The Interview.

“Right,” He said, eyes roving over her with interest, “What can you bring to the marriage?”

She looked at him as if he were the only man in the room; to her, he was the very oxygen she needed in order to survive, “I will love you with every fibre of my being. Until I die, everything that I am will be yours.”

He nodded slowly, “Right… erm, but can you iron a straight pleat in formal trousers? It’s really an essential skill in a woman, you know?”

Chosen.

A slightly longer story than my usual. Less than 1000 words, so a lovely quick flash-fiction read that I hope will convey my heart about children with special needs and (dis)abilities.

I have been wanting to write this for such a long time. My son is autistic and as most parents who have walked the diagnosis road will know, everybody has a different reaction to that initial diagnosis; those first words spoken over your child can be a breath of hope, or they can feel like the weight of all your dreams being crushed.

I have spent many hours asking God why my son has autism. Yes, it is part of who he is and I would never trade the incredibly quirky, beautiful personality that he has, because of autism, but he faces challenges that I would give my life to remove from him, if I could, also because of autism.

This is how my heart has made sense of the ‘why’s and the ‘how’s’ that stumble through my heart and my head at 3h00 am.

I hope that this story blesses you, and finds a home in someone’s heart.

Liezel

Come little one,’ He whispered,It’s time.

‘…I am so afraid,’ the small voice came haltingly.’ How will I know what to do?’

‘You are never alone. I will always be with you. You are so precious to Me.’

‘…but, how long? When can I come home?’

‘That, I cannot tell you, little one, not yet. You don’t need to know that. Yet. But, in the blink of an eye, you will be home again, and I shall be right here waiting for you.’

‘…can someone else not go… please?’

‘No. I have chosen you. You are the right one for this. In all of time there has never been anyone more perfect than you. Trust me. I have hand-picked you. My people have forgotten how to love each other unconditionally. I showed them once, but it is not an easy lesson for them to learn. They have built walls around their hearts for fear of each other’s differences. They look, but they do not see. They hear, but they do not listen. They strive for a yoke of perfection that I never placed upon their necks. Life has become trite. Expendable. Cheap. They need to be reminded just how precious they are, how fragile life is. How every little thing is a gift from Me. They look to the gaudy, the shiny tinsel, the outer; instead of the most important thing: that which is inside. Somehow, they have learned to weigh each other up according to some ridiculous scale of worthiness… and that which I value the most, a pure heart, they have disdain for. I am sending you, to remind those who you will encounter that I am the Author of Life. That every life is precious. That every life has value. That every life is from My Hand. That every fragile heartbeat is the melody of heaven. This will not be easy, little one, but I am with you. No matter what happens, remember that I will never forsake you. I will never abandon you. And soon, you will be home again.  I am so proud of you. You are perfection. And when they say that you are not perfect; not normal, remember this: You are perfect. You are a copy of Me. You are on a most important mission, little one, for you will show them how to love again. Without expecting anything in return. And they need to learn to trust, that I have made you perfectly, just the way you are. That I intended for you to be exactly the way you are. And some of them will question whether your life has value. Whether you might not be better off dead. They will say that it will be a mercy. And it will be frightening, I know, but trust Me. I am with you. Always. Now, go. I love you.’

The baby’s mewling cries finally filled the delivery room. It had been a hard labour for the exhausted woman, but she had waited so long for this moment that the pain that had almost torn her apart was already fading from her consciousness, driven by a flood of emotion. Finally. After years of waiting and hoping, she had given birth to her son. Her husband exchanged proud smiles with her. He was a father. At last. A lifetime of cricket games and fishing on Saturday afternoons lay before him. He thought his heart would burst with pride.

The infant had stopped crying and was now making soft snuffling noises. Wrapped in what had once been green sterile cloth, he was systematically being assessed by the paediatrician on call.

Abnormal characteristics were noted on a crisp checklist:  Apgar scores hovering disappointingly low; epicanthic folds on the almond-shaped eyes and a flat little nose. Assessed. Deviations from the norm noted with clinical impassion.

The doctor sighed. Such a pity. A shame, really. Now he would have to relay the bad news to this couple. Why couldn’t they all be born perfect? Medical science still had a long way to go towards ensuring that genetic diseases were eradicated, but, that was life for you. Taking a deep breath, he turned to the new parents with his verdict:

I am so sorry. But there’s something wrong. We’ll run some more tests to confirm the genetics, but your son has Down’s Syndrome. I’ll give you a bit of privacy. I know it’s a shock. But, with time you’ll grow to accept it and well, we’ve come a long way from putting these children into institutions.’ He gives them a forced, slightly too-bright smile. A panacea for the lifetime of hardship ahead of them. ‘He might have a happy, contented life, one never knows, but we can chat about your options once you’ve had some time to deal with the shock. Again, I am so sorry.

