To This Very Land
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” Malcus read the words carefully one more time before carefully rolling the scroll up again and packing it away in Sojourner’s pack again.
The Ephesian had been traveling with Malcus and his little band for three months now, and to Malcus’s dismay and confusion, neither his wife nor Seda had seen fit to truly welcome Sojourner as one of the group. Another thing that deeply concerned Malcus was that, since the night that he had asked Simay to send the Ephesian to him, the relationship between him and his wife had become strained. He had thought about it over and over again and he could not understand why Simay was so distant. She seemed to have these periodic mood swings lately. She even seemed to be gaining some weight despite the nausea she kept experiencing. She talked with Seda almost every night now, but she would not take the time to talk with him, her own husband about whatever it was that was troubling her.
After this extended period of silence from Simay, Malcus was determined to find out exactly what was wrong with the young woman he had grown to love and married a little less than a year ago.
The day seemed to be moving along normally, just as the last ninety or so days had passed – silently. The tension between all of the parties of the caravan seemed to be growing for a reason unknown to Malcus. Sometimes it seemed like certain things made the tension worse – talking with Sojourner for one. Every time Malcus took some time to talk with their unwelcome guest, a dark cloud seemed to settle over both Simay and Seda. But the time that the hostility had seemed to be the worst was the one time that Seda had caught Malcus reading that one sentence out of Sojourner’s scroll aloud, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” The words had gripped his heart and he had felt compelled to read them aloud. The truth that rang in them had become very precious to Malcus since the night he had asked the Ephesian to tell him how he could become a follower of the God Sojourner unabashedly served and spoke of.
His run-in with Seda had been very strange. He did not understand why it had been such a problem for the young woman to hear those few words. He kept thinking about it over and over but could never come to a conclusion. He had thought about asking Sojourner several times, but every time he thought about it he became distracted with some menial task that suddenly demanded his attention. After forgetting about Seda’s odd behavior one too many times, he finally gave up reminding himself to ask his new brother in the Faith his question.
Their journey was now past the half-way point and Simay was getting more and more anxious the closer they got to the great desert of Arabia. They had crossed into Galilee a few days ago and were traveling South towards Jerusalem. Seda and Simay had not wanted to stop at Zion, but Malcus had talked them into it – for the sake of finding out a little more about his past. Malcus secretly hoped that they might be able to find out more about the God he now claimed, since the Hebrew faith was the forerunner of Christianity, as he had learned from Sojourner.
There was so much that Malcus did not know about God. Sojourner was teaching him as much as he could, but there were still questions that the Ephesian could not answer for him. Even though he had left home many years ago, Malcus’s Jewish heritage was still filed away in his mind. All the rituals, the symbolism, the sacrifices, the Law were a part of him. His new faith seemed to open his eyes to some of the reasons why his ancestors had practiced some of the things that they had.
“What are you thinking about, my friend?” Sojourner’s words startled Malcus.
“Oh! I didn’t know you were there.” Malcus said.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Have you been able to talk with Simay yet? Without Seda around?”
“No…” Malcus shook his head. “Not yet. There never seems to be an opportunity to.”
“The spirit that accompanies your wife and her friend is a devious one. I’ve met that particular servant of Satan before in Ephesus. It will not be easily deterred from its mission. When Jesus came to Earth He came to save those who were lost – including you, me, your wife, and her friend. From what I can tell, the spirit your wife has dealings with is trying desperately to blind her eyes to the truth of God. That’s why Seda and Simay avoid us. The spirit they trust is afraid of our God and the salvation that He has offered to all human kind.”
“How can I get that devil away from her then?!” Malcus said in frustration.
“You and I cannot do anything in and of ourselves, my brother. It is God Who must do the work, and from what I can see, God is already calling to Simay. He has reached out His hand to her. It is now up to her to accept Him.”
Malcus nodded in acceptance, hoping that his dear wife would choose to accept the gift God was offering to her in exchange for the bondage and fear that the Spirit of Diana was giving her now.
“Well, we won’t be sleeping in tents tonight.” Sojourner said brightly, looking at something further down the road.
Malcus looked up to see the outskirts of Capernaum – bigger than he remembered it – ahead of them.
Before the day was out, the small party was housed comfortably in an inn, paid for by some of the loot from the failed bandit raid the night that Sojourner had come to them.
Malcus had made the arrangements with the innkeeper and had seized the opportunity to separate his wife and the ever-present Seda. He had paid for a small separate room for Simay and himself. Sojourner had said that he was content with sleeping in a room with several strangers and Seda had reluctantly agreed to do the same.
The group stabled the animals and shouldered their packs to take with them into the inn. The sun was sinking quickly and all of them were tired – all of them that is, except Malcus. He was wide awake in anticipation of the chance to finally find out what was going on with Simay.
