Joshua’s Return

My small village is all I’ve known. I feel blessed to be a part of such a place. The people are kind, the festivals bring me joy, and the view is amazing. Perched high on a mountain, I love that I can wake up every morning and see a sunrise that few people get to see. I’ve never really ventured far, but I’ve never really had to. Many in my village are farmers. Others hunt. Others know how to make beautiful clothes for me, and the stream that comes down the mountain brings cool, fresh water. I lack for nothing.

Today, out of curiosity, I decided to take a longer walk than normal. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t see the need. I often go for walks, taking provisions with me and returning before sunset. But today I took a different course, and I love it. I saw a type of deer I’ve never seen. The flowers look bright and beautiful. I saw a lake, and found peace in watching the fish jump out of the water while the dragonflies dance near me.

As I stood up to leave for home, I stepped in water up to my ankles. Surprised, I looked around. The rock I was perched on was surrounded by water and I didn’t even notice. I splashed through the water for ten feet to reach dry ground. The water level must have come up. I turned around to walk home, and felt the water lap my feet again. Startled, I turned back around. The water WAS rising, and quickly. I tried again to set out, but I slipped. Now I’m soaked. I picked myself up to run, and a wave knocked me back down. I gulped water and felt fear for the first time in a long time. I half-walked and half-crawled to get my feet on dry ground. Then I ran. And ran. My peaceful day has turned upside-down.

On top of that, I ran to a place that looked unfamiliar. The shadows started to fall upon me in that valley, and I was genuinely afraid. The water rushed toward me and I made the only choice that I had left. Climb higher. Scrambling up a small foothill, I was able to pause..and rest. I could feel my heartbeat pounding and I took a deep breath. Unfortunately, my attempt to save myself left me worse off than before, for now the place where I was sitting was surrounded by water with no other land in sight.

I felt compelled to look for a way out of the situation, but how? The only familiar thing that I saw was my home village, which was miles away, even as the crow flies. The rising of the swirling waters was no place to jump in. That’s certain death, especially given the distance that I would have to swim. It’s not exactly peace that I feel, but at least I could catch my breath. I tried to think clearly, but there was nothing that I could do to escape my situation. So I sat, and sometimes stood, and often wept.

Nothing about my village prepared me for this. I always felt safe. I always felt loved. Now I could feel danger, and now I was alone. So alone. Not even the birds were flying overhead, and I could see why. Dark storm clouds were advancing as well, and the water kept rising. I had maybe six dry feet of land below me. My day, and my life, may be done. Things I once enjoyed will be no more. People I love will never be seen again. I sat on the ground, pulled up my knees, and dropped my head. Nothing else to say, I whispered, “Help me.”

The water brushed my feet and I assumed that this was the end. Something hard bumped into my shin, which made me look up for the first time in an hour. A canoe? With someone in it?! The man in the canoe looks familiar, but I don’t know why. “Come in,” he said. Still oblivious to my circumstances, I foolishly asked questions before I got in. “Who are you? Why are you here? What are you doing?”

The man smiled and calmly answered each question in turn: “Joshua. You asked for help. To save you.” I shook my head and stood up just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, or already dead. The stiffness in my legs convinced me that I was still alive, and I scrambled into the canoe. As I do, a wave pushed the canoe away and over the place where I was just sitting. I was facing death, and now I have life, courtesy of Joshua.

Joshua silently set a course and drives the canoe across the water. I had so many questions, but where to start? He gracefully answered each question, laughing often and smiling always. He speaks warmly about his father and how his father sent him to save me. “Your father saw me? Where was he? I didn’t see anyone.” Joshua replied, “He saw you and heard your cry for help.”

“What? My what?”

“Your cry for help.”

This launches a new set of questions, and again Joshua answered me clearly and lovingly. I had not even noticed how long we had been in the canoe and still in the middle of water. Joshua explained that his father has always known and loved me. And that his father loves my family. My family! Of course! Where are they? I frantically scanned the horizon to look for home. There it is! And their situation, although not as bad as mine, suddenly looked worse. The water had risen and was closing in on their home – my home. I began to ask Joshua about my family, “Can we…” when a large wave crashed over the canoe and plunged both of us under the water.

I felt something hit the top of my head and saw blood in the water above me. I struggled o find the surface, but the blow to my head and the struggles of the day had left me exhausted. A gasp caused me to gulp water, and I started to sink. My efforts to save myself only seemed to pull me farther down. After all of the events of the day, this must be it. I allowed myself to sink. A little deeper. A little deeper.

