Moonlight illuminates tousled, sweaty hair and the lump on the bed in an eerie blue light. The lump flips. He is dreaming and by the crinkles in his brow, it is not a pleasant dream.
“Paul Bent.” He hears his name called and approaches the overwhelming light of the throne and falls on his face.
“You may stand.” Paul rises. “Ahh…now, let’s see here. How well did you do?”
Paul trembles at God’s unfamiliar voice. “Honest in business, but he lied to his wife…of course that was the norm for that society. I will excuse that.”
God flips another page in his book and skims down it. He looks at Paul. “‘You gave to charities at Christmas I see, but you kept most of your stuff for yourself. Your neighbour across the street sure did better. He was also a better father. You went to church and called yourself a Christian. Oh, and you did make some remarkable improvements later in life.”
God licks his finger and turns another page looking down his nose, as he remarks, “I’m sorry, but even if I am lenient, I sure do not see that you are worthy of heaven.” He closes the book and gestures to the shining beings on either side of him. “Take this man to his new home.”
He dusts of his hands. “I never knew you.”
Paul desperately finds a voice, as two angels seize him. “But-but-but-what about grace?”
He is shaking with fear.
“Honey, honey, wake up.”
Paul opens his eyes and sees his wife’s worried face. He groans and covers his eyes. “I’m sorry” he says, and he reminds her of the lies and tells her of the dream.
“Oh, Paul,” she turns to look at him. “You know I’ve forgiven you.” She looks away, and he sees a glimmer in her eye as she continues, “It wasn’t easy, but by the grace of God I have. I know that with His strength you will never do it again.”
“What could this dream mean? Is God really like that?” Paul’s anxious face looks at her.
“I don’t think so,” she replies quietly, but the next day they ask an elder from their church.
“Hmm…” the elder rocks himself in a forwards motion, his eyes tucked into folds of concentration. “Who is God? It’s the question for today. Do you believe God is just?”
“I always thought so,” Paul replies, obviously shaken.
“Do you believe God forgives the repentant?”
“Well, we thought so,” his wife answers.
The elder lowers his head. The room freezes and time seems to stretch agonizingly long, defying the creeping hand of the grandfather clock in the corner.
Then, the elder raises his head. “Sometimes, we people like to compare ourselves to others, just so we can feel good about our accomplishments. Maybe God wanted us to remember that if He would compare us, we wouldn’t stand a chance.”
Trembling, the elder raises his fist defiantly. “Praise God! Since I repented, He sees me through the eyes of grace.”
I quite enjoyed this. What a short, simple yet powerful story 🙂
I’m glad you did:)
Thank you for taking the time to read it the second and third time. I may make some changes, although this blog is going to get back burner for the next couple months.
You make an interesting and accurate point, Yolanda. I think you’re right in saying that if God would judge by comparison, we would all be doomed–except the one who resides at the pinnacle of goodness and righteousness. Come to think of it, there is one who does occupy that pinnacle, and his name is Jesus. If God were to judge us by how we compare to Christ, we would all be doomed. We can never measure up by our own efforts. Our only hope is in receiving God’s grace.
I don’t know if you expect or desire feedback on the story itself, so I’ll keep my comment brief. I could offer the disclaimer of my not being qualified to offer good critique, but I think I’ve said that before, so we’ll skip it this time 🙂 The biggest thing I see that could be improved is to have more showing and not as much telling. I know that’s difficult to do with a story this short, but I think it could be done without adding too much length. For example, when “the room freezes and time stretches agonizingly long,” you could help your readers to feel it more by describing what happens during that silence. Maybe you could have a clock ticking in the background that hesitates while they wait, people walking past the window, or a mouse poking its head out of hole and stopping to watch the people–something that would show that the elder takes a long while before answering. Another place where you could show more is when the man reminds his wife of the lies. Because you simply tell us that he spoke to her of this, it almost feels like a trivial thing, something that doesn’t carry much weight or significance. Overall, I could get the sense that this troubling dream and experience was easily and quickly resolved.
One thing I do like about this story is its beginning. The beginning certainly has a mystical feel to it. The moonlight, the sweaty and tousled hair, and the “lump” gave me the feeling of something strange and mysterious happening, which is, I assume, the effect you aimed for. So, good job on the introduction. On the whole, the story is a good one. I didn’t really think about the things I mentioned in my critique until I read it the second or third time, so the “faults” I point out are definitely not glaringly obvious or distracting.
I encourage you to keep up the good writing. I really do enjoy reading your articles, stories, and poetry, even if I probably spend more time critiquing than commending 🙂