Tag Archives: fear

The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy 003

A day ago.

Stanley Kirby usually took his lunch breaks at the Circle Q at the other end of the campus. It was his one chance to hang out with his buddies and catch up on the goings-on around. His own corner was probably the most boring because it was the same faces that turned up every day, and they barely ever struck up conversation beyond official greetings.

Not to say he hated his job. Being security guard at the Greenhouse had its perks. For one, it was one of the most beautiful fixtures in Providence with its colourful interiors. Rumour had it that the kids called it Eden because of the exotic plants, like in that story in the Bible. He’d even brought his girlfriend here on a date once and she’d loved the fragrance so, perhaps it wasn’t all bad.

But, today of all days, his car would not move. He was certain he’d gotten that oil change two weeks prior, but even the ignition would not start. He grumbled as he popped the bonnet and checked the oil. Or maybe it was a battery problem…

But then a scream from within the greenhouse caught his attention. He realised he had been hearing that sound intermittently for the past thirty minutes or so, but he’d just assumed it was some over-excited kids in the distance. Now he was concerned.

He wandered in, the plethora of fragrances overwhelming him. Usually the enclosure greeted him with a barely imperceptible hum of silence. But now he was hearing more. A crash. Another crash. Screams coming from Doc’s office. Had someone come in without him noticing?

“Hello? Hey!” He walked cautiously towards the office. “Who’s there?”

Good thing he still had his radio. If he needed backup he would call for it.

Doc’s office was usually quiet, as Doc would usually keep her door closed. There was little if ever any noise or chatter from her until that kid came along. It was uncharacteristically boisterous this time and now Stanley was actually worried. He stopped by the window.

A hoarse growl. And a voice.

“…It’s OK, Eva.” It was the kid. He sounded in pain. He was talking between gasps. “You gotta do this. You don’t understand it now … but I’m doing this for you … AAAAAAARGH! Oh God, Father, this hurts!!!

Good heavens! What crap are these guys into? He wondered if he should bust in or not.

It took another scream before he rushed into the room. Nothing could have prepared him for the sight he met.

“…ohmiGAAAAD, I’m gonna diiiiieeee…” The young man was screaming, flailing as much as he could on the floor.

The office was upside down. Table broken, cabinets wrecked, papers floating, blood splattered on the everywhere. Doc was on all fours facing away from the door, her hair undone. The kid was on the floor before her, fighting for his very life. A choke escaped his lips and he went quiet.

Stanley was frozen. “D-Doc?”

With a swiftness that sent a chill down his spine, Doctor Maundy turned to face him. Her pupils were shrunken to slits and she was breathing hoarsely. Like an animal. Her mouth was dripping with blood, and so were her hands. Before his eyes, Maundy’s pupils dilated and her breathing slowed. She blinked and stared around. The ferocious glint in her face was gone.

“Where am I?” she said, her voice choking. She stared at her hands and then at the bleeding kid in front of her. He wasn’t moving anymore.

Andy was spread eagle, blood sputtering from his neck.

Oh my God!

Stanley couldn’t hold it in anymore. He rushed out of the door and threw up. It was a full minute before his nerves had calmed down enough for him to call for help.

——

Eva, now in sound mind, was cuffed to the desk with her interrogator taking notes. The pictures depicting Eva’s recent beastly episode were strewn on the table. He had shown her the security footage on his tablet, and she never wanted to look at that again. It only brought home further what she had done.

If they didn’t finish piecing this puzzle, many more could turn out like Andy. And worse, who knew how many more would die?

But some things had been made abundantly clear.

Fact One: the rodents introduced into this environment probably carried a pathogen hitherto unidentified that was capable of affecting the nervous system and, as such, made their hosts feral.

Fact Two: they had bitten Dr Maundy, transmitting these hypothetical pathogens to her. She had turned feral and lashed out at her assistant, killing him.

Fact Three: these rats had possibly escaped from the enclosure, infecting other individuals in the vicinity and turning them into feral mindless zombies like Eva once was. And while officials out there were now on the lookout to identify possible bite marks on the infected, there was still one more factor to consider.

Final Fact (for now): Eva was cured within an hour of infection, while other victims seemed to be getting worse. What had made the difference?

“I’m going to jail for this, aren’t I?” she said staring at the glass of water in her hand. Overwhelmed by the revelations, she finally agreed she needed the drink. “Who am I kidding? Jail would be heaven compared to what I’ve done.”

“Day is not over yet, Eva,” he said. “We can work through this. Now did you take any vaccinations within the last three months?”

She was still staring into space, shaking her head. “I’m nothing but a monster.”

“Eva?”

She pursed her lips and looked up at him. “Vaccinations? No. If I did I would remember.”

“Ever been bitten by a rodent?”

“Not that I can remember.”

The man’s tablet was propped with its keyboard, and now he was typing on it. “So there’s no chances you’ve built up immunity over time.”

“Not to this, no. As far as I know.”

“Closest thing we’ve seen that can be caused by rat-bite is streptobacillosis, but that’s majorly a fever and infection, not a catalyst for delirium or psychotic episodes of this scale.”

She wasn’t listening anymore. I did this.

“So what made you different?”

That’s what she was still wondering. A thought made its way through her mind but it was too crazy to even consider. All that was true now was that she had unleased this biological menace. For all intents and purposes, she was an unintentional bioterrorist. “There’s no way I’m moving on from this. My life is over.”

“Eva, please…”

She closed her eyes, trying to focus. But what was the point anyway? “None of the cases have recovered yet?”

“Except you, none has.”

She had a theory, a very weak one at that, but at this point there was no reason to hold on to anything. She had lost everything in her stubbornness. “Nothing makes sense anymore.”

“Come on, Eva. You were on to something. Don’t stop now.”

She bit her lip and exhaled. “The victims, the infected, they’re getting violent. Just like I was.”

“We’ve got fatal injuries inflicted, yes, but no deaths yet. But the cerebral degeneration we’ve detected will ultimately lead to death if we don’t narrow it down to a solution soon.”

“And these injuries were from biting and scratching?”

“Yes. Until now.”

“Any … cannibalistic tendencies?”

The man paused before responding. “Cannibalistic—“

“You know that’s how I must’ve done it, right?” She knew this was going to sound crazy, but it was the only thing she had at the moment. “How I killed Andy? If there’s a reason I’m not infected it has to be tied to that.” She shrugged. “It has to be him.”

He closed his notepad and set in on the table. “Eva…”

“I …” Her stomach churned at the very thought “I … ate him. I bit his neck and ate his flesh. I tasted his blood…” She felt sick recounting it, but it was true. She pointed to one of the pictures on the desk. “This – the cavity in his neck – that had to have been me. I know I sound crazy right now, but that’s the only difference I can think of.”

Whoever thought vampires were an appealing concept? The very thought of what she knew she had done this time was sickening. This is so messed up.

“I don’t know if he knew all of this was going to happen,” she said. “He’d been in my office earlier, and I practically shut him out. But he came back. Did he know what was going to happen?”

“Andy came back.” Hearing him repeating her words to her made her realise just how it must sound. He probably thought she was crazy. She thought she was crazy.

She nodded toward the tablet. “The footage. We saw him show up. Maybe that’s the solution. If any of the victims bite a human, maybe they’ll get cured. Human blood must be free of those impurities. Like a vampire thing.”

He shook his head. “We’ve had three maulings now. None of them have turned back.”

She shrugged. “Maybe it’s just a matter of time. Or maybe it’s just Andy. Something in his body chemistry could have altered something in mine. Ugh, I can feel centuries of scientific pedigree rolling in their graves right now. I’m a total screw-up. I don’t know what to do.”

