*"Chew on This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder", a book of inspirational short stories by Gary Brock and Kelly Tuck, is available for purchase here!
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
I fell backwards onto my bed. The slats had to have bowed at the impact. It was basically a free fall. Instinctively, I threw my right foot over the side of the bed until it rested solidly with a thunk on the floor. Anything to ground me. I was desperate to make the bed stop spinning.
How many times am I going to keep doing this? I thought to myself as I struggled to keep the nausea at bay. I’m a complete disaster! What is wrong with me? I groggily shook my head from side to side in sync with the throbbing pain of my head. Why? Why?! Why do I keep doing this? My life has become an endless merry go round of horrible decision that I can’t slow down or seem to completely get off of.
I’m trapped. My eyes squinted against the mounting pain. I wasn’t raised like this. Why have I made all these bad choices and taken all of these wrong turns? They say if you can give something up, you own it, but if you cannot, it owns you. They are right. A moan of defeat slipped past my cracked lips. This lifestyle owns me – I am its slave. It’s destroying me.
I am destroying myself.
How many people have I hurt? How many relationships have I trashed? How many promises have I broken? To others? To myself? It’s a wonder I’m not in jail with the things I’ve gotten away with…the stuff I don’t even remember doing. It is a miracle I haven’t killed somebody! But, then again, maybe I have and just don’t remember it… I threw an arm over my eyes to shield them from the early morning sun peering through the blinds. What is wrong with me?
My stomach dropped in sudden realization. I can’t believe today is Easter Sunday. I cannot even keep it together for one day…just one day. Unreal… Tears began to scald my cheeks and I halfway curled into the fetal position. I promised Mama I would make it to the Easter service… There’s no way I’ll make it there, let alone be able to drag myself to the bathroom. I’ve hurt her again.
“God! I screamed, pleading. “Where are you?! Are you even there?! Please, God, help me! Can you hear me? Help! Help me, God! Please!”
I sobbed until there were no more tears. I can’t keep doing this…I can’t. I can’t! This is not living, it’s barely existing! I want to die. I’m plagued by something greater than myself…cursed, more than likely. Even my name, Judas, is a curse. My mind began to weave in and out of consciousness. How long have I even been laying here… Hours? Days? The Easter service is surely over by now. Mama will be calling soon… I could feel myself slipping into nothingness. I am a complete disaster…
* * * * *
My head is pounding...
Where’s the wash cloth? I need to wipe my face…
What the… I can’t move! What’s happening?
Oh god…I am going to die...
* * * * *
The road is unbelievably dusty. It’s very hard to catch my breath and difficult to see more than a few feet in front of me. These sandals are killing my feet. My eyes wandered, searching for a place for me to sit down and take a break. They suddenly landed on a large boulder by the side of the road. “JUDGEMENT,” it read, “five miles ahead.”
Good. It’s big enough for me to sit on and I need a rest. I have been traveling for so long. My aching feet carry me to the rock and I wearily lowered myself onto it. I’ll sit here and rest for the last part of my journey. I’m not looking forward to getting there anyway.
I know it is not going to end well for me. I sighed loudly. I knew this day would be coming, but I guess I didn’t think it would be here this soon…but considering my life, the life I lived…well, the handwriting is on the wall.
My lips pressed together in contemplation to form a thin line. I guess God did hear me after all. Maybe I can get some peace now…hopefully it will bring some peace to the family...to Mama. I hope they’ll forgive me. Maybe their lives will be better now that they don’t have to constantly worry about me anymore.
My dusty hand reached up absentmindedly to rub the back of my head. I hope they don’t blame themselves. It was me, all me. No one could save me from myself. Not my mother, not my family, not even Jesus. I can still hear the words of the preacher at the church my family attended. I can feel the heat of fire and brimstone thundering out his mouth. Holding his Holy Bible in his left hand and jabbing his finger at me with his right hand, he would yell, “God will punish you for your sins, for the wages of sin are death!” He would shout from his tip toes while sweeping the sky with the longest finger I have ever seen, “God will say, ‘depart from me you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!’”
I quit going to church. I was being sent to Hell every Sunday. I couldn’t take it; I already knew I was a sinner. I didn’t need anyone reminding me every single Sunday that I was a lost cause. How ironic this happens to be Easter Sunday…the day to remind us that we can be saved from our sins. I can’t be saved from mine.
I never heard the cloaked stranger walking my way as I continued to sit, lost in thought like Rodin’s “The Thinker.”
“Everything okay?” came the gentle inquiry.
Glancing up from my blank downward stare, I couldn’t make out his face due to the blinding sun shining directly over his shoulder. My eyes began to water from its intensity. Lowering my gaze and blinking rapidly, I replied, “I’m just getting ready to finish up my journey to Judgement.”
“It just so happens I’m headed that way too,” he stated. “Would you like some company?”
