A Father’s Story
By Charles Henry
Copyright 2016 Charles Henry
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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He turns 18 today. The day I thought could never come has indeed come. It always seemed so far away, almost like it would never come at all. I hoped it would never come. I didn’t want it to come. But it did come. And now he’s 18, an adult. It’s time for him to leave home and be on his own. What will I do without him around? I don’t even remember what it was like before we had him. I guess I’m going to find out though.
I remember when I first heard that he was coming. His mother knew first, but then I found out. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t possible that his mother was pregnant. We weren’t officially married yet. We weren’t even living together. But it was true. She was indeed pregnant. I didn’t know what to do. My mind was full of crazy ideas about what maybe had happened. At first I thought she had been unfaithful. She assured me that she had not, but what else could I believe? I mean, what other possible explanation could there be? For days I had thought about what to do. Should I embarrass her publicly? Or maybe disgrace her among her family? Or even worse. Legally I could have had her killed. But none of that seemed right. I wasn’t raised that way. I knew those were the wrong choices. Finally I decided to protect her and just take the ridicule and embarrassment on myself, but I wasn’t going to go through with the marriage. I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t that good or that strong. But then I had a life changing experience. One night I had a dream. In my dream I had a visitor. I must have seemed afraid.
“Don’t be afraid,” the visitor said. “There is nothing to fear. I know you are distressed about what has happened. But it’s all ok. None of the bad things you have imagined have happened. Your fiancé has been faithful to you. She is pregnant indeed. But there is no earthly father. It is a miracle. The child is a miracle. You aren’t his biological father, but he will still need a father here on earth. He needs someone to care of him and his mother. He needs someone to teach him to walk and to talk, and to read and to write, and to work and provide, and to be a man and a leader in his family. You have been chosen because you are good and honest and upright. His mother was chosen as well because she is a good and virtuous woman. Together you need to raise this child as your son. Will you do that?”
In my dream I thought about the visitor’s words and then I responded, “Yes, I will do that. I am honored to have been chosen. We are honored to have been chosen. And we will do just as you said we should. We will raise him as our son and teach him to be the man that he is meant to be. Thank you.”
And then I woke up. At first I thought maybe I was just crazy with everything that was going on in my life. But the dream was so real. It was really not like a dream at all. Dreams are usually full of crazy stuff mixed in with a few facts and realities, but this one was different. It was completely realistic. I decided that the dream must have been real. I went to see my fiancé that very same day and told her what had happened. She told me that the same thing had happened to her several months earlier. She believed it then, before she was pregnant, and she definitely believed it as the pregnancy progressed on into reality.
“We will do just as we have been asked to do,” I said to her. “We will care for this child, the child you will give birth to, as our own son. I still can’t make sense of all of it, but I believe it to be the right thing to do.”
My fiancé was happy with our decision. We both were made to endure much criticism and discouragement from our friends and even our own family. No one seemed to understand or even believe us when we told them what had happened. Not even our own parents. Mine forced me to move out of our family home and live by myself. I started my own business building tables and chairs. Her parents allowed her to stay at home with them but they would not even speak to her. She lived there in complete silence in her own home. We were able to see each other some and after a few months we finalized our marriage so that she could move into my home with me. Together we trusted in what we had been told and resolved to see it through.
Several months later when it was almost time for the child to be born, I received word that the government was accumulating some information about all of the men in our area. I was being forced to travel to the original birthplace of my family. I didn’t know what to do. I had to go or be arrested. My new wife really didn’t need to travel, but I couldn’t leave her home by herself either. The baby was due any time. There was no one to take care of her. Her family had abandoned her entirely by now. Together we decided that she would just have to travel with me. It took us several days to get to the town. The roads were terrible. The weather was bad. The conditions were treacherous. She was in no shape to travel. But we made it safely just the same. It was as if someone or something was protecting us the whole way.
We entered the town and found that it was full of people. It seemed like there were people everywhere. You could hardly move without running into someone else. We needed somewhere to stay as the government men weren’t due in town for another couple of days. With all of the people I saw around me I began to fear for what we might find at the town’s inn. Then things went from bad to worse.
“Oh no,” my wife called out to me.
I turned to her. I could immediately see that she was in great distress. “What is it? What is wrong? Is it the baby?”
She nodded that it was. “I think it is time. He has decided to come now, tonight.”
“Ok,” I said. “Hang in there just a few more minutes. I will figure something out.”
I hurried her along as best I could and found the local inn. Again there were people everywhere, hanging around outside trying to get in, pounding on the door. Just as we walked up a man came out the front door and announced, “We are full. No more rooms. I am sorry.”
The people around me cursed and grunted and groaned and slowly moved away from the area. I stayed though and watched the innkeeper. He stayed outside and tried to console the people as best he could. When I got my chance, I walked up to him and spoke. “Please sir, we desperately need a room. I heard what you said but my wife,” I paused and turned to her before I continued, “She is great with child and I fear will give birth tonight. Please, do you have anyplace we could go?”
He looked at me, then at my wife, and then back at me. He scratched his chin and then said, “Well, I really don’t have any room inside, but I do have a building out back that you could use. It will at least shield you from the weather and give you some privacy. There is one little issue with the building, but come on, I will show you.”
“Yes, thank you,” I said. “I’m sure it will be fine.” I guided my wife as we followed him around to the back.
As soon as I saw the building, I understood what he meant by the one little issue. It was a barn, an animal shelter. And it was full of cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and even a few chickens. But it did have a roof and some clean, dry straw. I just stood there for a minute and looked at it. Then I turned to my wife who nodded that it would work.
I turned back to the innkeeper who was standing there waiting on me to say something. “It will be fine,” I said to him. “Thank you.”
“You are welcome,” he replied. “Make yourself at home. Feel free to use anything in there for your comfort.” And with that he left us on our own.
I guided my wife into the barn and got her down on a mound of straw. I found some blankets to keep her warm and a barrel of water around the side as well. I went out to fill a pitcher with water and just as I was coming back I heard her calling to me. When I got back inside, she said to me, “I think it’s time.”
“You’re kidding,” I responded. “Now?”
“Yes,” she said. “Now.”
