Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Promise

The farmer straightened up from his stooped position, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. He squinted up into the sky to check the sun’s position. It was almost time for the midday meal. He hoped that his wife would bring it to the field; lately she was doing this less and less, and time was taken up by his walking back to the tent to eat.

Laying his hoe aside, he took a drink from the skin water bag that he had set nearby in the dirt. For so much work, the return seemed meagre. Again, for perhaps the thousandth time, he thought back to the days “before,” when everything had been so incredibly different. In those days, work had seemed a pleasure, and the fruit of his labour had been immediate and plentiful. Now, he scraped and dug the earth in an almost desperate manner; if the rain did not soon come, the harvest would be scant at best. Nothing was a sure thing anymore, least of all the weather.

He fought the old urge to blame his wife. If only she had done the right thing, and obeyed their instructions. He knew it was no less his own fault, as he had succumbed to the same temptation, only with a clearer understanding of what it meant. He knew that his was the greater responsibility. But he was finding it hard to bear her presence. She was changing from the gentle helper that she had been into a bitter and complaining woman. They both knew the reason for their present plight, and it remained a huge stumbling block between them. They often resorted to blaming one another with cruel accusations that left wounds for days. He seemed to have no control over the things he thought, and so often he would blurt them out, horrified that he could even think such things, let alone hurl them at her like stones.

Everything was different now. Before there had been peace, and a feeling of security, of being “right” that had completely evaporated. Their days were now spent trying to survive in this harsh wilderness. In the garden, there had been much contentment, and a sense of purpose. That had disappeared, and time was now spent in getting by and dealing with the many difficulties that arose each day, from the bad weather, to physical ailments, to the fights and squabbles that broke out almost daily amongst their family.

Most of all, he missed the relationship that they had enjoyed with the Master. There had been nothing between them but the sweetest companionship and trust. That was gone, totally obliterated now. And he knew that there wasn’t anything that he could do to restore it.

In his mind’s eye, he looked down the long years ahead, seeing what might have been, and what the reality was now. Everything had been spoiled, tainted, ruined. Even the air was less fresh, the sky less blue, and the trees not as lush and green. Before the sun had gently warmed; now it burned with a fierce, oppressive heat. The rain that had softly fallen to refresh and renew would now sometimes pelt down with a force that threatened to wash away any frugal start that his planting may have made.

The farmer forced himself to leave this train of thought. It only ended in a sense of utter futility that sometimes immobilized him, and he had to keep going for the sake of those who depended on his efforts.

“Ah, there she is,” he said to himself as he saw his wife approaching, a basket over her arm. He put a welcoming smile on his face as he took the basket from her.

“How is your day going?” he asked, peering into the basket. “It is hot, isn’t it?”
“Yes, too hot,” she grumbled. “I have spent the morning down by the stream, bathing the younger children and letting them frolic about. They don’t seem to mind the heat.”

“Will you join me for the meal, or do you have to go back now?” he asked.

“I guess I could stay,” she answered, almost reluctantly.

They sat down on a patch of grass nearby, under the small shade of a sycamore tree. He looked at his wife, noticing the new lines forming around her mouth and eyes, and the look of weariness that was now her constant demeanour. He felt shame and remorse for the cruel words he had spoken during their quarrel the night before. Now seeing her with pity, he wanted desperately to somehow cheer her.

“You seem so sad,” he commented in a soft voice. “Have you been to the burial place?”

Looking downward at her lap, she answered with a choke in her voice. “Yes, I was there just now. I know I shouldn’t go so often. It is so difficult, yet at the same time I find a small scrap of comfort there.”

He broke off a piece of the loaf and handed it to her. “I wish I could make it better, take away your pain.” He would have gladly borne it for her. “I am sorry,” he said. “I have wished so many times that things could be different.” He stopped speaking, and stared blankly into his bowl of stew. There seemed nothing more to say. They both ate in silence for several minutes. For the moment, at least, they refrained from the old dialogue of bitter blame that had become their usual discourse.

They had lost two children. One as an infant, from a fever, and the other as a young man. He had been murdered by his elder brother.

There had long existed a rivalry between the two boys, mostly on the part of the elder. He had a jealousy of his brother that had become apparent even as he was a toddler and the younger not yet crawling. The rivalry had increased as the years went by, and climaxed one day, when bitter envy and rage erupted into violence that left the younger man dead in a nearby field. The farmer himself had come upon the body. Confused, he had turned his son over, trying to rouse him, thinking at first he was only asleep. Then he saw the blood, and the great sunken wound on his head. The pain from that memory was as intense today as had been first realizing that his son was dead.

As well as losing their son to a violent death, they had lost the elder as well. He had run off, and they had not seen him again. Eight years had passed since then, and it seemed that their grief grew no less.

“I will be going back now,” said the woman, gathering up the remains of their lunch. “Don’t stay late today. The sun is too hot.” She touched his arm, and taking his hand, gently placed it on her abdomen.

He looked questioningly at her, and then realized what she was telling him. “Another?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said with a shy smile. “I have known for some time. I know it is soon after the last one, but I am glad. They bring me such pleasure; they are like an ointment to my broken heart.”

“Then I am glad as well,” he said, taking her in his arms. She returned his embrace, and trembling, began to weep.

“I’m sorry,” she said, looking up into his face. “I really am happy. I know the children are gifts from God. He continues to bless us, even after our disobedience. He is so kind to us.”

“I know what you mean,” replied her husband. “I am thankful, truly thankful. I only wish I could change everything back to the way it was before. I know that is what you want as well. I am so sorry that I cannot make it happen for you. Please forgive me for my cruel words. I forgive you; I do not blame you for what happened. I take the blame for myself. Please, let us not quarrel any longer. It is done, but we go on. God has not abandoned us. Remember His promise......’the Seed of the Woman’. I will walk you back. Here, I will take the basket.”

As he was speaking, his wife had slowly relaxed into his arms. Now she wasn’t holding back her tears. They came in torrents. “I do forgive you, and I have been waiting for so long for you to say that you forgive me,” she managed to say between sobs. “Every day has been full of pain and regret. But if you forgive me, and God can forgive me, then I can once more know some hope and joy.”

As her tears abated, she handed the basket to him, and they walked slowly back toward their tent, arm in arm. Peace, long absent between them, settled in their hearts, as each said a silent prayer of thanksgiving.

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18-24 NASB)

Maureen Breakspear


Anonymous said...

For the Lord has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer. Isaiah 54:6-8

“The verse [verse 6] contains two pictures: one of a strained, narrow-eyed, embittered woman, and the other of a laughing bride with dancing eyes. This last term connotes all the happiness of the first days of marriage and expresses the way in which most men think of their wives in moments of tenderness — ‘the woman I married.’ But the laughing eyes have been turned into bitter eyes by broken dreams and scattered hopes. The bride has been rejected, and the fault of it is her own. Nothing is left but a life of going through the motions. But, wonder of wonders, her Husband, who is her Maker, calls her back to all that might have been and yet will be again.”

John N. Oswalt, Isaiah 40-66, pages 420-421.

Maureen said...

Dear Anon, thank you for the quote; it is so applicable. "You" always come up with great ones. That is a beautiful portion of scripture, showing God's mercy and love for His people.

PS: hope you are recovering well, and not giving "Mrs" Anon a hard time ;0)