Friday, December 30, 2005

I Loved Your Son For His Sturdy Arms

We always, at some point or another, pick our favorite Bible character. maybe its in a classroom on sundays when the adults go to "big church" and you find a picture of mary. and decide to like her because she always wears blue and you like blue. or maybe you choose gabriel, or any angel for that matter. because they have wings and that means they can fly.
recently i discovered a new favorite Bible character in a rather conventional way. just right there, sitting in church and looking at the pages in luke and finding there, elizabeth. but she doesn't come into it until later. first. zacharius. God struck him silent. maybe he talked to much. maybe he didn't listen enough. maybe he was tired of waiting around for his turn to burn the incense. for the mail to come. for the car to be fixed. for his wife to have a baby. and he forgot why he was waiting. and then at last. he's next in line to burn the incense. he gets dressed up in his sunday best. packs a small bag. kisses his wife on the cheek. waits for the footstep and conversations about the dust and the next rain to leave him behind and alone. and after all this, with so much to say, surely, to God. about his feet hurting because of the dust. about his wife, elizabeth, who he loves dearly but never gets pregnant. about his car in the shop. and he is struck silent. ha. take that. i imagine God saying. enough. i imagine God saying. i know. i imagine God saying to zacharius. he isn't good with his hands. sharades. hasn't practiced. has, now to tell all the people about what he saw. but they aren't very good at watching and guessing games. especially in the dust and heat. He talked too much. and now, he can't talk! thank God. have God do that to my little boy a mother chuckles to her friend outside the temple.

but here is the part about my favorite character. so, zacharius returns to elizabeth. his wife who chose to stay. chose to stay when there wasn't so much dust in the ground and they had planted a garden together. when the rent was late and they painted the roof blue. when she told him she wasn't-. when he had bought books for. and he comes back, opens the door, stands there, all speechless and expected. and maybe she is mending his clothes. or hammering a nail thats loose into the wood in the kitchen. or maybe just waiting for him.

when God tells Mary she is going to have a baby, she is scared and too young and unmarried. valid feeling. when God tells sarah she is going to have a baby, she laughs. tries to hide it. but you did laugh God says. but now Elizabeth. and now Zacharius, standing in the doorway, beard needs trimming, scar above his eyebrow. and zacharius tells, god tells, elizabeth, it is tonight they will concieve. a baby, even after the year the rain washed out the fence. and the year he built her a tree swing. and the year the neighbors had a little girl. and zacharius in the doorway, with his small bag, wearing the sandals she mended for him last spring. (he is not very good with his hands). and will she understand? and how will she feel?... but because she knows zacharius and expects the curves of his chest and the scar above his eyebrow and because she is my favorite bible character, she chooses to compliment her eyes to his quietness. and kiss him on the cheek.

*photograph by Cameron Stephen, Kid with Baby Chicken, more at


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