And she was right. I did my best to help her and listened to her instructions, but this was my first birth. Somehow we got through it. Mainly she got through it. It was an amazing thing. She was in some pain which I expected, but nothing ever too severe or anything. She pushed a little like she was taught. About an hour later our baby was born. A Son. Our first born. It was the most remarkable thing I had ever witnessed in my life. He came so easy, almost like there was nothing to it. I used one of the blankets from the barn and caught him in it. He was perfect, totally. He made a noise or two, but he didn’t cry. He just went to sleep right there in my arms. I helped my wife over to the animals’ feeding trough where she wrapped him tight in some clothes and laid him there. We both just looked at him, together. It was a miracle. He was a miracle.
We both rested for a while after that. Sometime in the middle of the night though we were awakened by a stirring over by the door. We looked up to see some men standing there. At first I thought maybe they were there looking for shelter also or even worse to rob us. Then I noticed that they were carrying shepherd staffs so I thought maybe they had come by to tend to the animals. But then one of them spoke up, the oldest one.
“Sir,” he said. “We came here looking for a baby. Is there one here?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. I couldn’t yet tell why they were here. So I got up and shielded my wife and son from them and said, “Yes. There is a baby here. Our son. He was just born a couple of hours ago.” Then the second most remarkable thing I’d ever seen happened. The man fell to his knees and bent his face over to the ground. The other men with him did the same thing.
After a few minutes, one of the younger men looked up at me and with tears in his eyes said, “We came to see the baby. We were told he had been born here tonight and was lying in a feeding trough. We weren’t sure what to think but we came to see for ourselves. The one who told us was right. Here he is, just as we were told. The anointed one who will save us. We are so happy. Thank you for letting us visit with you.”
I just looked at the man, not knowing what to say. At that moment, he came over and shook my hand. Then he went over to my wife and touched her on the shoulder. He then reached down and touched his hand to the cheek of our son. I just stood there and watched. Looking back it didn’t seem too wise to let him near them like that, but there was something about the men and the moment. I knew it was ok. I then watched as each man, young and old, one at a time, came over to me and then went to my wife and then our son and repeated the acts. They all bowed down to the ground together one last time and then they went out, laughing and congratulating each other as they went.
Just as they were about to turn the corner and out of my sight, I remembered something the first man said and I called out to him, “Sir, can I ask you a question before you leave?”
The man stopped when I called and turned back to listen to me as his friends moved away. “Why yes,” he said. “Ask me anything.”
“You said something about you were told about a baby being born here tonight and that the one who told you was right,” I said. “What did you mean by that? Who told you?”
“Well, it happened like this,” the man started. “We were all out in the fields around midnight just watching our flocks. It was pitch dark. But then suddenly a great light appeared over a hill moving toward us and out of the light came a voice at first but then it appeared to be the shape of a man. We must have looked awfully afraid because the first thing he told us was that we didn’t need to be. Then he told us he had some good news to tell us that would bring great joy to many people. He said that this very night in this little town a baby had been born, a baby who would save us all. He said that if we would come to this town we would find the baby all wrapped up and lying in a feeding trough.
Then, just as he finished telling us that, the light around grew even more so that it seemed to fill up the whole sky. At that moment we heard more voices, it seemed like millions of them, all singing and talking at once. Just as it happened with him, as we watched the lights in the sky, images of men, and women, began to appear out of the light. They sang together for a few moments and then they stopped and at that very moment they all vanished from our sight, the men, the women, and the lights.
To tell you the truth we were all still pretty afraid, but we just figured we’d do what he told us to do and we hurried over here where we found you, your wife, and your baby, just like we were told. Is that amazing or what?”
With that, the man turned and rushed off to catch up with his friends. I turned back to head inside and I thought to myself, “Yes it was amazing. Very amazing indeed. It’s been an amazing night all around.”
The rest of the night went pretty peacefully, full of just the normal feeding and crying that babies do, or course with a few animal noises mixed in. The innkeeper came out to see us the next morning. He was a bit surprised to see that our party of two had turned into three. He told us that he would send his wife out to see what she could do to help us. We stayed there for several weeks while I took care of my business with the government. We were able to find a more permanent place to stay that was much better than the barn out behind the inn. I was able to work odd carpenter jobs around town to pay our living expenses. Our son was such a joy. We had always heard how hard it is to take care of a newborn, but this just wasn’t the case with him. Of course he cried some when he was hungry or when he had messed up his clothes and those kinds of things, but overall he was pretty amazing. If there is such a thing as a perfect baby, it was him.
When I was all finished with my government business, we packed up our few belongings and headed out. We were all so happy to be able to get back out and about in the world. In accordance with our law, we were required to take our new son to the temple. This had to be done on the fortieth day of his life so as we headed out we had one day to reach our destination, the temple in the capital city just a few miles away. The city was very crowded and neither of us had ever been there before, but we just made our way through the streets and actually went right up to the temple itself. We had never done this before so we weren’t exactly sure what to do. We passed through lots of people who appeared to be buying and selling animals, vegetables, and all sorts of things. It seemed a bit odd to both of us that these things would be happening there. Something needed to be done about all of the nonsense. “Maybe one day someone will,” I thought to myself.
We finally made it through the crowds and into the temple building itself. Just as we walked in a few steps, a man appeared in front of us. We had never seen him before. He was old. His hair and beard were stark white. He used a cane to get around. He was wearing a billowy, white robe. When he stepped in front of us, we just stopped and looked at him. He looked at me, then at my wife, and then down at our son in my wife’s arms. Then he looked back at me and smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen on another human being.
Then he spoke, “This child is the one I have been waiting for. I have been waiting for all of you. I knew the day would come when I would be allowed to see the chosen one. I have been waiting and waiting for many years. I am old and I was beginning to wonder if it would still happen. I had almost given up hope. I used to come here every day and wait, but lately it has been harder for me to do that. This morning when I woke up, I knew something was different. I got up and got ready and hurried over here. I had just walked in the side door when I saw you come in. I knew immediately he was the one. I am so happy. My prayers have been answered.”
