not even have the chance to listen to my confession of guilt!” I cried mournfully.

“Cora. He has heard it, and you are forgiven,” Mary said. I looked in her face and saw the truth shining in her eyes. Jesus had seen my sins and that was why he had died. So that I, a poor, bitter, begrudging old woman could be forgiven.
The weight of sin lifted from me, and I cried for all that I wish I could have told Jesus, but then Mary’s soft hand cupped my chin.

“It’s not over, Cora. It’s not over,” she said softly.

I did not yet know what she meant, but I let her take my hand and together we walked home, grieving for our Lord but hopeful for what was yet to come.

(I hope you have enjoyed my Christmas series. I have enjoyed writing it, and have felt God take my faith somewhere that it is not always at during Christmas when I am often preoccupied. I hope my words have given you a new perspective for the season. Merry Christmas!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cora's Story: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1...)
(Thirty years later…)

“Hannah, come here. Quickly, now!” I yelled. I was weary, and could not bear to call for my child another time. My husband, Michael, was several towns away, looking for work to provide for our family. We were married twenty-five years ago, and have only two children. Hannah and Isaac are good children, though they are often disrespectful and rude. I was nearly past my child-bearing years, and I wished desperately that we had been able to have more children. But God must not have meant it to be so, and I tried to remain content.

For some reason, however, I was always angry about something, and I could not do anything about the bitterness that I carried about within me. Deep inside, I knew that it stemmed from my jealousy of Mary. She had given birth to the “Savior” and he seemed like a perfectly normal child. There was nothing special about him. Although he is grown now, I have yet to see him save the world. Mary had gone on to have eight more children, and I was jealous of her ability to have such a wonderful family.

I have not talked to Mary since that fateful day when she told me of her pregnancy. I let myself stay angry at her, and, even now, I have no intention of forgiving her. What she did was just too wrong for me to let go of. Do I carry a grudge? Perhaps, but she deserves it.

Hannah finally came in from outside, her face red from the cold. She went straight to the fire and began warming her hands and cheeks. I watched my daughter and thought to myself how beautiful she was. Nearly twelve, she was nearing the age of womanhood, when she would think of marrying and leaving me. I tried not to think about it, but I did know that it was inevitable.

“Why were you calling me, Mama?” she asked. “I need you to find Isaac for me. I haven’t seen him all morning,” I said. Hannah nodded and went off in search of her brother. Isaac was forever getting into trouble, though it seemed that trouble usually found him. I sighed at the thought of bringing up such a rambunctious boy, but I knew that Michael was teaching Isaac how to be a man. Though he was only seven, he had a love for life that I admired.

When I watched Isaac laugh so joyously, it made me realize that something inside of me had died; the part that loved life and looked for the good in every situation. Bitterness and anger had become such a part of my routine, that I did not even try to change my ways.

“Mama!” came the cry from outside. I pulled a shawl over my shoulders and hurried outside to see what was the matter. Hannah was hunched over something in our field, and I ran over to see who it was.

It was Isaac. Nearly frozen, he lay collapsed on the ground huddled in a ball. I felt his forehead. It was a fever higher than I had ever felt before.

“No,” I breathed. It couldn’t be my Isaac. My beautiful, lively boy was laying there, closer to death than I had ever seen before. “Hannah! Run and fetch someone. The doctor. Someone!” I yelled. Hannah’s frightened face melted my heart, and I lay a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. As she ran off, I lifted my sweet boy into my arms and carried him inside. I wrapped him in blankets and tried to get him to drink water, but all he could do was moan and tremble.

My son was dying.

Hannah came running back with a man I had not seen in a long while.

It was Jesus. The man who I had come to loathe.

“What are you doing here?!” I screamed. Jesus looked at me calmly, taking my hand and leading me to a chair. I could not speak. Why was he being so kind to me? He went over to Isaac and sat on the pallet next to him. He took my son’s hand and looked at him with a tenderness I had never seen before. Part of me wanted to scream at him to stop touching my boy, but something inside of me stopped and I watched in wonder as he breathed words that I could not hear into Isaac’s ear. What seemed like only a moment later, a short gasp came from Isaac’s lips, and his eyes fluttered open. I hastened to his bedside, and looked into his face.

His fever had broken.

