“The Man”: a short story

This story was originally published on my first blog site. I’ve learned a lot about writing since then. The style of the story may be in need of a little updating but the message doesn’t. As you read this story in its original form, I pray you would be swept away in the love of your Creator-Savior.


I don’t recall the first time I saw the man, but it was sometime in my childhood. I remember one instance in particular in which I was playing on the playground and a bunch of kids came up to me and started making fun of me. There was no one there who stood up for me.

Playground-bully

At last they left, and I found a small enclosure beneath the playground equipment in which to hide. I thought I was alone, but then I looked out from my cubby and saw the man. He walked over and knelt down in front of the opening. His smiling face cheered me, and I could see the love in his eyes.

As I wiped the tears from my face, he told me not to worry or be upset and promised that he would never leave me. I soon rewarded him with a bright and youthful smile that reflected the change he had brought about within me. In that simple way, he seemed to have picked up and reassembled the pieces of my young, wounded heart, restoring my dignity. He helped me to see myself the way he saw me. And I looked up to him.

Squatting-man

Time went on and I grew up. I saw the man from time to time, mostly from a distance. I no longer looked up to him—he was no taller than I. And I was no longer that insecure child that needed constant reassurance—but when I saw his face in the crowd, still I would smile. Sometimes I didn’t see him for long periods of time. Maybe because I stopped looking for him amongst the crowds and chaos of life. Even so, I sometimes sensed his presence—his loneliness—but I rarely saw him.

Then one day he came to me again. I hadn’t thought about him for such a long time that I was surprised to see him. And yet he looked just the same as he had years and years ago. That’s when I realized that the man never aged. He smiled at me the way he always had, and I greeted him quickly, for I was an adult with loads of responsibilities and obligations. I looked at my watch, caught sight of the time, and said, “Oh, I’d better go, or I’ll be late.” I had a meeting to attend and little time to spare. I hurried off and promptly forgot him.

business-woman

I was on top of the world in those days. Everything was right. I had a career, a family, a home, and so much more. I was so proud of my self-sufficiency—so happy to be able to say that I didn’t need anything from anyone anymore. I even had enough that I was able to give some of my money away to help the needy, and it made me feel like a good person.

And then things began to change. My kids grew up and started to rebel. My spouse and I grew discontent, and we blamed one another for the problems in our lives. There was a lot of fighting at home, and I grew bored with my career. It was the autumn of my existence. I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me. I became depressed at the realization that everything I’d counted on for stability in my life was shifting. “Everything changes!” I yelled bitterly, waving my fist in the air. “Change is the only constant thing in this life!”

With the discontent at home, I poured myself into my work. I stayed late. I chased after advancement and success. It seemed to be working—but I wasn’t happy. I became like an empty shell, endlessly and unsuccessfully searching for significance and happiness. In the midst of all this, my family broke apart at the seams. I observed all their selfish ways and cried, “No one cares about anyone but themselves!” And I knew it was true and believed it to be the main cause of the troubles in the world, though at the time I couldn’t admit that I too suffered from this very same plight.

autumn-sml

When the children left for college, my spouse and I separated. We considered our differences irreconcilable. Neither of us wanted to have to be the one to change. As I sat alone in my new apartment, I felt a deep loneliness and dissatisfaction. Everything that once had brought me joy in life seemed gone, stripped away like leaves from a tree. I wept bitterly at the realization of what a mess my life had become. “I’m all alone,” I cried, “all alone in this world!” And I came to the end of myself.

I’m glad I couldn’t see myself at that moment, hugging my knees and crying. Wailing … Screaming into the air … Flinging things across the room … For a moment I felt again like that child on the playground, except that I realized, in a moment of honesty, that I was largely to blame. I knew I had been just as selfish as the rest of them. That’s when I remembered the man. I opened my eyes, still wet from crying and saw him standing near.

Blurred-man

Through the welling tears, he was nothing more than a blur, and I immediately considered him to be a hallucination—the distant memory of an imaginative child. In spite of this, I called out to him, saying, “Everything changes,” as I clumsily wiped the tears from my eyes. The man became sharper in my view, but still, I didn’t quite see him through the veil of my own self-pity. “Everything changes,” I sorrowfully muttered. I looked up into the man’s eyes, my knees still drawn to my chest in front of me, and finally I saw him. He smiled at me and said nothing, but the words I had spoken, seemed to come back to me as echoes: Everything changes … changes … changes …

As I looked into the man’s eyes, meditating on the words I had spoken, I suddenly realized that they weren’t true. Everything changes—but not the man. He has never changed, I thought and then hoped, perhaps he never will. At that moment, the wells of my tears ran dry. I sniffed back the oozing sorrow and felt a wave of truth wash over me. But I wasn’t quite ready to embrace it. “No one cares about me,” I complained, searching for pity. The man’s smile brightened, but still he said nothing. “I’m all alone. I don’t want to be alone anymore,” I whimpered, wallowing in my sorrows. At last the man spoke: “I told you once before that I would never leave you. I have always been with you, whether you saw me or not.” As he spoke, I knew his words were true.

Mans-eyes

“Will you help me?” I said. “Tell me what to do. What do I have to do to fix this mess I’m in?” And the man’s face fell. “Do? There’s nothing you can do,” he said tenderly. Again, my tears began to flow. “So it’s hopeless then, is it? I really am alone—and no one can help me … and no one cares.”

Laying a hand on my shoulder, the man said, “That’s not true—I care.”

I looked up at him with the same old bitterness in my eyes and said, “A lot of difference that makes! Why did you even come, if all you were going to do was tell me that my situation is hopeless?”

