by C.S. Humble
“I prayed, father. I lifted up to God my heart, which I prayed he would mend. I prayed until my lips were dry with my protestations against the wicked, devils, and their agents.
Fervently, father, I prayed. Until my hair was damp, my brow beaded with sweat. I blessed my enemies with a raw throat. And I sang, father, if you can believe it. I sang with a voice I have always hated to hear with my own ears. But I sang with a tilted head, aiming my voice toward the throne. I begged. Interceded on behalf of the poor, the broken, the suffering, the sick. Prisoner and widow and orphan, to each I gave the full-measure of my whole-hearted belief, empathy, and mercy. I gave it all to them, emptying myself until not a drop of myself remained in this vessel that I inhabit.
I blessed His name, father. Lifted it above all other names. And when my prayer was complete, my supplication felt…unaccomplished. And this has made me afraid. I am afraid, father that God does not hear my prayers. Live with dread. Dread such as I have never known, father.”
The priest tilted his head, the grim line of his mouth broke open to reply. “And what has broken your hope, my child? What is the question that wrestles your faith to the ground?”
Andrew’s eyes widened. Wandered into vacancy. Tears fell down his face as if he were weeping, though he did not cry out. He leveled his eyes at the priest.
The priest knew those eyes and the feeling they shouldered. Not the eyes of the long-suffering disciple. They were the eyes of the faithful threatening to tumble from the precipice of doubt
The eyes of the apostate.
“My son,” the priest began. “Andre-
“There must be more to life than this….” said Andrew. “Where is love? Though, I strive to see it in the face of my neighbor, but all I see is his disdain for my skin. Where is hope? All I see are broken hearts and shouting mouths.
There must be more to life than this….people dying all around us. And they die angry, father.” he said, unashamedly wiping the tears from his cheeks. And their dying steals what little joy still remains in what I can only see as a joyless place. There must be more than this. There must be more to life than this. And that is my question, father. Is there more?”
The priest lowered his head, the edge of his mouth curling into the crease of an aged, weathered frown much too old for his young face. His mismatched eyes, one blue the other green, softened somehow. Softened with a belief that floated as close to truth as belief can. Confident. Faith that flies with sincere wings.
“Yes.” The priest replied.
Andrew inhaled sharply, his lips parting like a child forgiven by a parent for the first time. “What is it? Will you tell me?”
The priest said nothing. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Andrew. He hugged the young man tightly, pressing the man’s hot, tear-soaked cheek against his own. He squeezed the young man, squeezed him tightly, as if the fate of the whole world stood in balance of this one person.
Which, as it is with all people, it did.