Whether we realise it or not, we all live on:
The Edge of the Otherworld

Monday, 25 April 2016

A glimpse of eternity

PETER: I would have died for him then. It was so sudden, you see - one minute I was dozing, the next I was cold and bleary-eyed in the darkness. Before I knew what was happening, they'd surrounded us - demons in the flickering torchlight, or so it seemed. Then fear cleared my senses, and they were only human after all. Some I'd met before and spoken with, eaten with even, some I'd avoided. And then there was Judas, my friend, determined and angry as ever. He strode up to the master, as if to greet him, but a moment's indecision made him falter, his eyes darting a worried glance. But it was too late for him to stop. The frown became a smile and a kiss became a betrayal. Perhaps there were demons there. Then the mob swarmed around us and my sword was in my hand. I would have died for him then; it would have been almost easy.

SANDRA: I would have died for him then. I'd have stood my ground against an on-coming tank or spoken out against the concentration camps. I would have affirmed my beliefs whatever the cost and claimed my place amongst the martyrs. I would have done, I think, but those things never happen here, not any more. Persecution takes the form of the occasional sideways glance from a friend or pointed comment from a stranger that always makes my heart sink. I've never known what to say. I used to justify myself with babble, now I say nothing at all.

PETER: I would have died for him then. Of course I would. If he'd asked me to or I could have saved him or achieved something at least. But what good would it have done getting myself killed?
How could I have helped him by being arrested and bound and led away? So I sat by the fire and warmed my hands, right there in the courtyard at that mockery of a trial, cursing my accent and my face as they came so close to giving me away. I didn't know what I was doing but I so wanted to be near him, and I cursed the suspicious looks that hemmed me in on every side.

SANDRA: Times change. First, I married Steve and then we had Jenny and it was no longer just me. I would have died for them, to protect them, to keep them safe, but I didn't really think about it. Church became less important. It had to, there just wasn't enough time for everything. God was still there, though, in the quiet moments and in the chaos. I could feel him guiding and supporting me and enjoying the disordered sense of life I'd found. That was all I needed then.

PETER: I wonder what it was that turned Judas away. Was it a sudden decision that night in Bethany? When Mary, Lazarus' sister, poured perfume on the master's head. Worth a year's wages, Judas said. Maybe that was all it needed to push him over the edge. All he could see was the money and the uses he could have put it to. Feeding the poor or lining his own pocket; what did it matter? He couldn't stand to see so much wasted on a ceremony that should have been left to priests and kings. Things just weren't going the way he had expected. I wonder. Maybe he felt betrayed.

SANDRA: Jenny's six now. Sometimes I wish I could be her age again, so I could make another try. Do it better this time and enjoy being young, without gathering all the guilt that seems to weigh me down. Some days I even feel guilty for feeling guilty. I know I should be free - that I am free - but it never feels that way. I want to shout and scream because things seem so hard. No one said my cross would be this heavy. There are so many things I want to do but can't, so many things I should do but won't. 'I'll just sit here and watch...' How many times have I said that? How many times have I thought it when I haven't known what else to do? I suppose I'm afraid - afraid of reaching out again, afraid of being hurt. Who would I talk to anyway?

PETER: It was a foolish promise. He said we'd all desert him that night but I had to leap in and tell him otherwise - 'Not me, Lord. I'll never leave you, never deny knowing you...' No, not me. Not Peter, the rock. After all, what did we have by then except him and our lives? And we would have died for him. What else did I have to lose?

SANDRA: I've heard the whispers. As they tell it, I drove Steve away. It's just not true. He abandoned me long before he ever left. Just slipped away and never came back. I tried to reach him, to put things right, but he wouldn't talk to me about it. After a while, he didn't talk to me at all. He stopped coming to church and, somehow, that meant I had to go more. They said that's what drove him away, that I'm more interested in praying than home-making. How dare they? Couldn't they see I was dying inside? Jenny still doesn't believe that her daddy's never coming back.

PETER: It wasn't even really fear. Not fear of death or the terror that waits in the dark but that strange dread that grips the stomach and clouds the mind. It was the fear of getting it wrong, of not living up to expectations, of letting him down, of being a failure. But, of course, I'd already got it wrong. It was a stupid promise and, when the cock crowed, I could have died.

SANDRA: It's Jenny's smile that gets me through. I always see a little piece of heaven in it. It's so uncomplicated and simple and so full of love and joy. When I get to heaven, I'm going to smile like that again. When I get to heaven... I often dream about what will happen. I don't know the ins and the outs of it - what it's going to look like, or how it's going to feel, or even how I'm going to get from this world to the next. For all I know I'm going to be dropped at the door by a number 63. Maybe we all will, a whole fleet of double-deckers just like we were turning up to camp. I don't think so, though. I'd be the last off anyway. Hanging back as the others marched in claiming the victory. I couldn't do that. I'll stumble forward, like I always have and collapse in relief as I cross the threshold. Not just relief - shame and sorrow, too. For when I was afraid and when I was lazy and... and for those who got lost along the way. One last cry. It's silly, I know. But I won't be able to stop myself. I hope Jesus will put his arms around me then and hold me until all the tears run dry and there's nothing left to cry about. He won't need to say anything; just being near him will make things better. Then I'll know I'm home.

PETER: I would have died for him - yes, I think I would. It would have been almost easy to make that final decision not to run. To let other hands claim me and throw me from this world. To take from me not just my life but the doubt and fear and uncertainty, and to land me safe in the everlasting arms. It may happen yet but I've learnt at last that the past is gone and the future will take care of itself. It always does. And until those hands lead me away, I'll take each moment as it comes, with its pain and with its joy, and I'll live within his heart... and he will live in mine.

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