I stood there and listened to the man. What he said to us seemed just unbelievable. I wasn’t sure what to make of it actually. I was thinking about ducking away from him and making a quick exit, but then I looked at my wife. She was smiling. She seemed to believe everything the man had said. Then I looked down at my son. I could tell he was looking at something, away from my wife. I followed his eyes and saw that he was looking straight into the eyes of the man. His eyes seemed to affirm the man’s desire to see him. I looked back at the man before us. He was still smiling.
Then he looked at me and said, “May I walk with you over to the priest?”
I was about to say no, but then I looked back at my wife just in time to see her nod her head yes in approval. So I spoke. “Yes,” I said. “Please come with us. We don’t really know what to do anyway.”
The look on his face told me how pleased he was with my response. He moved over on the other side of my wife and took her gently by the right arm and guided us over to the area where the parents and babies and priests were all gathered. We had to wait a few minutes but then our turn came. The priest came up to us and said a few words. He asked us the name we had chosen for our child. We told him and he spoke his name out loud for all to hear. When he did this, the man on the other side of my wife began to cry, no he began to weep. Then he spoke out loud and said, “Thank you, thank you.”
As I watched, I saw my wife do something very unexpected. She turned to the man and placed our son in his arms. He was not expecting this but when he saw what she was doing, he turned and took our son in his arms. He held him close to his chest and continued to weep. Our son lay there in his arms, content as one could be. The man looked down at our baby and said, “Bless you my son.” Then he turned to me and said, “This child will make you so happy. He will be such a joy for you in your home. You are so fortunate to be able to raise him. Be so very careful to train him and teach him, but also to watch and observe as he trains and teaches you.”
I listened and then said, “Yes, I will take care of him, and will learn from him, as you have said.”
The man nodded and smiled and then turned to my wife. He said, “You also do the same as your husband. But I must also tell you that when he is older, things will happen in his life that will make your heart sad. Very sad. But it will work out fine in the end. These things must come to pass.”
I watched my wife as she listened to the man. I could tell she was not expecting these words and I did not know what exactly to make of them either. I wondered why he didn’t tell me that the things would make me sad. I continued to watch her and saw her thoughts turn to gladness and a smile come to her face. Then she said, “Thank you for those words. I will remember all of them.”
Then the man handed our son back to my wife and he turned away and walked off. We watched him as he went and saw that he went straightway to an older woman who was seated on a bench over to the side. She appeared to be old as well, very old. She just seemed to be sitting on the bench, waiting and watching, but for no particular reason. The man bent down and whispered in her ear. As he continued to whisper, we noticed that she lifted up her head and looked straight at us. A smile came upon her face. Then we watched as she stood up, very slowly and very carefully and very painfully. She raised her hands up and we could see as she mouthed “Thank you” toward the heights. The man had helped her up but he then moved away from her and we continued to watch as she began to go from person to person speaking to them and pointing to us and telling them something. What she was saying we never knew. She did not come over and speak to us. After a few minutes, we made our way back out of the building and into the crowds outside.
We decided to travel back to our hometown where our families were. We expected everyone would be so happy to see us again, and our new baby boy. At first this did seem to be the case, but soon things returned to the way they were when my wife was pregnant. Most people believed we had broken our laws and didn’t even deserve to live, but definitely didn’t deserve to be treated like normal folks. Our families chose not to support us as well. We got by as best we could for a time, but after a year or so my wife and I talked and decided we would return to the town where our son was born. I had actually found good work when we had been there. There seemed to be lots of need for a good carpenter. Plus, we had just been so happy there in those early days of our son’s life.
During this year, our son had grown so. By then he was walking and climbing and even talking some. He was sleeping all night basically from the first night of his life. He would eat before bedtime and not eat again until the next morning. He wouldn’t even cry. We would just go over to his bed in the morning when we woke up and find him lying there awake, just looking up at us. He didn’t smile or anything at first of course, but even from the first day he had this look of contentment and peace on his face that I’ve never seen since on another person. Very soon though he did start smiling and laughing and giggling, especially with his mother. You know as I think back, he almost never cried. The only times I ever remember even the least bit of a cry was when he was just beginning to crawl and pull up and get around by himself. Occasionally he would stumble or fall and bang his knee or his elbow. He would whimper a bit, mainly I think just to let us know he needed our help. After all, that’s what we were there for anyway. To teach him and guide him and minister to him and love him. He was such a joy to watch.
You know how parents always wonder what their child’s first word will be? The mother always thinks it will be some version of “Momma” and the father thinks the same about “Daddy”. Well, we wondered about that as well. We even argued about it a little bit. I know that wasn’t right, but we did, just being honest. As he got close to his first birthday he had begun more and more to make sounds that sounded like words. For weeks we thought they were words but then we would always decide they were just noises, still not words. And then it happened. It was on the very day of his first birthday. We were all three together in our small home, actually preparing for our move the next day. He was sitting in the floor playing around with a toy or something. My wife and I had stopped for a moment to take a break and were both sitting there beside him, just watching him and admiring him, when it happened. He looked up at us from his play, first at me and then at his mother, and then he spoke. This time it was clear. There was no question it was a word this time and not just more sounds. Our son’s first word was “Father”. At first I sat up very straight and proud thinking he was saying my name, but then I thought to myself, “That isn’t possible. He has never heard that word spoken before. That wasn’t the word my wife used to address me. Where did he hear that word and how did it come to be the first word he spoke?”
I looked over at my wife and she was just as puzzled as me. She just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “Don’t look at me. I have no idea.” I looked back at our son and he looked at me. And then he said it again. “Father.” Somehow it made sense to me then. I had almost forgotten that I wasn’t his biological father. In fact, no one was. But somewhere he did have a father and that fact was now real to him, even as just a one year old little boy. It was a reminder to me of what the visitor had told me over a year ago. He did have a father, but not one here on earth. He had been placed in my home though for me to care for and train and teach and prepare.
The next day we loaded up to travel to our new home which had also been our first home. As I placed our son in his mother’s arms, he looked at me and said “Daddy”. Then he looked over at my wife and said “Momma”. We were both right. He spoke both our names for the first time together. We headed out. No one came by to see us off. No family. No friends. No one.
The trip again took us several days and the roads were still not in very good shape, but this time was different. We did have our young son with us but my wife was not expecting this time. That made the trip much easier to endure, for her especially but for me as well. A trip lasting several days over rough roads, with a pregnant woman, can be an unpleasant experience. We arrived in town at the end of the week and immediately went back to see our favorite inn and our favorite innkeeper. He was so happy to see us again; much different from the reaction we were used to getting back home.
