By Kathleen Brown
The horizon is bruised. Clouds swell in uneven layers – blue, purple, black, slashes of dirty yellow. The afternoon is closing in on us like a tomb, the light dusky, the air thick and still.
My dusty feet are spotted by the half dozen fat raindrops that fell a while ago. Beneath my sandals the cracked clay thirsts, the earth so dry the blood can’t soak in; it pools where it falls. In my search for a safe place to look, my eyes light on the pools. The only escape is to look up again at the beaten blue sky.
Most of the crowd has left. A few crying women remain, a few onlookers, curious, some surly, but most silent now, respectful of the mother.
The mother. She stands closest, her arm held by the man at her side though she appears unaware of his presence. There is no safety for her eyes. She has locked them on the figure of the Master, her son, slung, hanging, on the crossed timbers.
I haven’t looked there. Not since the first cries, not since the first red drops streaked the hilltop. I haven’t left, but I haven’t looked. Not even when He spoke did I lift my eyes. Now He has no more words.
I stand, knowing that He saves me by His breath and His blood. He told us. He told us how it would be. And now we see the reality of His words nailed to the cross. Eyes averted, yet I marvel: He has washed me in His blood though He doesn’t know my name.
I look around. Who spoke?
The women are still crying. The onlookers shuffling, whispering among themselves. The mother’s eyes are still locked in anguish; the disciple beside her looks on with his own agony.
Is it He? To whom would I turn but to Him? No, I can’t. Hard enough to stand – alive and ashamed – while He dies. To look on Him would be to presume a place, recognition. Like family. Or a friend.
Yet He calls my name.
“I came here for you. For you, my beloved.”
Looking down at my dirty feet, I hear Him. Looking into the red pools, I feel my heart crack. I look up the wood, hacked flat to make the cross, a bloody etching against the horizon. Up the sacred limbs, twisted against each other like gnarled, barren boughs. Up the wounded side, the heaving chest, the Godhead breathing air through human lungs to feed a human heart. Up past His lips, closed, to His eyes, open. To His eyes, calling. To His eyes, focused on me, speaking to me, promising me. Life. Eternal life. In His love.
And at last, meeting His eyes, I see. Truth. Here, under the bruised sky, on the parched ground, I am known. I may look on Him forever. I am His.