Thursday, August 24, 2006

Another Bone

Here's another excerpt:
Shammah soon returned with two of our servants and a donkey. Though the pasture was a short walk from our home, I could not even stand. My father’s servants helped me onto the donkey and walked, one on each side, as Shammah led the beast home.

Bethlehem is more a town then a city, and word of my exploit had traveled fast. My mother and sisters’ wailing, all the way from my father’s house near the top of the second hill to the city’s western gate, ensured that it would. By the time Shammah had brought me to the gate, several families lined up on either side of the road to see me. They gaped as though I had taken on the uncircumcised Philistines single-handedly.

My father awaited me at the gates of his house. The two servants helped me off the donkey and into my father’s own room. There Ruth, my oldest sister, rubbed my chest and ribs with a foul-smelling oil. She apprenticed under Deborah, daughter of Malachi, the wisest midwife in our province. When Ruth finished dressing me with her wretched oils, she wrapped my ribs in soft shroud-cloth, as though preparing me for my buriel. She spoke not a word to me while she ministered. I could tell from her trembling hands that she wanted to choke the life out of me, for the foolishness she believed I had committed.

When she finished, she spoke at last. “Get some rest, and you may walk again, brother.”

She departed before I could answer.

After sunset, my father came to me. “So how is my young lion’s bate feeling?”

My father looked on me with the tender kindness he’s always shown. Behind his smile, however, I spied the grief that lay hidden behind his cheerful eyes.

Jesse, son of Obed, had seen many years, yet he’d lost none of the vigor of his youth. Even with his grizzle hair and beard, he looked as though he’d wrestle a young bear and exhaust it. His mind had lost none of his formidable wit, as well. Through sensible investment and hard work, he had expanded his holdings, until his estate had become the most prosperous in Bethlehem. His success, along with his heritage within the tribe of Judah, had earned him the respect of the city. He had long served as one of the twelve elders of Bethlehem, and everyone in town sought his counsel.

What must he think of me, having thrown myself at a lion over one of his lambs. I felt a rush of shame come over me, then. I had nearly thrown my father, and my whole family, into grief over one lamb.

“Father, forgive me,” I sputtered, as shameful tears welled in my eyes.

“There is nothing to forgive, my son. You did what any devoted shepherd would do. I commend your bravery and devotion, if not your judgement.”

“I smelt him, then saw him snatch the lamb,” I continued, “and I felt enraged!”

He listened, which didn’t happen often. Then again, I rarely spoke so much in my Father’s presence.

“I couldn’t let it take one of our own,” I said.

“I understand, son,” my father said, “Though we have many in our flock. Still, I would have done the same.”

He sat on the floor, next to my bedding. “After all, that is the mark of a good shepherd, David.”

A good shepherd: I thought again of the strange voice. I heard myself explain my experience, as though I, myself, were another person hearing the tale. He raised his hand to his face, two fingers on his cheek; he always gestured thus when he thought deeply.

“Have you told anyone else of this?” He asked.

“Only you,” I answered.

“Good. Let us keep this between us, for now,” He said.


“The Lord moves in mysterious ways, my son. Had he wanted his revelation to you known, he could have made it thus. Who are we, then, to countermand him?”

“The Lord’s revelation?” I sat dumbfounded at the possibility.

“You felt the breath of your own death when that lion struck you. Perhaps your heart was more open to what El had to say. Besides, as you have said, who else could have spoken?”

“But what could this mean?” I felt a terrible fear nestle in my heart.

He shook his head. “I know not, but we will know when we’re meant to.”

I made to speak further, but he held up his hand.

“Trust in the Lord, our God, David. He will always see you through.”

Bidding me to rest, My father rose and left. I lay there, thinking of what my father had said. I wondered at what everything could mean until the growing darkness of night finally seduced me. My last thought before sleep took me was of shepherding.