Summary: A short introspective piece as a son waits to hear if his father will live.
Word Count: 1027
The young man entered the shadowy confines of the church, glad to find the building empty. The sun had not reached this part of town and the stained glass windows were dulled, but it didn’t matter. The young man had not come to admire the beauty of the church; he had come for the solitude to pray.
It never ceased to amaze the young man that the church had a warmth to it, even on the coldest days. He put it down to the sanctity of the building, the fact it had been built on ground blessed and set aside for one purpose only. And on this day, more than any other, he felt the need to come here to pray in the spiritual silence, away from the cacophony of the world, away from the distractions and concerns of others.
Walking to the altar, he knelt before it. From the time he was a small child, he had been taught that God already knew what was in his heart, but that God desired that people voice their thoughts, wants and needs. The young man had never had a problem with praying, although it had seemed to him over the years that most of what he prayed for was superficial – a child’s wants.
Now, the need was urgent, and as he knelt there, the words refused to come. Frustration rose within his breast and he lifted his head as tears broke free and streaked his face. And with the release of tears came the release of words and he cried out, “Please, God, don’t let my father die!”
The outburst shamed him for a moment. Where was the petition in that? Where was the carefully worded prayer that would tell the Lord exactly what his father meant to so many people? Would God heed such a cry? Sobs shook him, his fear for his father’s life overwhelming him for a few moments.
Recovering a modicum of control, the young man wiped his eyes, closed them and made a concerted effort to communicate with the Lord. “Please, God, my father is a good man,” he begged. “He means so much to so many people. Please, don’t let him die. We need him so much.” After an anguished moment, honesty compelled him to add, “I need him so much.”
It was a relief to get it off his chest. He had been being so strong, so supportive of his brothers, that his own needs had been pushed almost completely aside. As though he wasn’t allowed to grieve or show his worry, as he had not been there when the accident happened. The young man knew that his brothers would not have put such a stricture on him – it was entirely of his own making, but it was the way he had felt. Now, acknowledging that he felt the same way as his family lifted a burden of sorts from his slender shoulders.
Kneeling in the church on that Good Friday, the young man remembered the Easter story; the horrors and the joy. The words came to him unbidden. “Not my will but Thine be done,” he murmured. If Christ could say it facing the cross, then the young man could say it facing the hardest thing in his life.
It was not in his nature to be so still for such a long time, but on this day, in his hour of need, he was able to maintain his kneeling posture at the altar without stress, not noticing when his knees began to protest or his legs went numb. He was waiting; waiting for the answer he knew would come soon. The answer that would shape his world for the rest of time. The answer he both dreaded and anticipated.
He did not know how long he had knelt there when he heard his name being called from outside the building. They were looking for him, sounding worried, and for a moment, his heart quailed, sure that the answer he dreaded was the one he faced.
As he struggled to his feet, clutching the altar for support, the door to the church burst open and his brothers rushed in. “Joe! Here you are!”
Unable to speak, to ask, he just stood numbly as they hastened up the aisle towards him. He tried to read their expressions, but their faces kept blurring in the haze of tears that burned his eyes. He was afraid to ask and chastised himself for his cowardice.
“He’s turned the corner!” Adam shouted jubilantly. “The fever is broken and he’s going to be all right!” He buffeted Joe on the shoulder, showing his delight in the only way he could.
It was Hoss who noticed that their younger brother was unable to speak. He put his arm around Joe and gave the younger man a comforting hug. “Joe? Did ya hear Adam? Pa’s gonna be all right.”
“I heard,” Joe managed. His voice was hoarse with unshed tears. For an instant, he leaned into Hoss’ comforting bulk, reveling in the warmth. Then he broke free and dropped to his knees once more. “Thank you, Lord,” he whispered. “Thank you.” This time, the simplicity of the words didn’t worry him at all.
Getting to his feet, Joe didn’t object when Adam draped a supporting arm around his shoulders. They exited the church together and as Joe closed the door behind him, the sun touched the building for the first time that morning. It was still early.
“We looked all over for ya,” Hoss complained good-naturedly. “I didn’ expect ta find ya in the church. It were Adam what thought o’ it.”
“I just had to,” Joe explained. He glanced at Adam and saw that his oldest brother understood. “Doc Martin said we had to pray.”
“That’s why I thought of the church,” Adam agreed. “Let’s go and see Pa. He’s asking for you, Joe.”
None of them doubted that divine intervention had saved their father’s life. None of them would ever take for granted the power of prayer – in whatever form it took.