The U.S. of After Chapter 20
Thanks be to God.
I rest in his mercy and grace.
The morning dust blew across the vacant highway. Grass, once green and now the color of wheat before a harvest, grew up between the cracks of the unkept pavement. I hadn’t seen any vehicles in a while and that was a good thing. I stood up and stretched my aching joints. I knew that I must continue on. I knew that the destination I would be heading toward would be my end. It had to be. That had been foretold and I embraced it. My work on this earth was nearly done.
Even though the sun had started its lazy journey across the sky it had trouble penetrating the thick cloud of debris from the meteor. At least the sunlight was not as hot as it had been these past few years. Simple blessings. I decided that if I did not find water I would have to ask for it again. Why ask for something you can readily find? I thought about my parishioner’s countless prayers for sick dogs and to “have a good day.” I shook my head and smiled. If they only knew the power and humble grace of going before the throne of the Most High. I did not judge those who were ignorant of the fullness of our inheritance.
I started down the road that headed toward the Red River. My friend had assured me that it was down this path. He followed me even now and knew that I was aware of him. I winked at him and he did not know how to respond, so he simply smiled. I laughed. I celebrated and thanked God that I had been allowed to see him. It gave me confidence, a contented confidence written by the Apostle so long ago.
It wasn’t long before I heard voices echoing over the hill behind me. My pace had slowed with age. My bones, brittle with time, had held up on this long journey, but I had not forgotten that I would soon see the end of the road, and that made me feel better.
Heaven was soon, but the work must be completed.
I was not afraid of the one who chased me. Rather, I feared the one who could place me in everlasting torment, the one who gave me new life in this barren wasteland, who forgave my fool-hearty, blind shot at being a shepherd. Oh how I prayed for those who fell away because of my uninformed leadership, when I used to look to others or try to rely on myself like some politician.
Thank you God for your grace and forgiveness.
I stepped to the side of the road with some effort. Leaning on my hickory walking staff, I managed to sit in the dry brown grass and observe this band of travelers. I did not think them to be dangerous, as there was a military man with them (not militia), and after all the other three were young, say, in their early twenties. They looked so tired, and one of them pulled a child’s wagon with a brown woolen blanket draped over it, part of the blanket dragging on the pavement.
I sat quietly, a contagious smile on my face, my hands quick to lay the staff beside me in the grass. I did not want to seem threatening at all. Across the highway lay a vast field with a ring of trees in the distance. The brown johnson grass waved in the slight breeze that God had provided, and several brown and white paint horses grazed lazily in a small group. I could see six of them with my failing eyesight, their heads bobbing as they ate the vegetation.
The group came closer, but for some reason they did not acknowledge me or see me. Perhaps they were too focused on their trouble at the time. Perhaps their empty stomachs caused them to ignore the old man sitting on the side of the road. None of this mattered.
I watched as they moved to the opposite side of the road and lined up along the fence to stare at the horses that did not run away, for these equines were at least one hundred yards distant. I began to wonder if I were dead, if I had somehow slipped from the earth in the night or was killed by marauders in my sleep. This was disproven by the young girl who looked behind her to shyly gaze at me and then turn back around as if trying to ignore what she had seen. Besides, if I were dead, I would be in glory and not here. I watched the young red headed girl nudge the skinny fellow next to her and then he turned and looked at me only to turn back to gaze out at the oblivious horses.
Something struck me when I saw him, as if I had seen him before. I felt like I was seeing a family member I had not seen in ages or a classmate with whom I had attended elementary school years ago. My bones ached as I stood to my feet with help from my staff. I saw my companion gesture toward the group of people and his strong hand helped me to my feet. I nodded at him, and started across the road to help them.
Trouble was coming fast, on the backs of four horses.