He cleared his throat. “Let me go over what you just said. So if we identify and isolate the pathogens that caused this incident, and extract a blood sample from your deceased assistant, we can find a cure?”

You do realise you’ve gone insane, don’t you Eva? She shut her eyes, but the thoughts would not stop.

She stared at her cuffs. This was her reality now. “What have I become? Is this what I wanted? To change the world, make us something more. Well, I made us something more alright. Now my life is over…”

“Eva, don’t—“

“I mean, look at all this. I’ve cursed them all. I’m a mental case. A total screw-up! The very thing I’ve always wanted to get away from caught up with me. No matter what, I still fail. And maybe Andy’s right. Maybe I do these things to escape the fact that I really am messed up. Couldn’t save my Mum. Couldn’t keep my marriage. Couldn’t get the job I wanted and I had to settle for this. And the grant I got this time was way out of my league.” She shook her head. “I’m cursed.”

“Don’t do that—“

“It’s just like you said; immortality doesn’t cure evil. It sure wouldn’t cure stupid. If we were screw ups when we could die, we’d be even worse screw-ups when we can’t. Better that there’s an end because I really want this to end. I just want to go home and forget all of this ever happened. But then again, hope … what’s the use?”

She was trembling now. She really had no idea what to do or what would happen here. “And now I’m talking garbage. I’m losing my sanity in front of a total stranger, and I don’t know what to do.”

Her statements hung in the air for a moment when no one spoke. But could it be true?

“Andy knew the danger I was in. And if I’m right, and he knew that he would be the cure, then he did that for me. He came back for me.” She shrugged. “I can’t explain it better. I don’t understand it. But that’s all I’ve got.”

The man turned in his seat and stood as he exhaled loudly, shoving his hands in his pocket. She wondered how much of a nutcase he must’ve thought she was. “If you’re right,” he said. “Then we need to start working on it. How to effectively get it across to everyone.”

The lights in the room flickered on one by one. She had to shut her eyes from the swift transition to brightness.

“But you’d be surprised how much we agree,” he said.

Just take me to prison already! She really didn’t want another long discussion.

“I’m sorry you had to go through all of this, Eva. Really I am. But if it helped you come to terms with the truth then it’s worth it.”

“What ‘truth’? That for all my strengths I was helpless where it mattered? That this was all my fault and now my life is over? That Andy died because of me?” She still couldn’t see well, so she lowered her gaze and blinked away the pain in her eyes.

“It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust, sorry about that. See, coming from the dark to light is like when we come to Truth. It hurts at first, but it’s what really sets you free. It makes you free, Eva. That’s when you can really see.”

She ran a hand through her hair, shielding her eyes from the light with the other. “Well if anything, it just makes me see myself for the idiot I really am. This feels nothing like freedom.”

“Your hands say otherwise.”

In that moment she realised something had changed. She actually had one hand in her hair and the other in the air.

Her heart skipped a beat. Her handcuffs were undone.

They lay broken on the table, and her chains dangled as they dropped to the ground. What the –? She jumped to her feet and staggered away.

“What just happened?”

“It will take a moment for you to understand, but you will. Eva, you are free.”

She turned to the man, questions on her face, but then everything changed. She could now see the person that had been speaking with her all this time. But it was impossible! It was crazy!

She placed a hand over her mouth to restrain the gasp building up. It can’t be!

“Andy?”

He smiled. “Took you long enough.”

The story continues in CASE FILE-004

PORTAL: An Afterword

Hi there! Emmanuel here!

If you’re here too then I assume you’ve read my story, Portal. Thank you so much. I’d really love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t already, click on the link right here.

The undercurrent of Portal, is that many of us find ourselves held back by things in our past.

Like Tolu, some of us are encumbered by the fear of the future and its uncertainty.

Like Riley, many of us are affected by the pain and hurts we have experienced in the past.

And, like Frank, many of us are held back by the guilt of the wrongs we’ve done, and by the pain we’ve inflicted on others.

Moving on from these is never easy. I have experienced all three of these, and I have seen how they have influenced my actions, affected how I related with people, and determined the decisions I made. Unknowingly, I was trapped in those points in time and was navigating the present from those places. Influenced by the insecurities of my guilt, protective because of the hurts I experienced, limited by the uncertainties of what lay ahead.

I wish I could say there is a portal of some kind that you can pass through that will makes those things fade away. But then, I have found that there is. This story is a picture of how, through Jesus, we can find the confidence, healing and forgiveness we need to face the future.

For those of us afraid of the future and its uncertainty, He encourages us to trust in Him. Trusting Him means following Him. When we do, He will guide us every step of the way. We may not know where we ought to be five years from now, but at least we know He is with us and we know how He expects us to navigate the times. He is our Light, so we never have to walk in darkness. He has given us His Word so that we can learn of Him and know what He desires. His Word is like a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths (Psalm 119:11).

For those of us held back by the pain of our past, who find ourselves responding to people and circumstances from that hurt, He empathises. He promises healing for the broken hearted (Luke 4:18) and joy in the places of weeping (Psalm 30:5). He will carry you and keep you through it all.

And for those of us who can’t get past the fact that we have hurt someone, inflicted pain on someone, ruined something… Guilt is terrible in that it makes us feel we’ve earned the darkness it brings us into. Guilt is painful, no matter how earned it is. And while, yes, conviction is good, Jesus offers to all that come to Him forgiveness. Forgiven, He gives us the strength to forgive ourselves. And for those who we have hurt, we find the strength to apologise, to mend the friendships we can.

As one who is navigating these zones too, I cannot say I have all the answers. Many of these things, I have to keep reminding myself of every single day; that I have hope in Christ, that He has healed me, and that I am forgiven.

Our stories may differ, but there is the One Portal through which, if we take it, He will lead us in the right ways our souls have always yearned for. It’s called ‘the path of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3). We will find our solace and peace in Him, and we can enjoy every moment of every day, just as He intended it.

In His Light, we see that He had given Time meaning.

Time in itself is seemingly amoral, giving as much opportunities for decay and corruption as it does for growth and development. The difference is what we do with it. When we are in Christ, He gives us wisdom on how to navigate these times and to make the best of them.

Ephesians 5:17 puts it this way:

Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days.

Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.

I take special comfort in one of David’s Psalms in 31:15 where he says:

My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

He was confident that, even though he had enemies, he had help because his times were in God’s hands. It reminds me that, it doesn’t matter what season I am in: be it a height or a low, a win or a loss, as long as I am following Jesus, I am in God’s hands.

He will perfect all that concerns me.

From someone who is learning along the way, I pray you find the healing and strength in Jesus to move on. There is so much more to life that He has for you. You’ve got a whole lifetime to discover it.

God bless you all!

PORTAL (4 of 6): Back in Time

PREVIOUSLY:

With no hope of returning to their home timeline, Tolu and Riley take the only option available to them: to travel back in time and relive their favourite memories with the people and I the places they miss the most.

But the past is not always comforting. Little do they know of the trauma they will face.

It was the summer of 2015.

Riley Harris was at her high school prom, and the assembly hall was decorated in glittery banners and disco lights. The school hadn’t done proms in a long time, but ever since that 30-something new guy became principal, Southside High had begun to embrace many more ideas from the students in their programmes. And so the graduation ceremony was followed by an evening party they had decided to call their prom.

She especially loved this party because it was the first time she actually remembered having fun at a party. The first time she had an actual boozer, and not one from her Dad’s stash atop the fridge that she’d stolen a sip from. A full one this time.