I looked at Jesus in bewilderment, and he looked back at me with eyes that told of something I had never seen before. I still do not know what it was, but I do know that it was something I had never seen in a man here on earth. I looked up to thank Jesus, but he had already gone, slowly shutting the door and leaving without expecting any thanks.

My bitter heart melted only slightly, and I realized that maybe I could be wrong. Months later, I had come to think of the miracle as only a coincidence. Jesus had only been there at the exact moment Isaac’s fever had broken. It wasn’t his doing. It was luck. Chance. Coincidence.

My heart hardened even further, and I thought that nothing could break through the wall I had built around my heart. Nothing could touch me and erase the bitterness encasing my ability to forgive.

Nothing could break me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cora's Story: Part 1

(Last year for Christmas I wrote a four-part story from Mary’s perspective about the birth of Jesus. This year, I am going to take a fictional perspective from a young lady named Cora, Mary’s best friend. No, she is not real, but I imagine that Mary must have had somebody like Cora in her life. So, without further ado, here is Cora’s story.)

It was unbearably hot. I could barely breathe from the oppressive heat, much less work inside my dirty, muggy house. I asked my mother if I could take a break and go visit Mary, my best friend. I was given permission, and so I began the five-minute trek to Mary’s home. While I walked I thought of all of the things Mary and I had done together. Since we were knee-high babies, we had played and laughed together. We were never separated for long, and I was grateful to have such a faithful, inspiring friend.

Mary was always sweet and kind, and I had rarely seen her become angry. I trusted Mary completely and knew that she was my faithful friend and confidante. Never had I had a reason to distrust her or doubt her words. After pondering all of this, I had finally reached Mary’s house. I knocked on the door, but no one answered. I could smell bread baking, and I knew that Mary or someone had to be home. I knocked louder, and upon hearing no response, I lightly pushed the door open. Peeking inside, I saw a strange sight.

There was Mary, on her knees in the middle of her family’s house, eyes scrunched shut and tears pouring down her face. I thought that surely something must have happened to her. Had someone hurt her?

“Mary. Mary!” I cried frantically. Her eyes flew open in surprise, and I saw something in her eyes that I had never seen before: wide-eyed wonder. “Mary, what has happened? Is it your family? Say something!” I pleaded. Her mouth opened and closed without uttering a word, and I was clueless as to what had happened to my poor, beautiful Mary.

“It’s all right, Cora. I’m fine. More than fine, actually. I’ve just seen an angel!” Mary said, glowing in a way I had never seen before.

“Mary, you must be feverish! Let me help you to your bed…” I soothed. “No, Cora. I am not feverish. I am with child,” Mary stated calmly. It was now my turn to open and close my mouth soundlessly. My Mary, my pure, honest Mary was pregnant. How? What had she done? Was it her fiancĂ©, Joseph’s fault? Who had done this to her.

She must have seen the thoughts racing through my head as she placed a hand on my shoulder and said, “Cora, I am a virgin still. This baby is born by the will of God. He is allowing me to be the mother of the son of God who will come to save the world from all of this sin and turmoil!”

Something inside of me snapped and I felt bitterness begin to flood my body. “How could you, Mary? How could you lie to my face like this! I may not be married, but I know of the way a child is conceived. That God gave this babe to you is a lie. A lie! How could you convince yourself of such nonsense? Do you really think that Joseph is going to believe that notion? Do you think he will be pleased with your news? I think not. Mary, how can you lie to my face?” I cried, real tears pouring down my face.

“Cora, please! I have not done what you say. I am a virgin!” Mary sobbed, pain and sorrow overshadowing her beautiful features. Anger rose up inside of me, and I shook Mary by the shoulders. “You lie to yourself, Mary. I cannot be friends with a hypocrite,” I said angrily.

Mary’s heart-wrenching sobs only doubled the pain in my heart, and I began to walk to the door. “Mary, I will not be back until you confess your sin and stop lying to yourself. I am no longer your friend,” I said coldly.
I put one foot outside the door and Mary said quietly, “One day, you will see, Cora. One day, you will know that I carry the Messiah.”

Bitterness hardened my heart and I sent one last angry look at Mary before stepping outside and slamming the door. My sweet Mary was a hypocrite and I would never look at her again. Never.
To be continued…