“Why are you back here?” The innkeeper asked. “We were sad to see you go but we all knew you wanted to get back to your family. What happened?”
“Well, we had a good year back home with our family,” I lied. “But we really missed this town and the friends we made so quickly when we were here before. Plus, there was some good work here for me back then so we decided to come back for a while. We came straight to the only place we ever knew. Your place. Do you have any recommendations on somewhere we can stay? We have a little money and I plan to start working first thing tomorrow.
“As it turns out,” the man answered. “I do know of a place. This is actually the slow time of year in our town for travelers. No government mandated deals this time. I have a room attached to the back of my inn that is a bit bigger than my other rooms and would be perfect for the three of you. It will be like your own house. Your wife can even come inside and use our cooking area for your meals.”
“That sounds great,” my wife responded. “We are so thankful to you. And I can help out some around the inn, cleaning and cooking. Our son is so easy to manage. He is walking now but he seems to stay out of trouble so I’m sure I could work and take care of him while my husband does his work.”
“Even better,” answered the innkeeper. “My wife can always use some extra help, and I’ll knock a little off the rent to cover your work. How does that sound?
“Perfect,” I answered. “Just show us where to go.”
The innkeeper led us around to the back of the inn where we found the attached room just as he had described it. It was sticking out from the building like maybe it had been added on later. It had its own door with windows on each side. He led us inside where we could look around. It had only one room but there was plenty of space for us to spread out and sleep, eat, and live. It was just what we needed. The innkeeper showed us around outside and explained to my wife about the times when his wife could use help and then he hurried back around to the front to take care of his business.
“Our first house all to ourselves,” my wife said to me.
“Yes it is,” I answered.
We settled in for the night and the next morning I set out early looking for possible work. I visited a couple of spots that I remembered from our time before where I thought there might be some need for some carpentry work. I found two places in the market place where some merchants were putting up new businesses to sell their wares. They both needed tables, booths, and barriers to get started. It seemed like I came along just at the right time. I was hired on the spot.
This work kept me busy for the next few months but by then other men had heard of my work and I had more jobs lined up than I could even get to. As the men kept coming to me I told them how busy I was and that they would have to wait until I could get to them. A few moved on to find someone else, but several of them said they would just wait until I was available. I sat down one night in our house and scheduled out all of the work. It looked like I would be busy all the way through the end of the year. If there had been any question in our minds before, there wasn’t any longer. Coming back to this town and to this people was exactly the right thing for us to do.
During this time my wife was able to work in the inn alongside the innkeeper’s wife. It was great for her to be able to do that and stay busy but it also helped out with our living expenses. Everyone who came through the inn loved her and always asked for her to be the one to cook for them when they were in town. Our son was able to stay alongside her inside the inn. He was a joy to us, but he also was a joy to all of the travelers and other customers of the inn and to the innkeeper and his wife. By now he was talking really well and he would sit and talk with the travelers. It was an amazing thing to watch. He wasn’t even two years old yet, but he would sit there and talk back and forth with adults like he was one himself. He had no fear of other people, even adults. Now of course he would talk about things that could only be important to a child, like his favorite toys and his parents and the other people he would see coming and going through the inn. He was so happy. We were so happy.
Later that year, toward the end of it, the day for his second birthday approached. I was still very busy with work. It never ran out. Occasionally I would get near the end of a job without another one lined up, but literally the day before I would be out, someone could come by with something new and ready for me to start on the next day.
It was on one of these times when I had finished up my work early and although I could have gotten started on my next job, I decided to go home early and spend some time with my wife and son. It was a slowish day inside the inn so my wife came around back to our house. We played with our son for a little while and then my wife got up to fix us some supper. My son and I stayed down on the floor with his toys. After a few minutes, I heard a noise of some kind outside our house. I thought nothing of it at first, but then my wife heard it too. It started out as a noise but now it was a commotion. I got up and went to the door and opened it to have a look outside. I was totally not expecting to see what I found outside. There before me was a crowd of people and animals. The people were strange looking, as were the animals. I had heard of these animals before but this was the first time I had ever seen them. They were called camels. There were probably a dozen of them, all standing around and grazing on the bits of grass that were around. They were tall, majestic animals with a big hump in the middle of their backs.
As strange as the camels looked, the people were even stranger. There seemed to be about forty or fifty men, women, and children milling around. They were dressed in colorful, flowing robes with ornate headdresses. I had never seen people dressed like this. They looked like royalty, although I never found out for sure if they were or not. At first they didn’t notice me standing there in our doorway, but then one of the young women in the group did and went over to a group of men and began talking to them and pointing at me. This group of men then turned and looked toward me. A smile broke out on their faces as three of the men from the little group separated and walked over to me. There was a fourth man with them who was dressed differently from them. He looked more like me. As he came near to me, he spoke to me in my own language.
“Hello,” he said. “I am Eli. These men have hired me to be their interpreter. They have traveled here from a land far far away. I spent some time in their country a few years back and was able to learn some of their language. They are seeking a king.”
Eli then looked me up and down before he continued and asked, “Does a king live here?”
I looked at Eli and then at the three men who had stepped in close behind him. “Well, I’m not sure what you mean by a king,” I said. “Maybe there is a king in the inn around front, but here in this house is just my wife and I and our young son. Maybe there’s been a mistake.”
Eli listened to me and then he turned and spoke to the three men. They actually looked to me like kings themselves. As he relayed to them my response, I could see confusion enter their minds by the looks on their faces. Then the one in the middle began speaking to Eli and pointing up in the sky. Eli listened for a minute and then he turned back to me.
“They are sure this is not a mistake,” Eli said. Then he pointed up in the sky over his head as well and said, “You see, they have followed this star all the way from their land far away in the East. It has led them to our country, to this town, and right here to this very house. It stopped here just overhead.”