For a while the man said nothing. He just looked at me and I at him. And as I continued to gaze at him, he seemed to absorb my bitterness and anger—and my sense of desperation—and I began to heal—and to hope.

“I didn’t come here to give you a list of things to do—I came here to give you myself. You cannot fix your problems—only I can fix your problems.” Then the man extended his hand towards me, as if to help me off the floor. As I tried to make sense of it all, I hesitated, and in that moment I caught a glimpse of the man’s palm and saw within it a scar. A tinge of fear and sorrow welled up within me as I looked at it.

I gave him a strange look, and said, “Who are you?”

With certainty in his eye, the man replied, “I am—”

I waited for him to continue, and I waited, and I waited … Seeing the look of confusion in my eye, he said: “I am—I have always been—and I will always be … I was there when the Universe was born, and I know every star by name … I witnessed the creation of the earth, the shaping of man from the dust, and his tragic discovery of evil … I was there when mighty empires sprung up like weeds from the ground, and I was there when they withered away. I have seen kingdoms come and go … the raging of wars … and generations passing like night and day … I saw cities built and then watched them crumble, carried away to the sea. And I know every grain of sand upon the shore and the place from which it came. I carry them around in the palm of my hand, and they remind me of the frailty of man and of all his deeds … I have seen it all, including what remains to be seen—because I am.”

castle-ruin-beach-hourglass

Again I looked at his hand, and I saw blood within the scar. He looked at me with love in his eyes and asked me to take his hand.

In that moment I understood: To take his hand was to submit to him—to belong to him.

“I’m afraid,” I said. “There’s so much I wanted to do with my life. I’m not sure I’m ready to give it all up. Isn’t there another way?”

The man looked at me somberly. “There is no other way.”

“But I don’t want to give up who I really am,” I said.

“And who are you?” the man replied.

“I—I—” I thought about it for a second and came up empty. “I don’t know,” I finally said.
The man smiled wistfully as a tear came to his eye. “I know who you are,” he whispered. “I’ve known you since the beginning of time: Every thought you’ve had. Every word you’ve spoken. Everything you’ve done. Every tear you’ve cried. I know it all.”

I felt myself grow pale and my spirits fall. “Then what could you possibly want with me? You know what a screw up I am.” I studied the man’s face. There was an unfathomable depth to his eyes, and I suddenly felt I couldn’t take the heat of his gaze or the power of his silence. In his presence I quickly became filled with the realization of every wrong I’d ever done. The shadows hiding in the darkness of my heart were now clear as day—and they haunted me. I realized then that I didn’t even know who I was—so how was I supposed to make something of myself? And what could I—a speck of dust—really accomplish in my own strength? And I came to this conclusion: I am nothing.

reaching-hand

Seeing again the man’s outstretched hand, I was overcome with the humility of my circumstance. “I’m not good enough to take your hand,” I moaned, the gravity of this truth weighing heavily on my heart.

“No,” the man replied, “but I am good enough to take your hand.” Immediately my heart felt relief at the hope of his words, even as I struggled to wrap my mind around it.

“How did you get that scar?” I asked at last.

“That scar—that blood—was the price I paid to take your sins away. It is the price I paid to be able to take your hand and bring you with me.”

“But why would you do such a thing? Who am I to you?” I said in wonder. “To you I can be nothing but a grain of sand on the beach or a fleeting puff of smoke from an extinguished flame. In the grandness of the Universe, I am less than nothing—why should you concern yourself with me?”

The tear that had formed in the man’s eye fell down his cheek as he answered: “I do this for you because you belong to me—and because I love you. I’m the one who created you, and I made you who you are … In the grandness of the Universe, you may be nothing. But—in my heart, dear child—you are very large.”

Tear

I looked at his hand again, and I knew he wasn’t offering to take all my pain away. Nor was he offering me an easy life. He wasn’t promising to fix all my problems, though I knew that he would help me with all those things. Instead, what the man was offering was something far more valuable than every good thing in creation combined. He was offering me himself: true, selfless love.

I took his hand and he lifted me to my feet as though I weighed nothing. And as I looked to him for answers, he began to speak: “When you were a child, your father would take you by the hand and guide you and keep you safe. He gave you boundaries to protect you and food to sustain you. Take my hand and never let go—and I will keep you safe. Listen to my instruction and you will avoid many dangers. Let me be the one to sustain you in every difficulty and trial of life. Let me be the one to provide your every need.

Remember that I am the only thing that never changes, so let me be your rock, your shelter, and your strength. I know you fully and I love you still. Nothing in this life can change that. If you keep hold of my hand and stay close to me, then even death cannot keep you from my love … I take your hand—and your weaknesses, faults, sorrows, and lack. You take my hand: my strength, my purity, my love, my joy. Everything I have is now yours so long as you remain with me. You belong to me now … and I am yours forever.”

 

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storystorming

Lara Storm Hitchcock spends at least half her life within the musty vaults of her brain, constructing new worlds and engaging fictional friends. Since winning the Illinois Young Authors Contest in middle school, she took a detour through graduate school and spent three years as an instructor of geology at the college level before completing her first novel in 2013. From caving, to hiking, to whitewater kayaking, Lara has been involved in a number of exciting outdoor activities, some of which crop up in her writing. She has written songs, created recipes for brewing beer, and enjoys dabbling in photo manipulation. When she’s not writing (or chasing an energetic toddler around the house)—she enjoys critiquing and mentoring other writers. Connect with her here: https://storystorming.wordpress.com/ https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLCStorm.

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