I followed Benjamin’s instructions and read each story several times, then slept on them. The more I thought about them, the more I understood their importance and became aware of the impact they would have on the world. Both Benjamin and I were moved by the stories we had read so far. What else would I discover within these pages? I wanted to rush through them. The stories I had already read seemed to be a taster for what lay ahead. I could not wait to read on – but there were other things happening in my life too. Exams were looming on the horizon and I had studying to do.
The stories seemed to worm themselves into my heart. I had really good friends, but I had to ask myself if I would go to such lengths for any one of them. I could not forget the delight of the four young men as their friend was healed. Were my own friendships deep enough for any of my friends to do such a thing for me? I remembered when my cousin was in hospital in a neighbouring town at the beginning of the year and I had not visited her. I made every excuse under the sun not to go. I had not made the effort to keep in touch with Benjamin during his last year either, even though I knew he was very sick.
As I pondered Simeon’s story, I began to feel guilty and ashamed of myself. The feelings grew stronger as the days passed. I could do nothing about Benjamin, but I could do something about my cousin. On Thursday night I could stand it no longer and I rang her. She was delighted to hear from me. She was much better and keen to meet up for lunch that weekend. I felt as if a load I had not realised I was carrying, was lifted off my shoulders. We had a good time together, reminiscing about shared childhood memories. I even managed to apologise face to face for my absence when she was ill. She brushed my apology off, but I could see she was touched. The day seemed to cement our relationship somehow and gave it a depth it had not had before. I was glad I had contacted her.
Now I was ready, after almost two weeks, to read the next story.
Simeon’s story made me realise that although I had no children of my own, you and your brother and sister have been in my life since you were born. My career, which obliged me to sit behind a desk most of the time, prevented me from making good friends. I only have one younger brother and a couple of nephews. My parents died long ago.
I have been unable to get Simeon’s healing out of my mind. Yes, to be physically healed would be wonderful – the cancer is beginning to bite; but to be cleansed of all sin – now that would be something!
Ben, I asked God to forgive me. It was a lot to ask. For almost eighty years I have never asked for forgiveness – that’s a lot of sin. Could he, would he, forgive someone as old as me? I debated long and hard about the issue and in the end decided I had nothing to lose and maybe much to gain – so I asked him in a whispered prayer.
How can I describe what happened? In a split second I felt lighter than I had ever done! If I had been Simeon’s age, I too would have danced in the street! As it was I hummed a little song and jigged around the room to the best of my ability! I still feel that sense of joy and lightness as if I am free of a burden I had been carrying my whole life.
Ben, I am beginning to believe that I am not just reading stories. I think perhaps God is working in me, and revealing a truth to me. I am not sure what that truth is yet, but I hope I will understand by the end.
Can you feel it too?
My heart ached for Sarah and Jeremiah and their family in this next story. They were ripped apart by illness through no fault of their own. How many families have been ripped apart by circumstances beyond their control? My own family was one who was separated and never came together again. I was pleased for Sarah and Jeremiah, but sad for myself – perhaps crazy after so long, but that’s how it was.
I put the papers down. Once again Benjamin’s letter had touched me. I did not understand the comments about his family. I found I could not read on that night for I had some more thinking of my own to do. Could I do what Benjamin had done and ask for forgiveness? What would that mean to me?
I thought about the people who had hurt me during my lifetime. There was a kid at school who had blamed me for breaking a window when he was the one who threw the ball. I was too much of a wimp at that stage to stand up for myself. The thought of him still made my blood boil. Then there were various girlfriends; and the guy who had reversed into my car a couple of months ago. Had I forgiven any of them or did I still bear a grudge against them?
What about people who needed to forgive me? I could think of one or two. Any suggestion of making an apology to such people brought me face to face with the threat of change in my life looming large in front of me. I did not think I was ready to face it yet. I put the idea of apology behind me.
The following week, as soon as I could, I picked up the scrolls where I had left off. I understood what Benjamin meant when he said he felt there was a deeper dimension to these scrolls than just everyday stories recorded to entertain. They held a fascination for me which was impossible to resist.