Simay set her pack on the bed and took out some clothes and other personal items, but when she reached for the silver bear, Malcus caught her hand.
“Please Simay… Not tonight?” he pleaded.
She almost jerked her hand away from him, but for a brief moment the dark cloud over her mind lifted just enough for her to see the deep love in her husband’s face. The weight of the past several months finally settled on her and the pressure became too much for her to hold in anymore.
She abandoned her pack and sat down hard on the bed, her face in her hands.
Malcus came to her immediately and put one arm around her small waist. Tears rolled down Simay’s face as she sat with her husband for the first time in much too long.
“What is it, Simay? Please, tell me.” Malcus gently pulled his wife a little closer to himself, “Whatever it is, I want to know. If you need something, I want to help you. I love you.” His renewed profession of love only seemed to make Simay cry more, so he said nothing more. Instead, he sat quietly waiting for Simay to talk to him.
Many long minutes later, Malcus was rewarded for his patience when Simay looked up at him and said, “I feel like I don’t know you anymore – Since the night after your… healing. There isn’t a night that I don’t look at you and wonder who you’ve become. You frighten me now, Malcus. Just like that – that Ephesian.” She pronounced the last word like it was a curse. “Diana won’t speak to me when you’re around. What have you done to displease her so?”
Understanding dawned on Malcus. “Oh Simay…” he sighed and lightly kissed his wife’s forehead. “I love you, and I would never intentionally frighten you or hurt you in any way.” He nudged her chin upwards with a finger so that she was looking into his face. “I need to tell you about what happened to me three months ago – the night I talked with Sojourner.”
Simay shivered despite the combined warmth of Malcus’s body and the thick blanket she sat on.
“Okay.” She whispered.
Malcus looked down for a moment before turning his eyes back to Simay’s face.
“I asked Sojourner about his God, Simay.”
His wife’s eyes widened and he suspected that if she hadn’t been so stunned, she would have run away from him.
“I thought – I thought you were loyal to me?” Simay said. “I thought you followed Diana.”
“I did. For a while.” He admitted. “But there was always something missing that I couldn’t place. There was no purpose to my life. I was only helping you achieve the goals that Diana set for you. When Sojourner showed up that night at our camp and then saved all our lives and then saved mine again the very next day…” he shook his head. “I had to understand why he did it.”
“He just wanted you to trust him!” Simay exclaimed tearily.
“No. No, that’s not why he did it. He did it because it was right – because his God wanted him to do it. Sojourner saved us because his God cared enough to send him to us to tell all of us about the gift God sent to us – the gift of salvation through the Son He sent here to this earth, to this very land, Israel –”
“Please! Don’t tell me about that man’s God.” Simay jerked away from her husband and fresh tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. “I cannot bear to be in His presence. He frightens me.”
Malcus laid a comforting hand on his wife’s shoulder and felt her flinch under his touch.
“Simay… please, let me talk about this.” Simay didn’t say anything, but she turned her teary eyes up toward her husband’s face and she forced herself not to say “no.”
Malcus took a deep breath and jumped into all the things that he and Sojourner had talked about, all the things that he had been unable or afraid to talk with his wife about before now. He talked about Jesus – even though Simay grimaced at every instance of the Name; he talked about God’s love and humanity’s sinfulness; he talked about the necessity for One to come to save the whole world from their sin.
Simay endured the conversation for the one simple reason that she loved Malcus more than she feared Diana – and the goddess was inexplicably absent. Even though every hair on her neck and arms stood straight up before ten minutes had passed, Simay suffered Malcus to continue baring his soul to her.
Soon something Malcus didn’t understand made his skin crawl, and when he had finished talking, Simay looked away from him, her eyes veiled by the descending darkness of Diana’s sudden presence. Fear of punishment for even listening to what Malcus had said made her tremble.
“What is it that you’re so afraid of Simay?” he searched her eyes for an explanation, “Does this have something to do with Diana?”
“No!” the answer came too quickly and Malcus knew she was lying, but he let it go.
“Then what is it?” he asked kindly, giving her a chance to open up to him.
“It – it –” she struggled. “It’s –” she shook her head. “I – I didn’t know what you would say, or how you would react, so I didn’t want to tell you until I… Until I had to tell you.” Then she did something that she hadn’t done for a very long time: she hugged her husband. And then she whispered into his ear a revelation. “We’re going to have a baby.”
A mix of joy and fear churned in Malcus’s gut. Conflicting emotions and thoughts drew him in two different directions: sadness that his son or daughter would likely not be born into a family united by a common faith, and happiness that they would soon celebrate a new life.
All of these internal conflicts were brushed aside for the present as the joy of the moment overwhelmed every competing thought and feeling. Only the ever present sense that all would be well lingered in Malcus’s mind in stark contrast to the nagging fear that was caught in the back of Simay’s troubled mind and heart.