Quietly, unseen by human eyes, a Presence was standing next to the plastic crib that held the tiny little boy. A whisper through the ether heard only by soft, downy ears.

I am with you, my little one. I will never leave you. You are perfect. You are loved. I am here, and I will never leave. You are my chosen.’

— Chosen.

Stepping Stones.

He was not afraid of the walls around her heart.

Her defences were not to be conquered;

but gently dismantled.

One rock at a time.

Until the light shone into her darkest places,

and she could find her way out.

– Stepping Stones.

Blood.

For twelve years you bled.

Every day.

Twelve, long years you watched helplessly, as your lifeblood flowed away.

Unquenched.

Nothing could stop it.

No doctor, no healer, no remedy.

Nothing worked.

Nothing.

You must have been tired.

All the time.

The Bible speaks not of this, but it’s true… you would have been chronically tired.

Exhausted.

Anaemic.

I am sure that fear became your constant companion?

It must have.

I often wonder whether you were betrothed to someone?

Chosen, by someone, before…?

The Bible says nothing of this either.

Your personal life.

How old you were.

Whether you had ever known the joy of feeling a baby move within your belly.

Whether you knew the security of a husband’s love?

At least…. before.

But these are not mentioned.

Just that you bled.

For so long.

For too long.

The rest I read between the lines.

That you were desperate.

That you were scared.

Ostracised.

Alone.

Lonely.

Did you call out to Him?

Beg Him? For mercy? For healing?

For death?

Merciful, death.

Did you wonder where He was?

Whether He really cared?

I did.

My faith is like a wave on the ocean.

One moment it swells… full of hope… and then.

Crash.

Fractured.

Splashing into a million directions.

Paused for the next pregnant moment.

But you?

Did they whisper about you?

Did you try and go about your daily duties… the market… the washing… did you walk about with your head hanging low?

Knowing you couldn’t look.

It would hurt too much to see their faces.

The pity.

The disgust.

Knowing their piety is your shame.

Did they gossip amongst themselves?

Oh, righteously of course!

…about your sin?

Yes.

What evil you had done that made Him punish you as He did?

Did you carry shame like a mantel on your bowed shoulders?

Was your pain and loneliness etched like a map across features old-before-their-time?

The other women would have avoided you.

Everyone would have.

Everybody looking away as you slunk past.

Unclean.

Afraid to even look at you in case you made them unclean, too.

The shame, with you every day and nobody to help.

Nobody to free.

Unshackle.

You.

Unclean.

Did you feel that way?

Dirty.

Forgotten.

Invisible.

Unworthy.

She, who has no worth.

As if for a brief second, God turned His face from you.

Never to look upon you again.

I know that feeling, too.

Unclean.

Unchosen.

Did your heart, ache, dear one?

Did you feel a desperation so intense, that it almost tore the fabric of your being?

And then, that day that you heard of Him.

The One they called ‘The Healer.’?

Did you know immediately?

Did your spirit surge with hope, or was it just a flutter?

At first a quiet stirring?

Hope, singing in the dark.

Did you wonder whether the stories that made their way back to your village were rumours, or Truth, come at last?

No.

I think you knew.

I think your heart must have beaten wildly.

I imagine you bent low over the well. Drawing water.

Heaving buckets with a body tired from blood ebbing away.

Stopping every now and then, to draw breath.

And then.

You hear some talk. You strain to hear.

What are the other women saying? Can it be, you think?

That He is here?

HERE.

The One who heals?

The One who speaks Freedom?

Can it finally be?

For a second everything inside you goes still.

Quiet.

Tired heart fighting like a caged sparrow.

And then!

You run. Wildly groping, dropping your bucket of water on the way, the drops spilling on the dry, dusty ground.

Like an offering.

Like blood.

Your blood.

His blood.

But you don’t notice because desperation spurs you on.

Breathless you try to locate the sound.

His voice.

Your breath comes ragged.

You are close.

So close, but then.

You stop.

Fall to the ground.

Despair mocking you now.

Who do you think you are?

The crowds.

People.

Thronging.

Blocking.

Judging.

A wall.

Keeping you out.

Forcing the likes of you, away.

I see your tears.

Hot with disappointment.

I see your chest heave with a desperate exhaustion.