Mandy and Shannon, her two best friends had come looking hot in ‘80s-themed outfits. She had won a dinner gown, but made her head up in puffy rolls to go with the ’80s fashion they were going for. She still had pictures of that day.

Watching it all play out one more time brought the memories closer. Standing there on the dance floor brought it even much more closely. What even made it better was that she could still interact with the inanimate objects, like the drinks in the bar. It sucked that everyone around her now was an after-image, flickering like static holograms, but who cared? She came back here to have a great time, and a great time was going to be had.

Oh, there was Gavin. She could still remember him. The hottie she’d always wanted to be noticed by. How she had been expecting a kiss or something that night, just like in the movies. How she had gone back home alone. And also…

Oh no! Now she knew why she had felt antsy about coming here.

“Get me out, Justin!”

A flood of blurry images wafted before her eyes until she was somewhere else.

It was now August 2018.

Rosetta Rhodes was in town for Rock Fest ’18. The city park was lit in floodlights and sparkling fireworks. Thousands were camped in tents for days, securing their spots for the 5-day rave of the year. Merch and memorabilia were on sale in hundreds of stalls, with no shortage of customers for their business.

It was here that Riley had got her first tattoo. Was she a fan of rock music? Not until today. There was something about the beats and strains that brought her a channel to release the pain and angst she felt often. Standing on the grass now, she could remember her spot over in front closer to the stage. She took a swig of the bottle in her hand. Good thing about this place was that there was no consequence. No matter how much she drank, she actually wasn’t getting drunk. She could do with more of this.

She felt a tap on her shoulder. It was…

“Dad?”

She had not seen him in almost a year now. To see him in the sweatshirt he usually wore, or the one he wore that other day… “Where are you coming from at this time, Riley?”

But as far as she could remember, her father had not been with her at Rock Fest that year. Why would he? He wasn’t supposed to even be here. And since when could flickers interact with her in this place?

She held a hand to her chest to still her pulse. She wasn’t sure she was enjoying this place anymore.

“Justin?”

A flood of blurry images wafted before her eyes until she was somewhere else again/

It was now November of 2018…

—–

Tolu Alade was back in the car on the way to church earlier that evening. He had been in the backseat, fingers tapping rapidly on his phone screen, desperate to beat his previous record on Jumbotron Run™ before they got to church. Seated here now beside the version of himself that was engrossed with his phone, Tolu was more taken with his parents in front. How he missed them, especially the times ahead that he would never get to spend with them now that he was stuck in time.

“Mummy! Daddy!” he cried. But they couldn’t hear him.

He rubbed a tear off his face.

“…I hear it’s pretty serious,” Dad was saying.

“Have you been able to call them?” Mum asked.

“The number isn’t going. Funmi hasn’t been home since he was admitted.”

Tolu knew that the only person his father called ‘Funmi’ was Uncle Femi’s wife. Uncle Femi was his favourite uncle.

Something is wrong with Uncle Femi? He stared at the other him, the one tapping on his phone screen, oblivious to the misfortune awaiting him in only a couple of hours.

“And I’ve been telling him,” Dad said. “He has been overstressing himself. No single off day in 6 months.”

“Ah, Oluwa ma shaanu wa, o (Lord have mercy on us, oh). Awon omo won nko? (What about the children?) Where are they now?” Those were Tolu’s cousins.

“I heard they are staying with some of their friends over there. Ah, I don’t even know what to pray. If Femi wasn’t sick I’d have gone over there to beat him up myself.”

“He’s not a baby anymore, dear.”

“I know. I just wish … I don’t want to lose him too.”

Tolu had not realised his uncle was ill or that his father had been this worried. Had he actually sat through this conversation? Tolu didn’t remember this part.

“For years in school, I had to be shuttling to Zaria to get him his inhaler refill. He always forgot, saying he was too busy. I told him busyness would kill him one day. You see him now?”

“Femi will not die in Jesus’ Name! Don’t talk like that!” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know you’re just worried for him.”

It was when Dad turned to her that he noticed his son playing on his phone.

Kinni problem omo yii?! (What’s the problem with this kid?!) You’re still playing phone?!”

He reached toward him and snatched the phone. Tolu watched with disgust as his younger self yelled at his father. “Ah-ah! Daddy it’s not fair!”

Now, even Tolu understood his father’s rage. Playing a game at a time when Dad was bothered by something serious did have a ring of lackadaisicality to it.

Mom turned. “Toluwanimi? Is that how you will be wasting your time? Playing game?”

“It’s even using WiFi,” Dad noticed. “Ah, it’s my hotspot! You’re wasting my money on this nonsense? Why did I even buy you a phone?”

“Toluwanimi! Instead of you to use internet to find things for your future, you’re busy wasting your brain on these things?”

“In fact, I’m seizing it. You will cry before you get it back. Nonsense.”

And the Tolu of that time was sulking and kicking his mother’s seat. The Tolu of now was so embarrassed.

“I can’t … I can’t watch this,” he said.

A flood of blurry images. He was somewhere else now.

—–

Riley sat by the bar at Lorenzo’s, tracing her hand around the cover of her bottle.

The bartender came over to talk with another customer. Of course, he couldn’t see her. She laid her head on the bar, exhausted. Even downing a cold one had lost its appeal. These time jumps were draining her more than she expected.

This time she had chosen to be somewhere different from her memory of this time. Right about now, the Riley of March 18, 2019 was in a party across the road. But this Riley, the Riley at the bar, was avoiding those moments. Sadly she was doomed to only go to times and places she had previously been. This sucked.

“Hey there, beautiful!”

She slammed a fist on the table. “Are you kidding me?” She knew it was her Dad before she turned to look at him. In all the eight time-jaunts she had taken now, he had shown up. Even in places he had never been in her original memory. Sure enough, he was still in that green sweatshirt. “Have you no shame talking to your daughter that way?”

He still had that grin on his face. “Wanna see something you’ve never seen before?”

Why did that sound familiar? She spat in his face and swore.

“Oh … but I’m tired.” She stopped. That had been her voice. But she hadn’t said it, had she?

She turned and saw another version of herself seated at the same bar, still dressed in the gown she had worn to prom years ago. She was tipsy, head flailing.

Oh no. This was not supposed to be happening.

Dad held the other Riley’s hand. “It’s OK, lass. My, my, you really have matured, haven’t you?”

OH MY GOD, NO!!!

She hurried over to stop them, but they were already gone from the bar. No one else in the room was reacting to her or to the scene. She scanned the room, searching frantically for them. She couldn’t believe this. Her memory from prom night was crashing into this place.

This is all wrong, no, No, NO…

A green flash by the toilets across the room grabbed her attention. It was Dad leading her younger self away. He turned and flashed her a grin.

Riley shut her eyes and screamed.

Justin held her hands. “It’s OK, it’s OK… Shh, it’s going to be OK. Just breathe, Riley. Breathe.”

When she opened her eyes she was back on the cliff. The night was still dark and quiet. The grump was still on his bench across from a cottage.

She was out of the bar.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she said. “That was supposed to be my quiet place. He wasn’t supposed to be there. But he was everywhere. He followed me everywhere!

“It’s OK, Riley. Just breathe, gently.”

—–

Tolu was getting more disgusted with himself.

In all the memories he had gone back to, he always found himself on his phone during important moments, either playing a game or on social media. They had seemed like the most important things at the time, but now?

