Journey for one

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He is here! An inner force compels me to this place. I must try it. 

I know about Him, the Rabbi, the Healer from Galilee. What is He doing so far from Judea? Escaping from Herod? 

It’s reported the Jewish prophet, John the Baptiser, is dead, beheaded at Herod’s word. Is the Rabbi hiding here? I’m told the religious leaders hate Him too. Why do I even try to see Him? He won’t listen! He’ll pull away like all the other “pious” Jews, afraid of contamination from my shadow. 

Unclean, heathen, sinner! Why do I lower myself? Where is my dignity? What possible chance is there?

O my girl, my precious child! Each morning we face the battle together, my heart girding itself for one more exhausting day. Only a few hours of unsettled sleep, always ready to jolt up at the merest whisper or slightest rustle indicating Mahalath is restless, to take from her hand whatever she has armed herself with, or to stifle her shrieks, or to hold her convulsions close and tight. I am getting older and weaker, while she grows stronger. I know she doesn’t have the knife, it’s always with me. We need it to live; she would use it to die or to kill. For how much longer will I be able to restrain her? My child! My Mahalath! You are all I have! 

I warned you. I nagged, I threatened, I pleaded, but you only laughed and did what you willed, until the increasing horror in your darkened eyes spread to your words and actions, consuming your sanity. Did I open the way? Did I not do as I willed too? My precious child! You are the reason I am here, to endure humiliation and hatred, for any chance.

He sits, surrounded by His small crowd of followers. They watch me with varied curiosity, disgust, condemnation, pity. Defiantly I approach, avoiding the faces now, looking only at His feet. I have my speech prepared. His disciples stand firm, a protective shield, strong men from Galilee, I can smell the fish.

So I shout, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” There is no answer. Again I shout, and again only silence.

Then rough voices from around Him coaxing, “Send her away or she’ll never stop her shouting.”

No! He cannot ignore me, my last, my only hope. I have impoverished myself and Mahalath—our little that we had depleted by my offerings to the gods and their greedy priests, and going beyond, to present my tired body to worshippers at the temple of Tanit. Nothing! The gods are as cold and dumb as their idols.

Does He know? Do I repulse Him? I hear quiet movement and dare to lift my eyes from feet to face. His disciples have parted and I have direct view to Him. Surely His look will match that of His followers. For you Mahalath, everything for you. I steady myself, but with shock I see only gentleness and kindness, almost . . . yes . . . a welcoming compassion. Yet I also sense His purity, untainted and spotless. I shrink into myself as my own depravity rises unbidden in my memory.

His lips move with a voice of tenderness: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

My heart contracts in crushed hope. I cannot breathe. I drop to my knees, head to the ground, my arms stretching forward as if to grasp His sandaled feet. I hear swift motion around me, but no coarse hands seize or rebuke my presumption. I heave in a silent breath. Are we not also lost sheep, me and Mahalath? Not of the house of Israel but still lost lambs.

A radical thought. The cynical scorn of our priests, disparaging Israel and their One-Only-True-God, overheard as I served at Tanit’s shrine. “Look! Another Jew. Pah! Try to disguise themselves. Claim to have the truth. A light to all us polluted heathen. Hypocrites!” Am I . . . am I not then, a lost sheep that the light of Israel should shine upon? Should they not be looking for me?

With hope I shout, “Lord, help me!”

Again the tender voice, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Hope rises higher. They might not be children, but even dogs have a claim on their master. I lift my face again to His. Those clear eyes read my life, they see my degradation and my filth, yet only His concern for me shows, a one-on-one enclosed moment where only we two exist, encouraging me to speak. Yes, I can be called a dog, my own people label me such, yet the dogs are entitled to the leftovers.

“Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.”

A wild joy surges across His face. His hands raise with His eyes to His followers, pointing to them and then down to me, as if to ensure they concentrate on His next words. His shining eyes fix onto mine.

“O woman, your faith is great!”

Once more my heart contracts, but this time in beautiful hope, as those glorious words are spoken that my mother-heart seeks.

“It shall be done for you as you wish.”

A release of sobs burst out, as my all floods out to Him in gratitude and praise. Mahalath is free. I do not need to see it. I know it. His large, workman hands gently cup my face. His whole being is alight with that fierce joy; He is delighted with me! Again it is just the two of us, as I comprehend a pure love that has always been and always will be. The hands drop and already He rises, leaving, departing with those who came with Him, starting on that long, dreary 30 miles back to Galilee.

What a strange thing. He comes and then immediately He goes. 

Why did He come at all? No. No! How can it be? He came for Mahalath! He came for me!

Pam Driver attends Glen Innes church, Auckland, NZ.

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