Anger, crushing your spirit.

I know.

It crushed mine, too.

How would you ever get close?

The ones who (think they) hold the tickets to His Presence.

They’re still around today.

You wouldn’t know, but yes, they’re still here.

Controlling access.

Ticket-masters.

How would you ever get past the ones who follow him?

Disciples, they call them?

They hedge Him in.

Protectively… against the pushing, over-excited crowds.

They stand like soldiers… guarding… they won’t let you close.

You.

Unclean.

Did you feel frantic? So close to the One whom your spirit knew…

Even if you did not.

Yet.

But then, I see you drop to the ground… crawling… trying to protect your head from the blows.

Trampling feet of the crowd.

Trying to see where His feet are.

Dust stinging your eyes… streaking your face with filthy tears.

You know.

Yes, you do! If you can only touch His hem.

Touch, only.

You push forward.

Hands in soil and eyes on hem.

Eyes on Him.

You keep pushing. The desperation in your face – etched.

Your hands reaching… almost there…. almost there.

A man’s foot crushes your hand.

The pain threatens to crush.

Almost too much to bear, but you inch forward.

Tears flowing freely now, but still, you crawl.

Still, you crawl.

Because you know.

Something has ignited within you.

You are a prisoner seeking Freedom.

You KNOW…. That this man, Jesus, that He is the One.

Freedom.

How were you to know then, how could you see then, that His blood would be spilt?

On parched earth.

Just like yours.

On parched hearts.

Just like mine.

That His blood would redeem you.

Would redeem me.

Clean made Unclean, to redeem the unclean.

To make new.

To restore.

The moment your hand brushed that dusty hem. That dirty, soiled hem.

You felt it.

Power surging through your body!

Something changes!

Everything changes.

But, the people… someone must have noticed you by then?

Must have seen you crawl in the dust.

Where you belong.

Did they draw back in fear?

Disgust?

But then, dear one, did it still matter?

Did you still care?

How could you explain? How could they ever understand?

But then.

His voice.

Someone touched me.

His disciples looking at Him in confusion.

Heads shaking, frowns seeking.

Guilt.

Your world stops.

Silence settles on the crowd.

How could He know?

How could He possibly have known?

That in all the hundreds pushing against Him… shouting His Name… how did He know that you.

You.

Unclean one.

That you had dared to touch Him.

Clean.

Were you afraid, when trembling, you stood up to face Him?

Did fear have a choke-hold on your throat as you stumbled over words?

Tripping over a multitude of explanations that would see you not cast out?

Like a leper.

Condemned.

And when He moved through the few still brave enough to stand around the filth of you.

When He, the Holy One, took your work-scarred hands and looked at you, and smiled.

What did your heart feel?

Was He the first to touch your hand in twelve long years?

Did your skin register the touch of Another?

And when He looked into your eyes and smiled.

At you.

Not, with pity.

Not, with disgust.

With love.

When He told you that your faith… your faith, had healed you?

When He said it again… louder this time, so that everyone could hear… could HEAR that you were free!

Clean.

Healed.

Redeemed.

Ransomed.

Did you weep?

I know you did.

I did, too.

How could you not…

Freedom had come for you.

Grace had found you.

Redemption had whispered your name.

You knew, didn’t you?

Because I did, too.

– Blood

Luke 8 v 43 – 47

© 2017. Liezel Graham. All rights reserved.

Writer, write.

Dear Fellow Writer,

Can you not see just how exquisite the story within you is?

It has been given to you because nobody else can tell it exactly the way that you can.

Every single experience you have been through, from the deep despair that nearly broke your spirit, to the rapturous that carried you to the brink of ecstasy, and all the mundane shades of every-day life in between; they have all left a memory within your cells.

Their very imprint remains on your skin.

Write about them.

Ignore the pain. Fight the hurt that threatens to strangle you in memories.

Give them life.

Somewhere, somebody is waiting to hear, no, needs to hear, the story within you.

Your story is calling to you.

Writer, write.

 

Ransom.

Their anger was alive.

Spitting and frothing it bayed for her blood.

Her sin exposed.

“Our purity demands her life”, they screamed.

A trap for Him, but He held their hearts up like a mirror.

Who could throw the first stone?

Her shame covered by His love.

Redeemed.

Storm.

The storm whipping wildly around me.

Salty mist obscuring my way.

Fear clawing its way through my heart.

Darkness waiting.

Then, Your gentle voice riding on the wind: ‘Come. Follow me.’

I step out of the boat, water cold on feet, Your hand reaching for mine.

Safe.