Here they were back in April 2019. He found the Tolu of that time playing a medieval war game on the TV as his Dad drove into the compound. Dad rested his head on the steering wheel for a moment. He knew what would happen next. Dad would come in and spank him for not opening the gate for him, pack up the PlayStation system and lock it up in his room until the holidays. Tolu used to see this as Dad’s standard wickedness. But now?

Now he wondered what got his Dad so worried. He wished he could go over and talk to him, to ask him how he was doing. He realised that he had had the opportunity before. But now it was too late.

“Looks like someone has a problem.” Justin was with him now. “We always find you online or playing a game.”

“It looks all suck-ish right now. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with playing games now and then, right?”

Justin arched a brow. “Are you actually asking me?”

“I don’t know. But my Dad was really going through some stuff. Uncle is probably dying. Mum is just trying to keep the peace. And look at me: wasting my time playing video games? I was missing out on so much. If I knew then what I know now…”

Justin stared at the boy playing games. “This doesn’t look leisurely. Looks to me like you were doing this deliberately.”

Tolu leaned forward. “You think so?”

“I mean, you’ve always had all these resources. You’ve got books, encyclopaedia and internet access. So much to do with what’s available to you. Why were games your go-to?”

He observed the game playing on TV. Age of Empires had always been his favourite.

“I guess, when I really think about it, these games are the only world I can really control. Y’know? Where I actually know what to do. Like once I get the skills and know the rules, I can just plunge in and win. Each new level is a new challenge. But once you know how to do what you need to do, you’re can just go and win it.”

“A world you can control? That’s odd. Are you saying you wanted to be … well, like God?”

“No, now. But like… in this real world, outside of my games, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know the ‘how-tos’ or walkthroughs. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing here. I don’t know what I’m supposed to become or what I should be doing. As a matter of fact, when I think about the future … I think I’m … actually afraid.”

They were quiet for a bit.

Until Justin spoke. “And that, my friend, is the reason you’re stuck in my Timescape. Your fear of the future is something you’ve not been able to escape.”

—–

Riley was shaking now, crying, desperate to get out of this traumatic horror.

“Why did my Dad show up in those places? You never told me this would happen.”

Justin shook his head. “Believe me, I had nothing to do with that. The—”

“I haven’t seen him in over a year. I deliberately do not go home because he’s still there. I can’t bear to look at the face of that man, and yet he follows me everywhere here? Why would you do that to me?”

Justin sat in the grass beside her. “That prom night, what did your father do?”

She took a breath, and the tears rolled. The strong hard front she always kept up was to prevent this from happening. The last time she’d spoken about this that very next day, to her Mom. But she hadn’t believed her. She tried to speak, but she couldn’t. My father raped me. My own father raped me. But she couldn’t voice it now.

Justin must have gotten the picture because he just nodded knowingly and said nothing for a while.

“What he did left its scar,” he said eventually. “The pain still lingers, wherever you are. It keeps you from moving forward, that’s clear. Riley, that pain is why you’re still here.”

She stared at him, the implications of that falling into place. “What?”

“Riley, it’s not your fault. You were hurt by someone you trusted. But the pain keeps you stuck in the past. A tumor that’s growing like a grain of … mustard?”

“You’re saying I got trapped in this blasted place because of … this? Because of pain?” But Justin didn’t reply this time. He just stared, concerned. “It’s not like I’m a wounded animal or something. I don’t think about him all the time. I go weeks without giving him a thought.”

“But look how the very idea of him still affects you. You find it hard to love or trust. Riley, you’re wounded more than you even know. You know it’s true. You see that. You must.”

She sniffed again, rubbing her eyes. “I really could use a drink right now.”

“Riley, for months you haven’t gone a day without a drink. Why do you do that? What do you think?”

She sniffed, thinking about all the time since then. She really didn’t trust people, especially men anymore ever since. Every little tryst she’d gotten into since then had been momentary, just for kicks. She partied hard to get away from all the hypocrisy and pretentiousness in the world around her. But after the highs and hangovers, the pain was always still there. She never escaped it.

“I drink to forget,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “It’s why I party. The thrill, the fun, that’s my one escape.”

They were quiet for a moment. Was that really the problem? Had she gotten locked out of the future because of ‘pain’? What kind of existential nonsense is this place?

“So what do you expect me to do? Just let it go? Like it’s so easy? Like I haven’t actually been trying?”

Justin stared ahead at the expanse before them. “Obviously, that didn’t work. It comes back time and again. But what if, just what if, there was something more to all this? What if something could heal you of your pain, and give you the strength to go on?”

“Even if that were true, what if I don’t want to go back?”

“What if there was something worth going back to? What if you could face the future without all that’s bound you?”

—–

Tolu was still back in March 2019, watching his Mum cooking in the kitchen. At that time he had been ostensibly working on his homework while actually chatting with his friends online. “You know,” he said. “if fear of the future is what’s holding me back, in a very small way I’m actually not surprised. I mean look at me. I’ve grown up believing what they said, that God has this Big Plan for my life. That all things work together for good. But in the real world, what does that even mean? How am I supposed to even know what that plan is?”

Justin folded his arms. “If your Maker has a plan, or a way you should follow, would He make it difficult for you to know?”

Tolu shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“No, think about it. Don’t let this slide. If He really loves you like He said does, would He leave you to your life without showing you the guide?”

“I guess He wouldn’t.”

“Exactly. If there’s something that conquers fear, it’s God’s love for you. Your Bible makes it clear.”

“You know, I think I’ve heard of that verse.”

“Oh?”

“I’ll admit, I don’t read my Bible as much as I should.”

Justin only sighed. “You’re like the boy whose eyes were shut, afraid to open them and see. When he’s asked to move, he doesn’t know where he is or where he’s supposed to be.”

Tolu smirked. “If I recall correctly, that was you that time, not me.” But then he realised what was going on. Justin had been mirroring his own disposition all along.

“If you truly believe in God’s love for you, trusting your future in His hands shouldn’t be hard to do.”

“Just like that? I should just ‘trust’ my future in His hands? And I won’t be afraid anymore?”

“We only trust people we really know. Tolu, is God Someone you’ve tried to know?”

Tolu knew that he had not really given this much attention. If he really believed that God had a plan, why hadn’t he actually tried to find out? Spending his time in virtual worlds kept him occupied all this time, but they never answered the question that bugged him. But it felt more fun than reading the Bible. At least there were immediate visible results for every action in those games.

Tolu shook his head. “Pursuing someone you can’t see is … difficult.”

“How about trusting what He’s said? And going into the unknown, knowing you are led.”

Tolu sighed. “The thought of it feels like stepping off a cliff.”

Justin smiled. “Precisely.”

—–

“You cannot be serious right now,” Riley exclaimed.

But he was. “It’s the only path forward. When I said that portal was the only way, I wasn’t lying.”

“You expect me to literally step off this cliff? That’s what you’re saying, that I should just … die?”

They were still at the Edge of Time, staring past the misty expanse at the light strobe connecting the sky to whatever earth lay below.

“What if this is the only way to truly live? You’ve trusted my logic this far. Is this one too hard to believe?”

“So you do want me to die?”

Justin leaned back on his arms. “Remember when you were sure you would get out? When the sight of the portal was exhilarating? But when you got to this cliff, you gave up hope. It was a cost you considered not worth taking.”

“This wasn’t even a choice. It was a freaking cliff. How do I drive from a cliff to get to that portal?”

“It’s not so much about the stepping off as it is trusting the one that called you in the first place. You got here believing in a way out, and all the time since. Why should it be different in this case?”