It had gotten to be dark outside and I hadn’t really paid any attention to the sky, but as Eli relayed to me the information about the star, I looked up and there I saw the brightest and biggest star I had ever seen in my life. It seemed like it was right above us. It seemed like it was so close you could reach out and touch it. It was bright and shining and glistening and even seemed to be dancing there low in the sky above us. I watched it for a minute and then I looked back at Eli and his three friends. The three men were all smiling very big now. They all pointed up at the star and then at our house. I could tell that they were sure this was the right place.
I wasn’t sure what to do. All of the people looked very friendly and harmless to me, but I didn’t generally let strangers into my house. For some reason though I felt like it would be okay with this group. “I’m pretty sure that there’s no king inside,” I said. “But you are welcome to come in and see my family and rest for a minute before you go.”
I turned and headed back inside and moved across the room to where my wife and son were standing. Eli and the three men followed me inside and stood just inside the door. Their headdresses were so tall and ornate that the three men had to duck to get under our door. “They are wise men,” I thought to myself.
When they were all four inside, they spread out and looked over at us. I introduced myself to them and then did the same with my wife and son. I explained that our son was just now two years old and that he had been born in this very town out back in the barn. Eli listened to me and then he turned and spoke to the men in their language. The men listened and then looked back and forth at each other. They looked back at us and then down at my son. At that very moment, all three of them fell to their faces on the ground, full prostrate on the floor with their arms outstretched. They were worshipping at my son’s feet. They stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity before they picked themselves back up. One of them turned and spoke to a servant boy who had entered and was standing behind them. He immediately ran back out the door but returned very quickly with two other boys. Each of them was carrying a container that they handed to the men, one for each.
We then watched as the man on our left approached and placed a gold box there on the floor in front of my son. He was followed by the man on our right who placed a beautiful sliver vase there before my son. Finally, the man in the middle knelt and placed a bronze colored chest on the floor. He stood back up but then immediately the three of them fell facedown to the floor again. Eli and the servants did as well, as did all of the people outside our front door. I could see them as they had crowded around it. I couldn’t be sure, but it was almost as if the camels were kneeling out there as well.
After several minutes, the three men got up followed by all of the others. Each of the men came over to us and placed their hands on my son’s head and kissed him. They did the same for my wife and I and then they turned and made their way back out. We followed them out the door and watched as the entire entourage loaded back up the camels and began to move away. Eli was the last to leave. I noticed that he was still standing there beside me just outside the house.
“They are sure that they have found the King,” he said. “It is your son. He is the King they were seeking. The King of the Jews, as they called him. They are very happy and very grateful to you for allowing them this privilege. They will now head back to their own country. Thank you again.”
I nodded at Eli and then watched him as he joined the group and they all disappeared around the corner. I looked at my wife and she looked at me. We both shrugged our shoulders as if to say, “I have no idea what just happened.”
My son had walked a few steps out away from us to watch them go. He now turned back toward us. He was smiling. His face was glowing. Then he looked up into the sky and pointed. It was the star. It was still there. It was glowing now brighter than ever. We all watched it for a minute and then noticed that it seemed to be surrounded by thousands of other stars, smaller stars just dancing and twinkling in the night sky. And then suddenly they all disappeared and the sky was empty and black. We looked back at our son. He was still smiling as he walked over towards us and led us inside. It was time to look at the gifts.
We went first to the gold box. It was small and ornate and brilliant as the gold shined. We opened it up to find it filled with more gold. There were all sorts of rings and bracelets and coins inside, all appearing to be made of pure gold. We moved next over to the silver vase. It was capped with a plug of some sort that fit just perfectly into the top of the vase. We carefully opened it and immediately the room was filled with the most pleasing aroma I had ever smelled before. It was very strong and pungent, but still sweet and pleasant.
“Must be some kind of perfume,” I said to my wife.
“It is frankincense,” she replied. “I have seen it before in the marketplace here in town. It is very expensive. Wealthy people like to use it in their homes to create a sweet, pleasant smell. We must replace the lid so as to maintain its freshness.”
“And the last one?” My son asked.
I nodded and we moved over to the bronze chest and opened its lid. Inside it were several small vials containing another liquid of some sort. My wife reached inside and picked out one of the vials and removed the small covering. Again, the room was filled with a sweet fragrance, similar to the frankincense, but also different.
“Myrrh,” my wife said. “I have seen this in the market as well. It can also be used to freshen the smells in your home, but mainly I believe it is used to anoint the bodies of dead people. The smell is so sweet and so strong that it will mask the smell of death for days and days.”
“Interesting,” I said. “One perfume that can be used to create a sweet smell and make your home feel alive and fresh, and another to be used to make a dead person smell alive and fresh. Very interesting indeed. What is the significance of these gifts? The men brought these to our son, thinking he was a king, but knowing he was still a young boy.”
“Good question,” my wife answered. “These are clearly not gifts for a young boy to play with and it will be many years before he understands the value that each holds. The strangest one to me is the myrrh. It is nice and all, but it is a gift more suited for a family who has lost a loved one to death. Maybe one day we will understand more about these gifts.”
“I think you are right,” I answered. “For now we will put them away and keep them until we find a use for them.”
We then watched as our son closed the lid to the bronze chest and eased it closer to the silver vase and then did the same with the gold box. He then went around and stood behind all three with his hands resting on the chest and the box. He looked at us and smiled and then bowed his head toward us as if to say, “These gifts are perfect. They are just what we needed.”
Then, he raised his hands over his head and lifted his face toward the ceiling and said very softly, “Thank you.”
I put the gifts away and then we all prepared for bed. It had been a long day and we were all exhausted. Sleep came easily for me that night, but it was a very eventful night of sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night. I was wide awake. I had dreamed and the dream was as clear as to me as if a person had come to my house for a visit. In my dream, the same visitor from years past came again and warned me that we must leave the place immediately. “But where will we go?” I asked. “I have work and responsibilities here. I can make a living for myself here. We are happy here.”
“You must leave now,” the visitor said again. “If you don’t, your child will not survive to this time tomorrow. Get up now, gather what you can, and leave. You are to make out for Egypt. Make sure you take the three gifts you received. You will need them there.”
“Egypt?” I asked. “I have never been there before. I don’t know the way to Egypt. What will I do for money?”
“Give no worry to that,” the visitor answered. “The way will be shown to you and the gifts you received will help you when you get there. You will see. Now go.”