Suddenly I could feel myself pulled up from behind. Joshua’s strong arms grabbed a hold of me and pulled me up. But I had gone farther down than I realized. Joshua was wounded and struggling, and I had no strength to save myself or him. But it didn’t feel right allowing him to save me. I struggled to free yourself so I could sink. Joshua should be able to live. Maybe he and his father could help my family. Darkness began to consume me as I faded to black.

But what was that? I could feel a breath enter me and I could open my eyes. Joshua’s eyes were closed, and he was sinking. I felt lighter, and I was rising. The thought crossed my mind to save him, but he was sinking fast. Either I could claim my life or we both would lose it. With a sudden resolve, I forced my way to the surfaceand gulped the air.

What a bittersweet mix of emotions: the shadow of death passed over me and I could feel the exhilaration of life, but the one who came to save me is gone. And, even in that moment, I had to press on or find myself in the same place. The mountainside that holds my village was close, and I pressed fiercely to reach it. As I did, there was the realization that I felt strong again. Stronger, actually. My head didn’t throb in spite of the blow, and my arms and legs moved with new energy. I reached my destination and climbed to a ledge to catch my breath.

I looked back at what was once my favorite view. The view has such a new meaning now – it is now the site of my helplessness, my brush with death, and my rescue. A final scan of the rising water revealed something familiar almost directly below me.  I reached over the ledge to grab it, and I suddenly realized what it was – Joshua’s coat! Again, the bittersweet flood of emotions washed over me. I searched the pockets for some clue about who he was, and maybe how to find his father. If I can ever leave this mountain, I will have to find Joshua’s father. The only thing in the pockets is a letter – addressed to me!

“My father sent me to save you, no matter the cost. I put new life in you so that you can tell your village that I’m coming back for them. The water will keep rising and I will be their only way out. Tell them to meet me where the sun rises. Love, Joshua”

How to process this? How could he..did he know? Did he know he would die? And now he’s coming back? No…that’s impossible! But is it any more impossible than the events of the day? More impossible than the destructive flood, my helpless state, or the miraculous rescue? He said his father sent him and loves my family. He knew where to find me. So it is really impossible to believe that he will return?

That is the place I find myself now. Either I believe the words of the letter, or I don’t. If I don’t, I will take my chances along with the rest of the village, hoping that the waters won’t reach us. But if I do believe… then there’s no time!

My once-safe ledge isn’t. That last wave proved that. I have to go tell them! But I find that the village does not look the way I left it. There are a few who sit in their homes, perhaps unaware of the flood. Yet when I tell them, they assure me that they will be fine. They tell me that their grandparents saw a flood like this before, and that it is impossible for the village to be lost. I have no time to argue. Everyone must be told!

I find others who are packing up and headed down the other side. “Wait!” I shout. “What are you doing? Why are you going down that way?” They respond with smiles, “This looks amazing! We want to experience this!” I see that they have peeled off strips of bark which they must believe they can use as..surfboards? “Wait! No!” I scream and wave at them, but they wave and rush down to the water. I only wish they knew what I know – the power and attraction of the thrill they seek also has the power to take their life. I’m running short on time.

I find some who look nervous and lost. I don’t know what to do. No one has listened to me. With a deep sigh, I whisper, “Help me.” Suddenly I remember the letter. Of course! “Look! Look at this!” I run up to my dear friend and show her Joshua’s letter. “Who is Joshua? Where did this come from?” I explain the day and what we must do. Looking again at the letter, she nods and says, “We have to tell them. They must know!” Around and around we go, showing people of the village the letter from Joshua. And some people believe that he’s coming, but many do not.

I don’t know what else to do but to take this life that I’m given and give it all back while I can. And when I’ve done all I can, we will go and wait in expectancy, and we will watch the sunrise, waiting for Joshua’s return.

Who are you, or where are you, in this story? Are you still safely in the village? Are you in a helpless place by your own choices, or even by no fault of your own? Are you in need of rescue? Or, are you rescued?

We are all Adams and Eves, and we all face the time when night is our day. But will you see the sunrise? The point of the story is not an apocalyptic 2012 theme. It’s a “what are you doing with your time” story? The Hebrew name for Joshua, Yeshua, holds the same meaning as the name Jesus. And his Father does know you, and love you, and desires to save you. The sun (Son) does rise just as we have been promised. And Yeshua will return. So where will you be?

I’d like to encourage you to read this again. It will be like watching a movie a second time – now that you know the ending, the story can take on additional meaning as you apply it to your own life. If there is someone else who should read this, please share it.

*Final note: I had no particular picture for this story as it grew on me today. I shared none of it until I share it with you now. So take a look at the picture –  my oldest son’s handiwork while I rested after dinner. When I woke up, he asked, “Like my present for you, dad?” I couldn’t think of any picture that would be better. Gotta love God’s choreography.

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