“Even if I end up splat at the bottom?”

“Who says there is a bottom?”

She stood and walked over to the cliff’s edge. There was no end in sight to its depth, he was right. Only the mist. But the portal across from her also looked so inviting, the possibilities it could hold. Somehow she was supposed to believe that the portal would help her out?

“Riley?”

She turned and saw that Nigerian kid, Tolu. She couldn’t define the relief she felt at seeing him again. “Tolu? Where’ve you been?” she asked.

“My past, same as you,” he said. “And my guess is we each saw what we needed to see.” He joined her at the cliff’s edge. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking too?”

She looked back at the boy. “They do say that when you fall off a cliff in your dreams you wake up, right?”

He stared over the edge. “Funny, for something that should cure my fear, I’m actually afraid. But I don’t trust if I’m not ready to take a leap, right?”

She took a breath. “Trust? That’s a tall order.”

“I know. But what choice do we have?”

They knew what they had to do.

>>The journey hurtles ever closer to an end, here.

FEAR ITSELF: The Man of Galilee

But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
Mark 16:6,7

“…and Peter.”
Those words kept ringing in the Galilean fisherman’s ears all night, filling him with both excitement and dread as his boat bobbed on the waters of the Sea of Tiberias. The salty scent of the sea and the cool breeze had been commonplace to him for much of his life, but after a three-year stint away from the trade, he realized that he’d missed it. The familiarity of the scenery was probably what he needed right about now.
Simon and his brother Andrew had left their fishing business to follow their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Oh, but he was so much more. This miracle-working rabbi had changed their lives with his message of bringing God’s kingdom to the world, and showing that it starts in the hearts of men. Simon – or ‘Peter’ as Jesus called him, the unshakeable stone – and his friends were convinced that he was sent of God and was, indeed, the son of God. Those last three years had changed their lives forever. Most especially, those three days at Passover.
Jesus was killed by the people. It was a spectacle that ruined Passover for the whole nation gathered at Jerusalem. His followers had all gone into hiding in the days that followed, afraid they would be next. And then on the third day, Jesus suddenly was not dead anymore. The grave was empty.
He was alive. Again, it filled Simon with both joy and dread.
…and Peter…
The past few days had been filled with some of the most extraordinary events. The women had seen an angel at the tomb, telling them that Jesus had risen. And, sure enough, Jesus appeared to the disciples and spoke with them. He had since been seen at different places, interacting with the people, walking with some as they travelled, coming and going as he pleased, encouraging them. These were truly exciting times to be alive.
But for Simon, as excited as he was, he needed a return to some normalcy. He had decided to go fishing when some of the others asked to come along.
“Ugh, how you folk do this is beyond me,” Thomas said from the stern. He had not been a fisherman before and had come along just to be among his friends.
“For starters, by not making comments like that,” Andrew came back.
“We’ve been here all night!
John smiled. “We’d make a fisherman of you yet. Like my Pa used to say, no fishin’, no eatin’, no sleepin’. We die here.”
Thomas blinked. “Well, looks like we really don’t have to die anymore, eh?”
James shook his head. “It was just an expression. An anachronism, really—“
“I mean, I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but I put my finger in the nail hole of His hand, man.”
“We were there,” Andrew said over his shoulder.
“We should be out there, showing Him to the world. It’s nothing short of incredible. One moment he’s dead and we think we’re goners, the next he’s right there, standing in front of us.”
John chuckled. “You’ve been going over the same thing all night.”
“I mean, I didn’t believe you guys before. It was going to be the last time I allowed myself to accept the supernatural. But then He called me by name. As if He knew.”
“He always did know,” Nathanael said. “Things men weren’t supposed to know, He knew. Like the time he first met me, he told me where I had been earlier that day …”
And on and on they kept recounting events from their times with Jesus. Words he had spoken before suddenly made more sense in hindsight.
But for Simon, memories were what he was running from. The particular memory of that night. The night he denied knowing Jesus.
He had always known himself to be courageous, strong and always ready to take risks for a worthy cause. Maybe that’s why he had stuck out here all night, to once again prove to himself that he was strong and rugged. Because that one night, in the face of something he should have stood for, he had cowered like a rat.
Jesus had known beforehand too, and warned him.
The night Jesus was arrested Simon was ready to die for him, or to even rescue him. He had even snuck around the high priest’s house during the hearings. But then he was found out.
First it was the servant-girl that recognised him as one of his disciples. Sharply, without giving it a second thought, he retorted, “No way! I’m not!”
It was just strategy, he had thought. Soon enough he would be able to get in and get Jesus out of there.
Then as he warmed himself by the fire, someone asked again. “I am not one His disciples!”
But his accent gave him away. And then he found himself believing what he was trying to say. For that moment, swearing and cursing, he yelled, “I have no idea who you’re talking about! I don’t know this Jesus! I have nothing to do with Him!”
And the cock crowed, just as Jesus had said.
He was Peter, the unshakeable stone, the courageous disciple. The one who had always been with Jesus. The one who had seen Moses and Elijah appear to speak with Jesus. The one they all looked to. But when it really mattered, all of that was gone. For the first time, he saw the weakling that he was. That he had always been. He felt nothing like a Peter anymore. Beneath the unshakeable stone that Jesus had thought he was, he was simply Simon, son of Jonah.
But now Jesus was alive.
The angel had told the women, “Go tell His disciples, and Peter…” Jesus had not rejected him despite his denial. He should feel loved, grateful, thankful … but it made Simon feel small. Weak. Helpless. He did not deserve this.
Jesus had appeared to them, but He’d not mentioned the denials. Would He ever?
Simon turned to his friends and caught John’s stare. The younger man had been there that night, but he had not mentioned that bit to the others. No one knew of his denial of Jesus. They would never believe it.
Just as they never would have believed Judas would betray the Master.
“Got new orders for us, Captain?” John asked.
Simon was about to respond when a voice called from the beach. “Shalom aleichem, young men! Got any fish?”
“This would be embarrassing,” Thomas muttered.
“Not yet!” James called. “But we will! Shalom!”
“Way to keep the faith…”
“How ‘bout you cast your nets to the right of your vessel?”
“Just as well. The spectator thinks he knows how to fish better than us —“
“THOMAS!” they all turned to him, weary of his sarcastic banter.
“What?!”
Simon grunted, pulling up the nets. “We might as well. Don’t make no difference, anywhichways.”
“You know what this reminds me of?” Andrew piped.
“Don’t,” Simon said under his breath.
“We all know this story,” John added. “When you first met Jesus!”
“Don’t need to recount it,” Simon said.
“What’s your deal?” Andrew said. “Why are you so down when we’re all… whoa, didn’t expect that.” He pulled harder at the net. “Guys, are you seeing this?”
Simon was feeling it more than seeing it. The nets were suddenly getting tauter by the second. And heavier. It could be anything … but he knew it couldn’t be just anything except…
“Ah!” Thomas yelped as a fish splashed on his face and down on the deck, to the amusement of the others. And more fish came up. The net was tipping the boat on its side as it filled with more fishes, piling and squirming in.
“Is this really happening?”
“Good Golan Heights, put your backs into it!” Simon yelled. “We’ve hit the mother lode, boys.”
“Oi, again with the anachronisms,” James muttered between pants.
Simon felt a nudge. It was John, looking back to shore. “Isn’t this the kind of thing He’d do?”
Simon followed his gaze. The stranger on the beach was still standing there, a smile barely visible from this distance. Barely familiar, if Simon allowed himself to go that far.
John turned to him. “It’s Him! It’s the Master!”
Simon knew. Like in a dream, he realised he had really always known. He knew with all his heart that—
“Whoa! Hold on!”
But Simon had already grabbed his coat and leaped into the sea. He came up for air. “I’m OK! Tie the nets to the stern and drag it to shore.” And with that he swam, hurrying towards shore. Hurrying towards Jesus.
The Master stood on the shore, grinning. A fire of coals lay by his feet, and sure enough fish was roasting on it. He had bread in his hands. Wait, if He already had fish why was He asking for fish? And He still grinned, a twinkle in His eye.
“Master…” Simon ran into His embrace, still wet and cold.
“It’s about time, My friend.”
The others arrived by the boat, the net dragging behind them. If sight were any judge Peter guessed there were over a hundred fish caught. If he were still in the business this would have been a windfall. Amazingly, the net had not broken. But the Master was here. The disciples hurried over to him.
“You guys have been at sea all night,” He rubbed his palms. “Join me. Let’s have breakfast.”
It was just like old times. After they had laid out the fish to dry they sat with the Master as they caught up on everything that had been going on. Nothing else felt wrong in the world when they were with the Master, even though they could not keep their eyes off the holes in His hands no matter how hard they tried. Even Simon’s fears seemed to hang somewhere in the back of his mind now.
When they were done, Jesus turned to him. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me more than these?”
“Without question, Master.” He felt the gazes of the others bore into him. He felt John’s the one who had been there that night. He had once felt like the Master’s most loyal follower. Not anymore. But he wanted Jesus to know that he did love him. “You know that I love you, Master.”
Jesus nodded. “My lambs, I want you to feed them. Feed my lambs.”
So Jesus still trusted him with responsibility, just like always.
But He wasn’t done. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me?”
He had not put the comparison with the others this time. Simon’s response was less confident. “Yes, Master. You know that I do. Love you.” He gulped. “You know that I love you, Master.”
Jesus nodded. “Feed my sheep.” He sidled closer. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me?”
It was the third time.
Just like the three times he denied Jesus.
He knows! And He’s telling me that He does.
“Lord, you know all things. You know that I really do love you.”
I am sorry, Lord.

