~ Still ~
Mason’s eyes stung. His eyelids felt heavy. He blinked. The eastern sky blushed above the treetops. His arms ached where the crutches bit into them. His shoulder throbbed. His leg was stiff and sore.
Heart burning with sorrow and fear, he pleaded into the chilly air, “Please don’t be real. Please be a nightmare. Please just leave me alone!”
“Mason?” a voice broke through his tears.
He jumped. A tall, athletic young man stood silhouetted in the moonlight. “Daniel?” Mason asked, trying to keep his voice steady.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“What are you doing out here?”
“I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I came out for a walk. What about you?”
Mason hesitated. “The same.” He felt himself shaking. “How come you aren’t afraid of Him?” he burst out.
“Him?” Daniel asked, surprised. “Him who?”
“You know,” Mason muttered, glad Daniel couldn’t see him flush in the darkness. “Him. That… that God of yours.”
There was a long pause. “You want to come back to my place and talk to my dad?” Daniel asked at last. “He… he might be able to answer… any questions you have.”
Mason looked up quickly at the strange boy in the darkness. He sounded sincere. “I dunno,” Mason stammered. “I’d better not.”
Daniel hesitated, then answered, “Alright. See you around, I guess.” Then he turned to leave.
Good. Mason could be alone again. Alone. No, he was never alone. He shuddered. That new, ancient truth pressed into him. How did Daniel not feel it? What did the Bookers know that he didn’t? His pulse was pounding in his veins. Maybe Pr. Booker could tell him how they had escaped Him. Had escaped this fear.
“Your dad’s awake?” Mason called after Daniel, reaching for his crutches.
“Probably,” Daniel replied, turning to wait. “He’s usually an early riser. He likes to read and pray before he starts the day. I’m sure he’d be happy to talk to you.”
Ten minutes later, Daniel held his front door open and stood aside to let Mason walk inside.
“Daniel?” a voice called, “Is that you?” Maia, in pink pajamas, appeared at the top of the stairs. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she faltered. “Hi Mason.”
“He came to have a talk with Dad,” Daniel explained. “Come on in, Mason,” he continued, leading the way into the kitchen.
“I’ll go get him,” Maia said, turning down the hall.
A minute later, she reappeared with her father.
“Hello, son,” he said with a smile. “Daniel says you have some things you want to ask me. Shoot.” Pr. Booker settled into the chair beside Mason as Daniel slid glasses of water across the counter to them.
Mason took a long drink, then breathed deeply. “I-I want to know…” he began, shuddering.
“It’s alright,” Pr. Booker said kindly. “There’s nothing here to be afraid of.”
“But there is!” Mason burst out. “That’s what I’m trying to say! How are you not all afraid of… of… well, of God?”
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” Pr. Booker remarked after a pause. Mason could tell by the reverent way he spoke that he was quoting the Bible. “To fear God is a very healthy thing, lad.”
“But you don’t understand!” Mason cried, not daring to meet the man’s eyes. “I’m terrified of him! I hate Him,” he whispered at last. “I hate Him, and He knows it. I’ve done everything I can to… to…” He swallowed. “To keep James alive. When He wanted him dead.”
“You mean you knew he was going to die?” Daniel asked in surprise.
“Well… not really,” Mason faltered. “I mean, not at first…” He took a deep breath and looked each of them in the eye. “What if I told you that James didn’t die… just once?”
And then out came the miserable story. Partway through, he found himself crying. Right there, in the Bookers’ kitchen.
There was a long silence after he finished. At last, Daniel said quietly, “Are you being serious?”
Before Mason had a chance to reply, Pr. Booker broke in, “If this has anything to do with Ken Hackett, then, yes, I believe he’s being perfectly serious.” He smiled at their astonishment. “I’ve known about Old Ken and his contraptions for quite a while, now.”
“So you actually believe me?” Mason asked, blinking in surprise. He saw in their faces that they did. “So now what do I do?” he moaned, dropping his head in his hands. “I don’t want to live! But I’m so scared to die!” He hated the sobs shaking him. He hated the Bookers for seeing his shame. He hated God for making this world. He hated himself for hating.
The rustle of pages interrupted his thoughts. “Jesus said to her,” Pr. Booker read aloud, “’I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” He paused, while the question hung in the air.
Mason’s chest heaved. “It can’t mean me,” he managed. “I hate Him. And He hates me.”
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“It can’t mean me!” Mason cried again. Suddenly, he realized that every bone in his body longed for it to mean him. But he knew it never could.
“Mason,” Pr. Booker said gently, “He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mason choked back his tears. He came for the sinners? “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Mason stared. Slowly, he felt the pieces coming together. Those Bible stories he heard all his life… This was what they meant.
Pr. Booker smiled. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Mason’s heart beat wildly. Whoever? Everlasting life?
But how could all this mean him? Tears streamed down his face, and, dropping his head on his arms, he prayed as he had never prayed before.
He knew he had sinned. He had hated God, had hated His people, had done everything he could to save James and pull him from His love. But he saw now that there was nothing he could do to change His will. He knew he was nothing. He knew he deserved to die. Sobbing, he told his Creator all of this. He begged.
And he believed.
Peace. Be still.
In an instant, the pain was gone. The misery was washed away, and with each sob, Mason felt his heart healing. The tears flowed harder, but they were sweet, like rain. He felt smaller than he ever had before, but he felt himself filled with a love greater than any he had known existed. His heart beat gently in the warmth of a new peace. Like a summer breeze, his mother’s favorite verse whispered through his mind.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.
Photo Credit – https://www.telapost.com/hdr/