The sun had already risen before she did. She had the luxury of time since the servants were on hand. She stretched and gathered her sleeping robe about her, shielding herself from the chill. Her husband must have risen earlier, as usual. She hadn’t heard him leave their bedchamber. She washed her face and proceeded to assign the servants their chores for the day.
She saw smoke rising from behind her husband’s sacred altar. He must be praying again, ‘Burnt’ offerings for the purification of the whole family. She harrumphed and walked back towards the house. She couldn’t bring herself to see through his eyes. All that devotion and sacrifice was too much for her.
“But he’s a good man and a good father to the kids,” Her mind seemed to chide her, “He never has any issues with anyone. Oh, maybe you’ll prefer a less honourable man?” She shrugged at the thought. No way! She’ll put up with him, whatever the issues are. “Put up with him, when you should understand and accept him?” She felt a pang of guilt but pushed away the thought.
Hours later, she walked in to hear a servant giving her husband a very bad report from the fields.
“What?! The donkeys and oxen are gone?” She wondered what must have happened. Where were the keepers when this happened? Someone will surely have to pay. How dreadful!
A second servant rushed in telling tales of a strange fire that had burned up all the sheep and goats.
She fell heavily on the nearest couch, her knees unable to hold her up. Now this was trouble. What was going on?
While she was trying to figure that out a third servant came with stories of a Chaldean raid. All the camels were history! Her hands shook as she mentally calculated the loss; she bit her middle finger in anguish. She looked at her husband, tears in her eyes. He just stood there, his expression, a lesson in control.
She heard a shuffle of feet as Joram rushed to the door, then stopped. The trusted servant had tears running down his face, his chest rising and falling. Was the pain in his eyes evidence of more catastrophes?
“No more bad news, please.” Her husband’s voice shook slightly as he spoke, his hands outstretched in anguish.
The servant moved in halting steps towards his master, every sob louder than the last. He knelt and reached for his feet. His words came in spurts, an otherworldly quality to them.
“The house f…fell in. The wind, it…it blew hard. Very hard. The young masters and the ladies, they…they’re, all dead”. He broke down as the words left his lips.
She looked on in horror as the words sank in. Frozen in shock, her heart ceased to beat.
Her husband howled and fell to his knees, ripping his clothes apart.
That was the worst night of their lives. He shaved his head and sat in ashes. She walked around the house like a ghost, failing to feel.
The next few days passed in a blur; their house had become a wasteland.
She had ceased to see to the affairs of the estate. Of what use will that be?
They had lost everything in a flash, gone forever. There was no way out of this one. What would she tell her friends? How will she face the world? Where was the security she had tried so hard to protect? What was life, without the good things of life?
So on this dreary morning, she walked around the property, her mind in a haze. She took the path to her husband’s altar hoping to find him there. She wondered what she would say to him. What words would comfort him? she needed comfort herself.
She found him sitting on the ground, amidst ashes and dust. He didn’t look up as she approached. He was busy scraping the sores and boils on his body with pieces of broken pottery. Every inch of his body was covered in sores and boils. He exuded an odd smell which made her very uncomfortable. What on earth had happened to him? She covered her nostrils and waved her hand across her face to ward off the smell.
“What are you doing here? And what happened to you?” she stared at him in disbelief. Does this God not have the power to help him? Help her?
“I came to worship.” He said weakly as though he would cry. Anger coursed through her ears at his words.
“Worship?” is he mad? Gone totally crazy? Was he so wound up in this Jehovah thing that he’d lost all reason or was he just too pained to be rational?
“What? Won’t you swear off! Look around you. We have nothing left. Nothing!” she vibrated in anger as tears pooled at the corners of her eyes.
She turned her back to him and started to walk away, “Just curse God and die!” she said, through clenched teeth as she exited the tent, stomping her foot noisily.
He scrambled up, rather painfully and shouted at her retreating back, “Don’t be foolish woman! What are you saying? Do we love Him only when all is well, swear allegiance we have no intention of honouring?!”
She kept on walking, drowning out his voice in the sea of wild thoughts running around in her head. She knew in her mind she wasn’t coming back. What was there to return to? Emptiness? Misguided devotion?
He returned to the tent and sat to gather his thoughts, again. No turning back for him, no, never.
But through all of these, he did not sin with his lips…