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The heavy weight of the curtain collapses behind you as you step into the small, fifteen foot by fifteen foot room.
You have felt called here. Why, you cannot explain, you do not know. Only One knows you are here. By custom, by tradition, you shouldn’t be here. You aren’t the chief priest. You aren’t a priest at all, for that matter. You’re not even a Temple worker. But still, you are here. You have felt Called, beyond all reason.
You are here.
A wind suddenly caresses your face, gently, soothingly.
The winds pick up their velocity, coming from nowhere and everywhere at once. Dust is flung into your face, your eyes, is forced down into your lungs. Coughing, you attempt to expel the debris, but only more dirt is flung down your throat. Hacking, you attempt to orient yourself in the now spinning room. It is in this moment you realize that it is not the room that is spinning, but your perceptions of it.
You are lost in a whirlwind.
From a great distance, a lone, mournful trumpet is heard, barely audible above the roar of the storm.
Slowly, the horn grows louder gaining volume as though it were an avalanche rushing down a mountainside picking up speed, its power and strength seeming to come from the walls, the dirt, the ceiling, the curtain.
As the blast reaches such a fever pitch as to block out all other sound, you are forced to your knees, clamping your hands to your ears, screaming. Writhing on the floor, kicking your legs, you jam your fingers as far into your ears as you can, but the sound only increases.
Slowly, your hands become wet with a warm, viscous fluid.
Your ears are bleeding, and yet you still hear.
Your vision swims before you, and all you see is sound, the now pained shriek of the trumpet. The intensity picks up even further, and you begin to feel the scream rattle through your body, your chest is nearly imploding. You feel your chest deflate as breathing becomes all the more difficult; one of your lungs has collapsed.
Your head feels as though it is being ripped apart by the ears; your brain cannot withstand the sound-waves pounding your body.
Just as you feel as though the sound will cause your entire head to burst, the trumpet ceases, the wind abates. You now hear only a scream, and within minutes you collapse to the floor in agony. It’s then, when the scream becomes muffled as you once again taste dirt, that you realize that the horrific wail is coming from your own ragged throat.
Lying on the floor of the tiny cubicle, you attempt to take a breath but your lungs refuse to cooperate. You taste chalk come up and out of your throat and you can finally inhale. The breath is tiny, dirty, stale – but it keeps you alive.
You roll over to your side, coming to rest in a puddle. Looking through sand-ravaged eyes, you notice somewhat distantly that the puddle you are lying in is your own blood. Abrasions cover your body where the sand had torn at it. A long gash crosses your chest, and you feel your legs and arms burning. Investigating, you discover lacerations crisscrossing your thighs and arms: as you had been screaming, you hadn’t noticed yourself ripping at your clothes, your flesh... anything to make the trumpet stop.
You vaguely decide you want to stand, thinking that’s the right thing to do, but you can’t feel your legs. You can’t really feel anything.
Your scattered and weak thoughts turn to your family. Your sons, your daughter. Your wife. To old friends, to new ones, to the merchant you cheated last week to the priest you spoke with just a few hours ago.
Crying, you wonder who will take care of your family – your wife is a widow.
Pondering this, your cogitations now turn to God, in whose place you are now intruding. You berate yourself for thinking that a seemingly Holy calling could ever be sufficient to override tradition. But you felt God calling you to His Place, His Holy of Holies.
You realize now you don’t even deserve to live, let alone enter His Home on earth. You see the blackness, the taint in your soul, just how impure you truly are. Already destroyed, your body and soul both revolt at your arrogance, your lust, your sin.
You begin to blubber. Were your body functioning at capacity, you know you would be wailing, screaming at the top of your lungs as frantic sobs wracked your body. As it is, you can only moan as silent tears fall down your face.
“... I’m sorry...” you moan, expending your last few breaths. “Oh God, I’m sorry...”
Your mind is ordering your throat to scream, to wail. The only sound that passes through your shredded vocal chords, however, is a naught more than a whisper.
“Dear Lord, I’m so sorry...” sobs begin to wrack your already completely broken body as you say “Lord, please, have Mercy on me... forgive me Father, for I have...” you cough up blood, pause, then struggle to continue, “…sinned, and against You, and You alone... I’m so sorry...”
As you continue to whimper in your own self-deprecation, you miss it. Too caught up in your confession, you are unaware of the new sound ringing throughout the sanctuary.
In an instant, your vocal chords are strengthened. You unwittingly begin to wail, shouting a repentance song. Not noticing the sudden change in your vocal range, you become only more fervent in your prayers.
