Peace settled on the clearing in a nearly physical way. Its contrast to the violence of the events that had just taken place was stark. Isaac stood at the very edge of the clearing, where he had dispersed his father’s ashes what seemed like a lifetime ago. He was able to survey the entire valley from the overlook. Isaac had grown up in the desert of Arizona surrounded by some incredible panoramas, but the view before him now was breathtaking. It gave him cause to reflect and simply admire creation’s splendor. The appreciation he felt reminded him of a memory. It was not his memory though. Never the less, its clarity could not be denied. He knew it did not belong to him, yet somehow it had found its way into his conscious mind.
In this vision, a spectacular garden stretched out before him. Lush plants of every kind blossomed and bloomed, vibrant colors exploding from their petals. Succulent fruit trees, with branches bowing under the weight of their abundant harvest, gave shade to all manner of creature both great and small. Birds dressed in the most beautiful plumage imaginable soared above him. The call of a multitude of beasts rang out through the valley below. Their chorus almost melodic. Isaac breathed in the heady scent of lilac coupled with citrus. Each inhaled breath revived his spirit and every exhale cleansed all the impurity from his soul.
A breeze caressed his face, the warmth a welcome change from the chill that had seeped into his bones throughout their ascent. Isaac couldn’t figure out how it was possible to literally feel the warmth within a memory. That he was remembering someone else’s experience in the first place was strange enough without the physical sensations it inspired. With senses so acute and responsive to the scene before him, confusion about where he actually was engulfed him. Experiencing sights and smells so real made it nearly impossible to determine if what appeared to be truth was a dream, or if he had been miraculously transported to what could only be described as Eden. As soon as he thought the name, a truth resonated in Isaac’s mind and there was no longer any doubt about where he was. Eden. The birthplace of the world. His perfect garden. Satisfaction swelled in his heart as he assessed his work. But it wasn’t his work. It was His work.
“Yes, son, it is my work.” The same voice that had spoken to him earlier reverberated through him again.
“How am I seeing this?” Isaac spoke the words in hushed reverence, “How is it I am present, here, in Your garden?”
“You are here because I am here. I am everywhere. I am present within all things and have always been. I am within you. I have chosen you for my purpose, so now you are where I am as well.” Isaac felt unimaginable joy pulse within him.
“Thank you, Father! I am undeserving of such a gift.”
“That’s where you are wrong. Because of my son you are perfect in my sight. He has made you deserving of this place, and of me. This is what I want for all my children. You will bring them to me and reunite my family.”
Isaac knew there had always been a calling on his life, but he had never imagined it to be anything so overwhelming as what had just been revealed to him. The joy so recently inhabiting him was replaced by all encompassing doubt. Who was he that he could unite God’s family? He wasn’t a great speaker like his cousin, Dylan, or a military leader like Lucas. Dinah had always been able to connect with people with ease. Isaac had spent his life in relative solitude. His circle of friends had been loyal, but few. Of all the people in his life however, he had been most closely bonded with his father. It was that loss that had affected the trajectory of his life most profoundly. His dad had commissioned him with the responsibility to live out his faith. Now that commission had taken on an entirely new meaning.
“What is it that you doubt?” God spoke gently, without accusation.
“I doubt myself. There are so many more qualified people to do what you need done.” Shame colored Isaac’s cheeks.
“What you are saying is you don’t trust me to know what you are capable of better than you do. Though I have known you before you were even a thought, and designed you exactly as you are, you believe I am mistaken?” The lord posed the question in a such a way that Isaac felt as though he had hurt His feelings.
“No! Of course not, Lord! I trust you!” Isaac was desperate to convince him that his faith was sufficient even though he knew it was not.
“If you trust me, then you must trust yourself. I have created you for this purpose. I will give you strength when you need to be strong. I will give you wisdom and discernment when you need guidance. The path will not be easy, but I will be with you.” Each word brought comfort and confidence.
The scene before Isaac changed. Graffitied concrete replaced the garden. Rubble cluttered the streets amidst the monoliths that once symbolized the greatness a, now broken, city could barely hope to achieve again. People more closely resembling wraiths huddled in alleys between the fallen spires of man’s overconfidence. Their sunken cheeks and sallow skin belied tragedy ongoing and severe. Children, covered in filth, cowered behind their parents. Worse than their physical state was the emptiness in their eyes. Abject hopelessness pierced pools of innocence.
Isaac’s breath caught in his throat and tears stung his eyes as he recognized, possibly for the first time, the truly unmet need his world was now faced with. It was not their hunger, or their filth that struck him. It was the fear that limited their every movement. A fear that overtook every thought and brought worry that even a base existence was impossible. There was no light at the end of their tunnel anymore. Only more darkness, yearning, and terror.
Faith had become such a taboo subject with the rise of relative socialist ideals that the marginalized no longer had a servant. They had vocal champions, but voice was the extent of their actions. Those who had actually been the ones to minister to the poor were bullied into silence for their belief in right and wrong. Now the desolate were used as propaganda to advance a cause. They were no longer human. In reality, they never were to the ones who paraded them out like mascots whenever they wanted to punish the wealthy or the righteous for their very existence.
In that moment, Isaac began to see the world through the eyes of the father. At first the sorrow nearly broke him, but then it released a rage at the injustice he could barely control. Isaac felt fire overtake him from the inside, a billowing inferno of white heat pouring out from a broken heart in righteous anger, ready to consume the evil that had created such loss.
“Lord, tell me how to stop this! I can’t let this continue!”
“I will show you the way. Your words will be my words.”
“I am ready Father! Use me for your purpose!”
The flames in Isaac’s soul began to build around him. They enclosed him and pressed in. He could no longer see the city or its people. The fire grew hotter the closer it drew to him, until he could no longer look upon it. Isaac closed his eyes and he could hear the crackling of the flames grow louder. Everything else was blotted out and there was nothing but heat and noise. In the moment Isaac was sure he would be overcome a great rushing wind quenched the flames and left him in silence.
“Arise and fulfill my purpose for you!” The word of the Lord was sheer power.
“Yes, Lord! I am but a tool in your hand.” Isaac’s words were a whisper in comparison to the voice of God.
“No, you are much more than that.”
Isaac’s eyes flew open and he found himself lying at the edge of the cliff. Devin was crouched over him, worry etched in every line of his face.
“Are you alright?!” The panic in Devin’s voice undeniable.
“I’m fine.” Isaac sat up as he spoke.
“What happened? One minute you were fine and the next you went rigid and nearly fell over the edge. I barely caught you.”
“I was with God.” Isaac didn’t know what else to say so he just spoke the truth.
“With God? What do you mean with God?”
“I mean he called me to himself and I was where he was.”
“Are you sure it was God? You were so hot I thought you were going to spontaneously combust at one point!”
“I’m sure!” Isaac couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well what did he tell you?”
Isaac smiled in awe as he recalled the word burned into his mind the moment before his eyes opened.
“I am going to make you the shepherd of my people.”
Check out all the chapters of The Mountain by Duane Deats