With that the visitor disappeared and I immediately woke up. I thought about what the visitor had said, but just for a moment. Then I woke up my wife and child, explained what had happened, and gave instructions to them. They didn’t argue or protest. She trusted the visitor from her past and my son trusted me. We packed what we could and in just a few minutes were headed out. My last act in the house was to take the three gifts and stuff them in a travel bag. We didn’t even stop to let the innkeeper know what was happening. We just left, with no idea of where we were going.
By sunup we were several miles outside of the town. Several years later we went back to visit with our friends in that town. They were surprised to see us since we had just disappeared on that night long ago.
“We thought you were dead,” the innkeeper said. “The soldiers came and searched all throughout our town and we never saw anything of your family. We just knew they had killed all of you. But here you are and you are very much alive. All of you.”
“Soldiers?” I asked. “What soldiers?”
“Just an hour or so before sunup, we heard lots of noise outside our inn. We went outside and found hundreds of soldiers searching through all of the homes in our town. They were looking for a child, but they must not have known what the child looked like because they dragged all of the children under two years old out into the streets.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“And then,” the innkeeper replied but hesitated before speaking again. “And then they killed them. They killed all of them. They took their swords and just ran them right through the hearts of those children. It was horrible. It was a massacre. There was so much crying and sadness. Several mothers killed themselves as well over the grief of losing their children. So, knowing you had a child of under two, we just assumed they had already killed him and maybe the two of you also. We went back to your house and saw all of your things were still there. But look at you standing here in front of me. You are obviously not dead. We are so glad to see you. For some reason you have been protected and saved to live on.”
For weeks we traveled and rested and traveled and rested. We did the best we could for shelter and for food. We asked directions a time or two, but just as the visitor had told me, we did find our way to Egypt and settled in a small town there. There didn’t seem to be much need of a man with carpenter skills. The Egyptians did not use much wood products. I found a few odd jobs here and there, but work was scarce. But again just as the visitor said, we were able to use the gifts that the men had brought us to pay for food and a place for us to live.
We stayed in Egypt for three years when I was again visited during the night. This time the visitor told me that it was safe for us to go back home.
“Home,” I said to my wife. “Where is home? We haven’t stayed anywhere long enough to call it home.”
“I think it’s time to go back to our families,” she said. “That is our home.”
So that’s what we did. We packed up and set out for home. Several days later we arrived. This time the reception for us was different. Our families were very glad to see us. We had been gone for four years and the time away had caused them to miss us. Time does seem to heal old wounds. They had heard about what had happened with the all of the children that had been killed three years ago and they didn’t even know for sure if we were still alive, but they held out hope and now we were back. Our son would finally have a normal home life for a change.
Our son was now five years old. He was the kindest, smartest, and funniest child I had ever seen. Of course by now we had more children as well, one boy and one girl. By the time our first born was ten, he had five brothers and sisters. Our quiet, little home had turned into a three ring circus. Keeping up with six children, my work, and our household was a challenge for my wife and I. At times it seemed like we were losing our minds. And looking back I think we just might would have, if not for our firstborn son. He kept things calm and straight in our home. He helped get the younger kids up, dressed, and fed in the mornings as well as cleaned up, undressed, and in bed again at night. He watched over them when my wife and I were busy or not around. He did his chores and helped them to get their chores done. He helped them with their studies and at the same time was so very diligent with his own studies. They loved him very much and understood just how important he was in each of their lives.
I don’t remember a single time where I had to discipline him. Sure, there was a cross word or a tense moment or two, but those occasions were each a result of my weaknesses and shortcomings. Sometimes if I had a bad day at work or was just not in a good mood, I would take my frustration out on someone else in the home. Occasionally that would be my oldest son. But anytime that happened he would just listen to me and be respectful of me and then he would speak words back to me that helped me overcome whatever it was that was bothering me at the moment.
I remember one particular occasion when I had been taken advantage of by someone at work. A man I did not know but who had heard of me came to me with a request for a particular piece of furniture for his home. He must have been a rich man because he said to me that money was no object. All that mattered was that the piece be made just like he wanted it and described it. I worked very hard for weeks as I planned and constructed and then completed the item. On the appointed day the man came by to pick it up and he was very displeased. He said that the piece was not at all as we had talked about and that he was only willing to pay me half of the original price we had agreed upon. When I protested, he told me that he had friends in the local authorities and that if I were wise I would just take his price and move on. I wanted to argue and fight back, but I had seen what can happen to people when the authorities get involved. I let it go and took what he was willing to pay. I knew that he had taken advantage of me and had probably planned all along to do it this way.
When I got home that evening the first person I saw was my son. He was gathering up his brothers and sister who had been outside playing and was now getting them inside for supper. When he saw me he said, “Good evening Father. How was your day?”
Well, that was all it took. My day was terrible and I was just waiting on the chance to let someone know just how terrible it had been.
“What are the children still doing outside,” I barked. “They should be inside already getting ready for supper and bed. What have you been doing all day out here? Probably just playing around and wasting time. You’re old enough to know better. Anyway, where is your mother? If you can’t be trusted to take care of things, she should be out here herself doing it. I work hard all day to make a living for this family and then I come home and find things all a mess. “
“I’m sorry, Father,” my son said. “I’ll take care of everything. Don’t you worry about it. You just go inside and relax. Mother is preparing the food for supper. I’ll make sure the children all get cleaned up. We won’t disturb you. We know you work hard and we are very grateful to you for everything you do.”
I then watched as my son gathered up the remaining children and hustled them inside the house. Just as he followed the last one in, he turned back toward me and smiled. I felt terrible. I expected him to protest when I got on to him. Actually, I wanted him to protest because then I would have been able to holler at him and feel justified in doing so. It was my right to be ugly to him because someone had been ugly to me earlier. But instead of protesting or defending himself, he just turned his other cheek to me and went on inside the house. At ten years old he was already a much wiser, kinder, better and more mature man than I would ever be. He taught me a lesson that day. I stood outside the house for a few more minutes, just shaking my head as I considered how much of a fool I was. When I came to my senses I headed inside to find my son. He was in the back room doing just what he said he would be doing, helping the children get cleaned up before supper. He was finishing up with the last one and then sent her on out of the room as I entered it.