“Father, forgive me!”
“Lord, forgive me!”
“I love You, Lord, I’m so sorry!”
The words resound in the tiny space. You have nothing left to say, no energy left. You’re spent. It is here that you hear it for the first time.
The tolling of what you recognize as a hammer on nail reverberates unnaturally in the canvassed chamber. A voice, a man’s voice, as though from across time itself, speaks three words in a tongue that you don’t recognize.
Time stands still as the last syllable hangs in the air.
Giggling, joyous laughter, as though from a young boy, suddenly fills the room. Starting as merely a quiet giggle, the laughter picks up slowly, gaining in intensity and joy. Shortly, it’s joined by a young girl’s laughter. Then another child’s, and another...
You realize you can hear the laughter clearly.
Colors suddenly burst before your eyes, flooding the sanctuary. They dance around the floor, no apparent shape or limitations bounding them –perfectly coherent and real, yet utterly intangible. You think your eyes are playing tricks on you, damaged as they must be from the sand’s assault on your body. Yet when you look at your own hands, they are clean.
You look down at the rest of your body, and see nothing out of the ordinary. The shreds of skin on your legs are replaced, the dried blood gone; the lower half of your body is whole. Putting a hand to your ear, you feel nothing but smooth skin. There is no blood. Moving your hand down your neck, across your chest and arms, you feel for the lesions and cuts that you know must cover your body.
There are no wounds.
Looking to the floor, you search for the puddle of blood that you left as you thrashed about only moments before.
The puddle is gone.
The laughter swells, the winds begin again. The dark room brightens. You cough once, expelling dirt and dust all over the place. You inhale deeply, and feel part of your chest expand.
Your lungs are completely healed.
Suddenly ecstatic, you join in the giggling laughter of the children and feel yourself slowly being lifted off the floor, borne by the swirling wind.
The man's voice speaks again, this time in your native tongue.
I love you, My child.
You feel your body slacken as the words crash over you.
I love you.
The sheer force of the words themselves shove the air from your renewed lungs, and yet you don't feel the need to draw any more breath. It's as though the man's words are oxygen to you. An old proverb floats through your mind's eye: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word..."
Joyously laughing now, the words speak again, saying the same thing. They crush your chest like a tidal wave of pure pleasure, and you inhale deeply as the words are spoken. Electricity fills your body, and you suddenly feel every vein, every artery, every organ you have flooded with this bliss, this love.
As you feel your body turn over in the whirlwind, a breeze lightly caresses your cheek again.
I love you.
Your back arches this fourth time, so powerful are the words. You realize you are screaming with pure joy, pure and unadulterated love. It's unlike anything you've ever experienced before. The wind rolls over, and you feel as though the air itself is tickling you, in the most intimate way possible.
“I love You! I love You, Lord!” you shout, laughing uncontrollably.
In return, the Voice calls,
Would you like to play?
As you watch, the walls on all sides recede, leaving a large cavernous space. What looks like a ball of nothing but colored air floats before you, then takes off into the larger rainbow that blankets the room. Without a thought, you chase after it, leaping up and up and up towards the ceiling.
Only now do you realize that you are flying, being buoyed up by nothing more than the strength and vigor this new Love has given you. Spinning a loop, you flip over and glance at the floor thirty feet below you. You glide around the space, reveling in your newfound power of flight. It’s then you remember who gave you such a power. Immediately you roll back over and search for the ball of air.
The instant you see it, it takes off, begging you to chase. Gleefully, you do so. After a short time, you do indeed catch the ball, and once again the tingling sensation materializes as every particle of your body is overloaded with pleasure. You hear the ball laughing with you, and that only makes the experience more incredible.
You play for a long while in this space, swooping, laughing, singing, praising, worshipping. God's cloud constantly changes form, from the ball of air, to a lightning-endowed cloud, to a man you don't recognize yet somehow know; a man who, you notice, has scars in both hands.
Hours later, as you float back to the floor, exhausted, the man begins to sing a beautiful song, a pure song. The most impeccable noises that have ever graced your body, the notes are pure pleasures to your ear. It’s as though your ears were crafted to do nothing but drink in this embodiment of pure Love. As the man continues, you are eventually lulled to sleep by the sheer magnificence of the man, his presence, his love, his song...
When you awake, you are lying peacefully on your back just outside the curtain, your body whole, your soul healed, your faith assured, and your strength renewed.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
- Romans 5:9-11