“Feed my sheep.”
Peter blinked. Really? Despite all that You know? You trust me to feed your people?
Jesus looked up at the others, bringing them into the conversation. “You see, when you were younger, you could dress up and go and do whatever it is you wanted to. When you get older, others will help you get there. You will be too frail to.” He looked into their eyes. “Sometimes your spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He had said the same in the garden, before his crucifixion. Simon remembered this well, because Jesus had said it to him.
“This is the death that would glorify God. The more you grow in My grace, the more you will see My strength aiding you, empowering you in all you need to do. Your dependence on Me, not by your strength. Not the strength you think you have, but the one I give. The arm of flesh will fail.” He turned to Simon. “It always does. This is the death that glorifies God. The death of self, so that My life may flow through you. Without me, you really can do nothing.”
He placed His hand on his shoulder. “Follow me.”
There was something about knowing that Jesus knew every detail of him – his strengths and flaws – and still accepting him that assured Peter that he was in the right place. In the day of adversity, his strength had failed. But this strength that Jesus was promising, this Holy Spirit that He had been promising to send from the Father would help him to be and do all that he needs to. To stand in the face of adversity, to walk in His Master’s footsteps.
To follow Jesus.
And, yes, now he felt like an unshakeable stone. Unshakeable, because he would be held not by his own power, but by the power of God.
Yes, he knew he really was Peter.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Peter in a letter to the exiles of the dispersion, circa A.D. 65-68 over 30 years after the Resurrection

(1 Peter 1:3-5)

—–

To every one of us, our courage can only carry us so far.
And when our strength fails, it makes us feel less than we thought we were. It makes us doubt our strength.
But God sees that. He does not berate us for acting or being weaker than we ought. No, He comes to our very level to show us His strength and enablement, and by His love brings us to His level. As we grow to trust Him more, our confidence in Him is restored, and we grow in Him. Soon we realise that what made us afraid really is nothing in the face of the Lord who is alive in us.
Like David said, “…when my heart is overwhelmed, ‘Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!’ ” (Psalm 61:2)
God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). His love toward us makes us realise then that He does not come to judge us for our fear. He comes to calm our hearts so we can see Him bigger than our fears, and we can trust in His strength.
And that’s what He delights in. Like a Father, He embraces us and sings in our ears, surrounding us with songs of His deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Telling our hearts of His power to save and deliver. This is how He casts out our fear. Through His words to us.
Therefore, we cannot afford to be distant from God’s Word. It is how He speaks to us, through what He has said as it is written. The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us to give us understanding and to guide us.

This is the ultimate victory over fear, God’s love for us. He showed this completely in redemption, coming as Man to die and rise for our sake, to make us free from the bonds of sin and death.

Our awareness and acceptance of His love toward us is what frees us from fear.

Everything that could ever defeat you has been defeated by Jesus’ death on the cross. Through His victory over death, He has taken away its sting over you. You need not fear death, or anything else. We are more than conquerors ‘…through Him that loved us!’ (Romans 8:37)
I consistently remind myself of the fact that if God loves me that much, He would not let evil befall me. It is not His nature or desire to. So even if there is an appearance of evil looming, like the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil “For Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Your victory over fear is not in your confidence in yourself. Rather, it is in your confidence in God’s love for you and His power at work in you. The more you give yourself to His Word, the more your heart receives His songs of deliverance, and the more your mindset is transformed to see your fears as the shadows they simply are in the face of the One Who is in you. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.
So even if you’ve ever given in to fear, it’s OK. All Jesus asks of you, from wherever you are in your faith walk or lack thereof, is what Jesus has asked of us all. Just as He said to Peter. It’s His Way, the only Way that gives you Life, and Love.
“Follow Me.”

FEAR ITSELF: The Man of Arimathaea

After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus…’