I walked right in and said, “Son, I’m sorry. I was wrong to treat you as I did outside. You didn’t deserve that. I was mad about something that happened to me today at work, but it sure wasn’t your fault. I took it out on you when you had done nothing wrong. Can you forgive me?”
“Of course I forgive you Father,” he answered. “You have done so much for me. You and mother. I can never repay you. I know how stressful it is for you to work and provide for us all. You can take your frustrations out on me whenever you need to. It is my place to serve. In this family, we should never grow tired of forgiving each other. ”
He was right of course. Again he showed more strength and wisdom than I had ever shown. “Thank you Son,” I said. “Now let’s go find your mother and see what she’s got us for supper.”
Two years later my wife and I decided our family could use a vacation so we decided to load everyone up and take a visit to the capital city for the annual celebration of our people. The capital was eighty miles away from our home so it would be a treacherous journey for the eight of us. Many of our family members and friends were going as well so we didn’t think it would be too tough of a trip. Plus, our oldest son would be along and he would make sure all of the children, him included, stayed close together and didn’t get lost. My wife and I wouldn’t have a thing to worry about.
It was a great trip. There were many people in town for the celebration and there were lots of activities and entertainment and feasting for all of us to enjoy. We stayed there for a whole week before we gathered up all of our things and headed back home. Everyone from our town returned home together so that we could travel in safety and help each other. We counted heads on the day we left and we accounted for all of our children, except our first born. He was not in the group but as it was so crowded around us and we knew he had to be nearby somewhere, we decided to head on out anyway, just knowing that he would turn up. He was always so conscientious and attentive to details.
After the first night on the road we got up the next morning and again counted heads. He was still missing. For the first time we began to wonder if something wasn’t right. It wasn’t like him to be separated from us for this long without checking in with us. He would usually just take care of everything including the head counting and we would just tag along behind him. We began to ask around in our family groups and with others who were traveling with us. No one had seen him since we left the city. Something wasn’t right. He could not be with us. It was not good. We had to go back.
We sent our other children on ahead with our family and the two of us returned to the city. We kept our eyes open as we traveled thinking that maybe he had gone off the path and gotten lost and was maybe now trying to catch up with us or maybe even had gotten hurt and was waiting along the road somewhere. But we didn’t see any sign of him. We asked everyone that we saw about him. No word from anyone. Nothing. We arrived back in the city just before dark. There was no way we could do any looking at that time of day. By day the city is very safe overall, but after dark everything changes. It is much better to stay indoors or in groups. Most of the visitors had left the day before as we had done so we easily found a room for the night at the inn.
We got up early the next morning and resumed our search. We searched through every area of the city that we had been in during our stay. We knocked on doors, we stopped and asked people on the street, we went through the markets asking the vendors. Many people remembered him. He was that kind of person. If you ever had a conversation with him, you would never forget it. He was the most pleasing person to talk to that you could ever meet. Although many remembered him, no one had seen him in the days since we left town. We continued to look. Nightfall came again and we retired back to our room at the inn. We were very discouraged and very worried. Something must have happened. There is no way he would put us through something like this without good reason.
We again rose early the next morning and went back out on our search. It was now the third day since we had discovered for sure he was missing and had started our journey back to the city. We spent the morning looking through one particular area of the city where there were lots of sick and lame and poor people. It was clearly not the safest area of the city but we had brought our family into that area on one of the days of our trip so that we could show our children how some people had to live. We wanted them to know how blessed they were to have a family and a home and food and also their health. We noticed during this time that our oldest had paid special attention to these people. He had gone up to each person, literally every single person, and taken their hands in his and looked into their eyes and told them how sorry he was about their condition. He would then pray for each one and in his prayer he would ask that they be healed. I listened in to one particular conversation he had with a man who was blind.
The area where these people were was like a small city square with a large courtyard area in the middle. There were sick and lame and poor people everywhere. Some were even lying there in the street dead, apparently just dying that very same day. We noticed this one particular man off in a corner of the square all by himself. I walked behind my son as he went from person to person. I could tell this was important to him so I let him take his time. As he approached this man, the last man, we could tell that he was blind. His eyes looked horrible. What else was wrong with him I did not know. Clearly though he could not see. My son walked right up to him and knelt down beside him. He placed his right hand on the man’s shoulder. As he did this the man became aware of his presence.
“Who is it?” The startled man said. “I am blind. I have no money. I have nothing. Please don’t hurt me.”
“Don’t worry,” my son said. “I am not here to hurt you. I just wanted to speak words of comfort and encouragement to you. Don’t be discouraged. I understand your condition. I will pray for you. But know this. There is a day coming when I will come back here and visit with you again. And on that day, a miracle will occur. Your sight will be restored. Be confident. Know that the day will come. Wait for me. Watch for me.”
The man just looked straight ahead as he could not see. Then he took his right hand and eased it over and placed it over the hand of my son’s hand that was still resting on his shoulder. Next he ran his hand over my son’s face. Then he smiled and said, “Why you are just a boy.”
“Yes,” my son said. “But when I come back I will be a man and I will bring healing to your body and to your soul.”
The man was silent for a moment as he considered this. Then he said, “I believe you my son. I don’t know why, but I believe you. I will be right here. I am not going anywhere. Where would I go anyway?”
My son then leaned in close to the man and spoke into his ear. Very quietly. So quietly that I could not hear what he said. I watched as the man’s terribly disfigured face became a big smile. Then I noticed as tears began to roll down his cheeks. After another moment my son leaned back and stood up. The man continued to hold on to my son’s hand. Then he said, “Don’t forget me. Please.”
“I won’t,” my son answered. “And I will be back as I promised.”
Then my son turned away from the man and walked back over to me. “What was that all about?” I asked. “What did you say to him?”
“Nothing really,” my son said. “I just prayed for him. I can’t explain why, but something inside me told me to reassure the man that the day would come when I would return to this place and heal him. I didn’t understand that, but I promised him it would happen.”
I looked at my son as he explained this to me. I didn’t understand it either, but at the same time I knew he believed what he said. So I believed in him. Then we both turned and headed out of the area and back over to the rest of our family.
