Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Resurrection #3

Hunger is a silent killer. It hides like a lion in the tall yellow grass, slowly creeping closer and closer, circling its prey, waiting patiently to pick out the old and the young, the weak and the slow. It works wordlessly. Unwavering. Syllables like "famine" and "drought" and "hunger" and "starvation" rarely cross the villagers' lips. But each man and woman and child cannot help but be aware of their predator's silent stalk, at least on a subconscious level. They catch glimpses of it in the incremental protuberance of their collarbones, in the infinitesimal recession of their eye sockets. They know that some of the goats have started to die, that the fields are being slowly swallowed by dust. But no one says anything. Because it feels that words would accelerate the attack.

Mariamu's baby is very sick. Obviously yet unspokenly malnourished. Yet Mariamu has little to offer. She herself is dried up like a fig. The grain supplies are low. And the garden, like their stomachs, is (and has been) empty. Feeling that the predator is near, on its final encirclement, Mariamu makes a radical decision. She will not cower at the outer reaches of the herd, hopelessly prolonging the strike. She will not wait to be taken from behind in a surprise attack. She will stand up and shake a stick at the beast of hunger.

"We will eat!" she proclaims, with surprising strength from such a diminuitive woman. She sends the boys to gather sticks for the fire. She commands Jabari, her husband, to slaughter the goat, and she speaks with such force that he dare not refuse -- even though it means the crucifixion of their family's only source of milk. Bashira, as the oldest daughter, is charged with the task of preparing the last of the vegetables; and Mariamu scrapes out every last grain of rice into the pot with firmness and determination.

They work with silent anticipation. Each knows that this shall be their last meal, but they will make it worth something. They will face their killer with courage and conviction. And they will die with the taste of meat on their lips, the smell of roasted potatoes in their nostrils, the memory of satisfaction fresh in their minds.

As the family gathers to share their last meal together, there is both happiness and sadness. Happiness for its anticipation; sadness for its finality. In truth, this "feast" of theirs is nothing so impressive as that for which one might have hoped: tough old goat meat, a scant handful of rice, a few shrivelled potatoes... But as always, no one says anything. Mariamu nods to Jabari, and he dutifully invokes a blessing over their food. Then they reach for the food.

Yet as their arms cross over the food -- each one reaching for their favorite final delicacies in a tangled thatching of brown, skinny arms like a wicker basket -- something magical happens. Their sunken eyes perceive no change at all, as the transformation takes place beneath the leathery blanket of appendages. But as their hands pull back toward their mouths, they are astonished by the metamorphosis that has taken place in their feast. Their meager spread has been somehow multiplied, colorized, hydrated, inflated, increased. And in an instant they find themselves enjoying the feast of their lives. Jabari's mouth bleeds the supernaturally sweet juice of the freshest mango he has ever been tasted. The boys ravenously devour thick slices of the moistest, most succulent lamb that has ever crossed their lips. Bashira slowly savors a mouthful of corn so sweet and so crisp that it makes her cry. Both of the baby's hands are covered in sticky rice -- her mouth smeared and smiling for the first time in weeks. And Mariamu... Mariamu can't get enough bread: soft, warm, satisfying sustenance that fills her cheeks, fills her stomach, and fills her soul with resurrected hope. After five minutes of silent satisfaction, their mouths open enough to start laughing and singing. They trade giant platters of their favorite foods. They drink liters and liters of the finest water that they've ever tasted -- so wet and fresh and refreshing that it could not possibly have come from the well that the foreigners built for the village so many years ago. The water washes with the meat, the bread, the vegetables, the fruit -- to restore the family that had been on the brink of starvation. Their bodies are replenished supernaturally, such that there is no danger of overeating. And no matter how much they eat, no matter how much their stomachs fill, there is always a sense of room for more. And there is no end to the supply of their miraculous feast.

Things become different from that day, forward. After everyone cares to eat or drink no more, the rest of the water is set outside, in the garden area, and instantly a fresh living spring bubbles up from the ground beneath the pot -- crumbling through the clay and cascading through the deep cracks in the earth to create a creek, a stream, a river that ran alongside the village and into the bush. Where the seeds of the mangoes and grapefruits are tossed into the garden area, they sprout and grow overnight creating a magnificent orchard to surround the mouth of the new river -- a place of provision for the biggest, most beautiful, most flavorful fruit that anyone could ever hope to taste. Leftover potatoes and corn and rice from the feast are planted in the sand-choked fields on the fringes of the village and instantly multiplied into magnificent fields of food that provide more than enough for everyone in the village. And somehow, no one is surprised when a flock of strong, fat goats -- udders bulging with milk -- appears the following morning, raiding the new fields and lapping water from the new river.

As the villagers regain their strength and their livelihood, the great hunger predator has no choice but to sulk back into the wilderness -- the only unsatisfied observer. And as the people grow and multiply and journey, the river and the produce of the fields grow and multiply and journey so that no one in the entire world is ever hungry again.


At 6:52 PM, Blogger patricia said...

I love this series, Eric. Very powerful.

Thank you for providing such a creative way to meditate on resurrection ... and allowing God to bring to life its meaning in my heart.


At 6:24 PM, Blogger Emily said...

I echo Patricia.

Thanks, Eric!

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Stef said...

loved it when you read this during the Easter service.
know that we're all praying for the Zolder team and the work you're doing in Amsterdam.

- Stefanie, Genesis Missions Team


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