John 19:38

“Prefect of Galilee. Procurator of Judea. It’s a promotion, they said. It will be a breeze, they said. Well, you know what I say? These Jews are impossible! Every month another uprising. But today, today was the worst!” Pontius Pilate trudged down the steps with his servant barely keeping up.
“It’s not the whole council that’s in the court, sire. Just one of them.”
“What more do they want? To get archers to impale the Nazarene while he’s on the cross too? What, a crucifixion’s not enough? Gods, I’m not shouting all of this, am I? Hope he doesn’t get that idea from me. Sounds don’t carry to the court from this stairwell, do they, Gaius?”
“Not that I know of, sire.”
Pilate grunted. “You were never a good liar, Gaius.”
Soldiers stood at attention as Pilate walked into the courtyard. The Jewish council member turned to gaze at him with forlorn eyes, nodding in greeting. “Most excellent Procurator—“
“Yes, yes, we haven’t got all day.”
“I am Joseph, sir. Of Arimathaea. Member of the Sanhedrin.”
“You lot have interrupted my peace twice today over that man. This had better be quick. You’re here to request for the Nazarene’s body.”
“Yes I am, sir.”
“Tell me this, Jacob, tell me this—“
“Joseph.”
“— you Jews are becoming more Roman with your bloodlust. Never more so than this morning. ‘Crucify him,’ the crowd chanted. ‘Crucify him!’ I understand that you hated the man, but what more do you want with his body?”
Joseph had the carriage of a man familiar with the norms of standing and speaking before authority. But his shifting eyes belied his courage.
“Not all of us ‘hate’ him, sir.”
Pilate arched a brow. “You just didn’t agree with his doctrine.”
Joseph winced. “Sir, I want to give the Teacher the good burial he deserves. I own a sepulchre over by Golgotha. A stone’s throw from the crosses. Whatever the cost, I ask for his body.”
Pilate folded his arms. “This is new. Does Caiaphas and his other cronies know about this?”
Joseph nodded slowly. “They will. Eventually.”
Pilate arched his brows. “And you are ready for their vitriol?”
“Better now than never, sir.”
Pilate took a step closer to Joseph. He too had listened to the Nazarene speak. He too had had his own questions about him. Even his wife had been tormented with nightmares on his account. Something about all this did not seem right. “You were on the Council this morning. You sat there as your people called for this man’s death. But you remained silent.”
“Yes, I did. Because I knew there was much to fear from my people. Hate is a terrible thing in the heart of man, sir, especially when he thinks he hates in the name of God.”
“The man claimed to be God, if I recall. A bold claim among your people. Said he had a kingdom not of this world.”
Joseph nodded, the forlorn gaze remaining in his eyes. “Yes. Yes he did.”
“Seemed to think he really was all that, if you can believe it.”
Joseph looked up at him. “I believe he was who he said he was.”
Pilate smirked. “And yet, he dies on a cross like any mortal.”
Joseph stared away. “Yes, he does.”
“Caiaphas wouldn’t take your words lightly. You could lose your place on the Council.”
Joseph shrugged. “I have considered all of this. I know the cost. But to be silent in the face of truth … I can do that no longer. There are worse things than death, sire. This man did not deserve what he got. My position, my standing … the Council, it is nothing in the face of what is true and right and just.”
Everyone who knows the Truth hears my voice, the Nazarene had said juat this morning.
The sound of Marcellus, the centurion, marching into the hall from outside jolted Pilate from his reverie.
Pilate nodded. “Be that as it may, you would have to wait until after he dies. This may take a couple hours, or days—“
“The Nazarene has passed, sir.” Marcellus said, his helmet in the crook of his hands as he saluted. “He’s dead.”
Pilate grunted. “Now that was fortuitous. One could say a deus exit machina, amiright…”
But the horror on the Arimathean’s face silenced him. This man was grieving.
Pilate pursed his lips. “Few things make a man take the risk you have taken. Love, sometimes. Maybe honour. In this particular case, I am not certain they are mutually exclusive.” He nodded. “You will have his body. Go, give him the burial he deserves, Joseph of Arimathaea.”

———-

Joseph of Arimathaea is another figure that pops up on the stage of Scripture in one or two verses, does something, and pops out. But what he did had an effect on history forever. And it wa an act of courage over fear.
Joseph was a wealthy man and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council of leaders. He was a secret follower of Jesus, ‘for fear of the Jews’ (John 19:38). He was likely there when Jesus was being tried, but to expose himself as a follower of Jesus would have risked his position and standing in the community, and even his very life.
But later he courageously went to Pilate the governor to request for Jesus’ body. He had a rock-hewn tomb, something only the rich could afford, and he asked to bury Jesus’ body there.
Going to Pilate was an open statement to all, especially to his colleagues who hated Jesus. This same tomb later caused the priests to request for guards to seal it.I do not blame Joseph for hiding the fact that he followed Jesus at the time. But it tells me something about fear.
One thing that fear does is that it makes us silent in the face of what is right. It makes us comfortable with what is wrong as long as we do not take any risks. But this mindset is what allows evil to be perpetrated, especially in these depraved times.
But Joseph took a courageous step and used his tomb.
Apart from the world outside, for ourselves, fear keeps us from reaching out into the much-more that God has prepared for us. If Joseph had done nothing he would most likely have still had a good life. But he did, and he got into something more fulfilling, being a vessel in God’s hands.

To be a part of what God wants to do in us, vessels in His hands, we need to be courageous.
Do you know that Jesus being buried in that kind of tomb was a fulfilment of prophecy, that he would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9) and that his body would not decay (Psalm 16:10). By acting in courage, Joseph became engrafted into a plan God had set in motion long ago.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, it is doing what is right even in the midst of fear.

For a child of God, our courage is rooted in the knowledge and assurance that God is for us and with is and in us, even when we don’t ‘feel’ it, but because God’s Word says so. And that is Truth.It is why when Joshua became the leader of the Israelites to lead them into the Promised Land, God told him over and over to be courageous. He told him to keep on meditating on the Law, the Words of God. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

You know, Joseph of Arimathaea reminds me of another Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He too had to make a courageous decision, to stick by Mary when she was pregnant, at a time and in a society that would have shunned them. But he trusted in what God said and courageously stayed with her. This was the kind of man God trusted to father his Son.Isn’t it just like God to place two Josephs, one at the beginning and the other at the end, to take care of His Son’s body?

To conceive, bring forth and nurture God’s counsel in our lives and in our world, we need to be courageous. Fear is just an illusion in the face of what God can do through you. Don’t let it limit you.And when we do what He calls us to, then we find our true and best selves.

Trust in His ability.

Be courageous.

Point to consider: What things do you know you ought to do that fear has fear kept you from doing?

FEAR ITSELF

Ever since the Fall, sin and death have held men and women in bondage, so that life becomes a sprint from birth to death. In the space in between, the enemy has used the fear of death to keep humanity in bondage.
Fear keeps us shortsighted, blinding us to the salvation God has provided.
It keeps is stagnant, afraid to venture out and expand into greater things.
It causes us to base our hopes and lives on variable and fickle things that will crumble.
The fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of loss. All rooted in the fear of death.

But Jesus came to change all that. In His death amd resurrection He defeated sin and death, and came to “…deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:15
He defeated death and turned into into a doorway to the best parts of our eternity, when it is time.
He is ever with us, so we need not fear death.
Yet, in our lives, we encounter fears in one form or the other.

Over the next couple of days I’ll be putting 3 men in the spotlight. These guys were players in the background during the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And each of their stories are pictures of some fears we face. We will look at them and see what we can learn from them, and how they overcame fear (for those who did).
The casualty of fear is a price we need not pay. Jesus did, so we can live boldly and free.
I hope you enjoy this series.
Thanks for coming by.