As my wife and I returned to this area we searched every corner of it looking for our son. I saw many of the same people and I even saw the one particular blind man. I went over to him and told him who I was and then I asked him if he remembered my son. He said that of course he did. How could he forget? I then asked if he had seen my son again since that first time. I explained that we had been separated now for several days. He said that he had not seen him but if he had to guess where he might be, he would try the temple. He then said, “Where else would you expect to find a Son of God?”
I thanked him and walked away but I then thought to myself, “Son of God? What was that man talking about?” But then I rejoined my wife who had been asking around on the other side of the square. I told her what the blind man had said and we immediately headed in the direction of the temple. We had visited it during our trip to the city, but for some reason we had not even considered that our son would go back there. It just didn’t seem like a place a child would choose to visit.
We hurriedly walked the three blocks and then took the right turn that led us right into the temple square and then the courtyard and then the entrance to the temple itself. As we walked in, we immediately saw a crowd of men off to our right. We moved over in that direction and saw dozens of teachers and leaders standing and sitting in a circle with someone in the middle. They were all discussing back and forth with the person in the middle. We pushed up close but we could not see who it was or even really hear who it was in the middle of the circle. The person though would ask a question and one of the men would answer. Then one of the men would ask a question and the person would give the answer. He was talking with them at times like he was their student and at times like their peer and even at times like he was the teacher.
The men would listen to the answers and then talk among themselves. The man just in front of me turned around and spoke to the man to my left. “Did you hear how he responded? He speaks as one who has authority, not as a student, or even a teacher.”
“Who is the person in the middle?” I asked the man in front of me. “Is it a teacher?”
The man looked back at me and said, “Are you crazy? Not even close. It is a young boy.”
“A boy?” I turned and said to my wife. She heard the man too and immediately began to push through the men in front of us. I followed her through the path she had created until we were clear of the men and at the front of the crowd. There right in front of us seated on the ground in the center of the group of men was our son, our first born.
“Hello Father, hello Mother,” he said when he saw us.
My wife was astonished as she said, “Son, why did you do this to us? Your father and I were very worried about you and have been looking for you.”
I nodded my head in agreement with her words. None of the men standing around said a word. They acted as if they were in trouble. Our son just looked at us for a moment, but then he said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
“I’m not sure I understand the meaning of what you are saying,” my wife responded. “But it’s ok either way. You are safe and in a safe place. It is time now to come with us.”
At these words our son immediately stood up and obeyed his mother. The men made room for us as we passed through them and out of the temple. Many of them were whispering among themselves as we passed by. They said, “His parents are just ordinary people. His father is a carpenter.” And, “How could a boy speak to us as a man?”
We were both very happy to have our son back with us and since it was still early enough in the day, we immediately headed out of town and back onto the road home. It took us three days to get there. We spent much of this time talking and listening to our son. Something had happened to him during this visit to the city and especially during the time he spent in the temple. We had known even since before he was born that there was something special about him. My wife and I were both told that by the one who visited us, but that was so long ago and now looking back almost seemed like a dream that could not be real. Over the years we had gotten used to our son just being part of our family like our other children. But this episode reminded us of the visitor’s words and told us that the future for our son would be very significant, in his life, in our lives, and in the lives of all people.
As we walked along, our son said, “I am sorry that I made you worry when I stayed behind in the city. That was not my intention. But as I took in the sights last week and saw all of the people around me hurting, I was drawn by something I could not control to visit the temple by myself and talk with the teachers there. I asked them many questions and I listened and talked with them, I discovered something about who I am and what is in store for me in my future. I have felt for years that there was something different about me and that my future would be very different from everyone else. “
I then said to him, “There is one important fact that we have never told you about that you need to know now. Although your mother gave birth to you, I am not your biological father. In fact, you don’t have one. You are a miracle. I raised you as my son in my home. I have taught you as best I know how to be a man in this world and I will continue to do that as long as I am able. But this week has reminded me that your future is much bigger than just being the son of a carpenter and continuing that line. Great things are in store for you and all people.”
“I know that Father,” my son replied. “I learned this week that you were not my biological father. I also learned that there is a plan for me and that over the coming years the specifics of that plan will be revealed to me and that when the time comes for the plan to be set in motion, I will know that it is time and I will be prepared.”
“Who told you these things?” my wife asked. “No one but your father and I knew this.”
“No one told me,” he answered. “They were revealed to me as I talked with the teachers. It is all clear to me now. I also know why I was placed in your home. I needed parents to raise me, to take care of me, to teach me, to train me, to love me, and to hold onto me until the day comes. You have done that just as you were asked to.”
Neither my wife nor I said anything else in response. We understood what our son was telling us. It was the same thing we had been told years before and were being reminded of now. We knew that we would have more years with him in our home but we also knew that the day would come when the plan he spoke of would be put into action. As a father, I dreaded that day because I knew that the times we had together and the relationship we had would never be the same again. I also looked forward to that day because even though I didn’t know exactly what it was all about, I knew that it would be very significant to us and to all people.
We made it back to our home and retrieved our other children from the family and friends who had taken care of them. They were all very glad to see our oldest son, as he also was to see them. Over the next several years we didn’t spoke any more of the events in the city or our conversation on the way home or the plan for the future. Instead, my wife and I kept all these things that had happened in our minds and our hearts. Our son was obedient to us in every way. He continued to grow physically and became the wisest person I have ever known, even though still just a teenager. Everyone in our village liked him. He treated everyone like they were the most important person in the world. He was very pleasing to all.
And now today he is eighteen. He is so smart, so strong, so wise. He is still waiting for his future plan to go into effect. In the meantime, he helps me with my carpentry work, he helps his mother with anything she asks, and he helps his siblings to grow and learn. I don’t know what his future looks like, but I believe he will live a long life of helping people. And just like every parent, I hope that I am alive to see it all take place. I am so proud. I am so honored to have been chosen to be his father. It has been a blessing. He is perfect. In every way.
Thank you for reading this short story. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer? And be watching for my next book later in 2017. It is a story of choices that a man makes in his life that culminate in one extremely important moment of choice. It is called The Choice. Also if you haven’t already, please go read my first book Just For Today, a real life story about family, happiness, sadness, and the passing of time. The past, present, and future all come together in one man’s struggle to live each day like there is no tomorrow. Thanks again.