“Sure…might as well have some,” I sighed, knowing I could no longer put off the inevitable. After slowly easing myself off the rock, we began to walk in silence. Even though we weren’t talking, I felt a strange sense of peace. All of a sudden, I extended my hand and blurted out, “My name is Judas.”
I couldn’t help but notice how long his cloak sleeves were as he shook my hand and that the hood of his cloak drooped so low it almost covered his eyes. Good to meet you, Judas,” he smiled.
“So, where are you coming from?” I asked.
“From Golgatha,” he replied.
“That’s a tough sounding name,” I chuckled.
He grinned, “It was a tough place, but all is good now. How about you?”
Shaking my head, I sighed, “I am coming from nowhere good.”
“I have never heard of that city,” he stated thoughtfully.
“It’s not a city,” I responded painfully, “but it is the place I came from - a state of being, my state of being, my existence.” He just nodded.
We continued on quietly for a few minutes before he turned to me once more. “Judas, what do you expect to find in Judgment?”
“A whole lot more of nothing good.”
“Why do you say that?”
I blew out a deep breath, then spent the next two miles telling this stranger my story - all my failures, addictions, fears, anger, helplessness, hopelessness, the misery I created, the pain I caused, and just how low I had become. “And just hours earlier,” I said, wrapping up my life,
“God finally answered my prayer of desperation and helped to put me out of my misery and everybody else’s. So, now I’m on the road to Judgment to pay for all my many sins.”
It was quiet. Eerily so. The stranger said nothing.
I stared straight ahead for several minutes before my gaze fell downward in shame of the life I lived. I was a complete wreck. Useless. Pitiful. Tears welled in my eyes and I began to sob uncontrollably, falling to my knees in complete exhaustion and hopelessness.
Judgment was not much further down the road.
“Judas,” the stranger said quietly as he placed both his hands on my shoulders, “listen to me. If you will let go of what you are, you can become what you might be. You cannot become what you want by remaining what you are. It is never to late to start over. Do something today that will change tomorrow and do that every new day to change all your tomorrows. It is true, the past cannot be changed, but the future is within your power. It is up to you to write the new chapters in your Book of Life.”
Amazed, I continued to kneel motionlessly as the words of this stranger permeated through my entire being. In that moment, I felt the despair, guilt, and pain lift from my shoulders. This stranger was breathing hope into me…a hope that I had never had. Blinking away the last of the tears, I dared to look up at him.
He smiled. “I’m getting warm.” As he removed his cloak, I saw his scarred forehead and his pierced wrists and feet.
I began to tremble uncontrollably and gasped, “It’s you.” Throwing myself on the ground, I grabbed his feet desperately and cried out, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! Forgive me! Please, please forgive me!” I was shaking all over and crying convulsively.
His hands cradled my head and I immediately calmed. “Judas, rise. Let me look into your eyes,” he said. But he was no longer a stranger; it was Jesus.
My head tilted back and I looked up, but I dared not stand. His eyes searched deep into my soul. “Judas,” Jesus began softly, “rise. All is well.”
I attempted to stand, but my muscles seized in anticipation. I was frozen. Jesus reached down to take my hands, helping me to my feet. My gaze immediately lowered. “Judas, look at me.”
“I am not worthy,” I whispered.
“All are worthy.” His words resonated through my entire being.
“But I have betrayed you. I have denied you. I have forsaken you,” I tearfully replied. “I lived a sinful existence and I must pay for my sins.”
Jesus smiled. “But you have already paid for your sins by the life you lived. You were punished by your sins not for your sins.”
“It doesn’t matter now anyway,” I muttered, “I’m dead; I must enter Judgment.”
Jesus spoke slowly. “Judas, it is never too late to change directions, to start over, to begin anew. The Spirit is eternal. You are never dead. I repeat, you are never dead for your Spirit is eternal. That is the true message of Easter, Judas. Every single moment you have a second chance. Remember…
* * * * * * *
YOU CANNOT MAKE A NEW BEGINNING
BUT YOU CAN MAKE A NEW ENDING.
* * * * * * *
All of a sudden, the edges of my vision began to fade to black. I couldn’t speak or move. All I could do was stare into Jesus’ compassionate eyes as I fell back into nothingness. Soon I became aware of pain…pain everywhere…and something or someone clutching my shoulders…shaking me.
A muffled voice was wafting in and around my ears, but I couldn’t make out what was being said. And then I heard my name.
“Judas! Son! Can you hear me?!”
Struggling to open my eyes, I croaked, “Sorry I missed the service.”
“Oh, thank Jesus, you’re alive!” she cried, burying her head into my shoulder. My limbs felt as though they were weighted with sand, but I somehow managed to wrap my arms around her in a weak hug. “You scared me to death! Are you okay?”
“Yes, Mama,” I whispered as my chin quivered. “God answered my prayers. I’m okay…I’m finally going to be okay.”
*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!