And, here we go…

The Man of Kerioth

The Man of Arimathaea

The Man of Galilee

FACES OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY: King Herod

KING HEROD
“When Herod the king heard this, he was disturbed and troubled, and the whole of Jerusalem with him…” Matthew 2:3
Herod the Great was the designated king of Judea in the days when Jesus was born. Judea was already a client state of Rome and Herod was once a governor of one of its territories, the Galilee territory. When a conflict arose he hurried over to Rome to obtain favour with Caesar and, when Rome responded to quench the uprising and end the status quo hitherto, he was placed as ‘king of the Jews’, sent to rule over the entire country. He is largely remembered for his very ambitious and very expensive building projects such as the building of the cities of Caesarea, provision of water supply to Jerusalem, building of about five fortresses, and most especially the expansion of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, a portion of which still stands today as the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall). He sought to make Judea befitting to the standards of the world of his day. He also enriched and gifted other nations, creating a name for himself. These projects brought much employment to the people of Judea.
Son of an Idumean (or Edomite) father and a Nabatean (Arab) mother, his family was circumcised and converted to Judaism. But his decadent lifestyle undermined any religious identification he sought to portray.
The building of the Temple, and his marriage to a Jewess named Mariamne, was all a lobby for the favour of the Jews. But he didn’t stop there. He still lobbied for favour from the pagan population of his land and from Caesar, constructing a Roman Eagle statue over the very gate of the Jewish Temple (an abomination to the Jews), and also building the cities of Caesarea and Sebaste (formerly Samaria) in Caesar’s honour with many pagan idols and shrines. All his building projects were funded by a very severe taxing system that weighed heavy on the people. So while he transformed much of Judea, his motives were anything but selfless, and the people weren’t fooled.
He knew he was ruling a nation that resented him, so he was very paranoid for much of his reign. He had a secret police to monitor and report the general feelings of the populace, a bodyguard of about 2000 soldiers among other units, and he had his opponents forcefully dealt with. He actually had his Jewish wife and her sons for him executed on charges of unfaithfulness and incitement of revolt. So much for Jewish favour there, Herod.
For all his achievements, scholars report that he suffered through depression and paranoia throughout his lifetime. It was in these days that a contingent of Magi, a priestly order of astrologers and royal advisers from the lands of the East, came to visit him. Prepared to host such dignified guests, he was shocked when they declared that they were seeking someone who had been born ‘King of the Jews’, as they had seen his star rising all the way from their lands, and that they had come to ‘worship’ him!
“King of the Jews? I am king of the Jews!” He sent for them and when they had come, he confirmed their quest. It was clear they were seeking someone, and it was definitely not him.
It was all he could do to mask his terror behind a pasty smile. Of course he knew about the expectation in the Jewish conscious of a Messiah that was to come and deliver them from their ‘oppressors’, a term Herod knew many would call him. He mostly dismissed it as the superstitions of a weary people, but the possibility had always stood out in his mind.
Could it be true? Or had these men just come based on the rumors of another possible uprising? News of his turmoil spread to the rest of the city, and everyone else was troubled. They knew that, when Herod fears an uprising, there’s going to be blood in the streets.
Meanwhile, as his people entertained the Magi in an adjoining room, Herod paced. He had to tell them something, or these guys would consider him an uneducated idiot. He had to show these Magi that he was in the know of everything going on in his land. He wanted to find favour in the eyes of these men too. So he sent for the chief priests and learned men in Jerusalem. “So … about this Messiah you all keep talking about…” he began. “Where do the Scriptures say he will be … born, so to say?”
Without missing a beat, they replied him. “In Bethlehem of Judea, your majesty. For so it is written by the prophet Micah, ‘And you Bethlehem…’ ”
But Herod’s mind was already blanking out. He could see the priest’s mouth moving but his pulse thumped in his ears. He rubbed his beard. “Bethlehem, you say?”
His mind was in overdrive. He knew what he must do, but he had to be discrete.
With the priests dismissed he met the Magi privately. “How long ago exactly did you see this star rising?”
“About two years.” They even gave him the exact date, but much of their astrological jargon was gibberish to him.
Could he be late already? He directed them to Bethlehem, telling them to return when they’ve found the child, “…so that I too can come and … worship him.” He felt sick just uttering those words.
That night he stared out into the sky. It looked as normal as any other night sky. He had so much, he had accomplished so much, yet he felt so alone in the universe. No matter how much he tried, he much he acted, he never fully felt appreciated. Now someone else had been chosen to be king of the Jews. A child?! It brought a bitter taste to his mouth. He needed to end this.
But the days passed. And the Magi never returned. Herod was furious. The rejection and flouting of his orders stung. He ordered his soldiers to invade Bethlehem and its surrounding hills, to kill every boy two-years-old and under. Surely that would be his boot to squash this ant before it became a problem (spoiler alert: God sent angels in an undercover mission, i.e. while Joseph was asleep ‘under covers’ ;), to warn him to escape with the child and his mother to Egypt before the soldiers arrived)
But the massacre never brought Herod the satisfaction he craved. He died not much longer, but his last days were wrought with much turmoil and political intrigue. Quarrels with his eastern neighbours brought him into displeasure with Caesar Augustus, a relationship he had laboured to build for years. His health dwindled into a ferocious temper as his insides withered. He felt so much excruciating pain that he even attempted suicide. He is recorded to have said to his sister and her husband, “I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; which death ought to be cheerfully borne, and to be welcomed by all men; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king’s death.”* He ordered that a multitude of distinguished men be invited and, upon his death, they should be killed so that there would, at least, be some mourning in the land. Thankfully, upon his death, his son cancelled that order.
He lived his life seeking the favour of men and died that way. He even tried to kill the One who had come to give him a full and abundant life. He didn’t know.
Herod’s story is a picture of many today. We live in a self-conscious culture where everyone wants to be affirmed and appreciated by others. It is a human desire which, in itself, is not bad, but is also sad. On the social media, for example, it is easy to judge our relevance and fulfilment by the number of likes and retweets on our posts and selfies, to feel hurt or that we did something wrong when we don’t get enough or any, to try to please men so that they can favour us. And this has been translated to how we live our lives. If we could, we would even want to know how many people would mourn us if we died!
It is why many are suicidal today. And it is not a joke.
We all want to be affirmed, because no matter how much we try, there is a void inside that cries for more.
And, as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. Our desire for affirmation tends to lead to selfish disregard for the well-being of others as we crush them in order to obtain some acceptance. We may not all execute those that hate us, but it has become the base evil of humanity. It was the root of the first murder, when Cain killed Abel because he didn’t get the favour he desired. It is the core of every villain, both in fiction and in reality. At their core, everyone, be they heroes or villains, wants fulfilment. How we go about obtaining that fulfilment tells on our very natures. The hero obtains fulfilment in helping others, while the villain obtains fulfilment in hurting others.
It is why people cheat, slander, betray … assuming that putting others down automatically lifts us up. But all it does is send us all sinking into miry clay (or quicksand). It ruins relationships and marriages too, when each person is seeking their own gain, focused on receiving from the other instead of giving, and judging them based on personal needs.
The void in man is a form of death, and it is a consequence of the sinful nature. There is nothing we can do to fill it, and it always cries out for more. Only Jesus can fill it, and that is what He came to do. God came that we may be whole, complete in Him, fulfilled and full-filled. He came so that we can have Life and live it to the full (John 10:10).
He fills our hearts with His love (Romans 5:5) and lets us know that we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), lacking nothing. In Him, we see our true selves: beautiful, loved, accepted, affirmed. We are His own, and He is ours. The more we grow in Him the less we will base our fulfilment on the approval of others. Rather we will realise more and more, and it will be more real in our mindsets, how He fills and surrounds us with His everlasting and boundless love. We have never really been alone, and we never will be.
Immanuel.
Herod did not realise that he had a front row seat on God’s plan to answer the cry of his heart. Don’t miss out on the opportunity God has presented before you too. Call to Him. He is closer than near, and He hears. He wants you to know Him much more than you think. He’s got so much for you.
And, from this place of affirmation in Him, we can more effectively be a blessing to others. This is the kind of life that can give to others without expecting appreciation or reward, and would not be hurt if it doesn’t come. It is the kind of heart that can be slapped (or cheated), and will turn the other cheek. It is the confidence that will put out its best foot forward in love, knowing that it might be stepped on but not minding. It is the life that can break through cold hearts, and warm and comfort them with love.
It is the life Jesus spoke about. It is bizarre and crazy, like walking on water. But it is also supernatural and amazing, just like walking on water.
He showed us what it’s like, dying for us when we were still ungodly, sinners, in enmity with God and without a promise or care of responding to His love. He rose to make the way that we may be united with God in Him, by believing in Him. The way is still open today.
Remember that, this Christmas.
You are loved, and can love.
#7DaystoChristmas
*Source of Herod’s dying quote: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Chapter 6, note 5 (translated by William Whiston)