(c) By Vickey Stamps
Somewhere either here or there, and in the land ofcould have been, as well as was, a small crowd wandered first in valleys, then in the small hills, all dreading the mountains yet ahead of them. Each carried a cross, each of a different size, burden-some in appearance, perhaps very heavy. Some whistled or hummed to themselves as they stepped onward to their destination. Some were silent.
When they had been in the valley, the place of Heaven for which they longed, seemed very far away, and they sometimes became discouraged, but yet, feeling, in part that they had little choice, but to keep moving, they did so.
A young man trudged, now near the top of yet another hill. He had been struggling with the weight of his cross, and wondering how the old man, Fred, who just a short time back…lived next door to him. He seemed to have very little trouble with his cross, which was exactly the same size. He remembered liking the old man quite a bit, but lately had neglected the friendship the neighbor had tried to encourage. After all he was still young and life called sweet and low to him, the whiles of the world beckoning him with its finger. He remembered now what a disappointment he had become to his family and friends. He recalled the harsh words he’d spoken to his young wife. Was it only 4 days ago he’d been called to make this journey. Perhaps when he, or maybe it was more like, perhaps “IF” he reached heaven, the Master would understand and let him go back and say he was sorry. Perhaps there were a great many things he could undo, given the understanding that might be waiting for him even now. Maybe all he had to do was ask.
How long had it been since he’d slipped to his knees and humbled himself before the Lord. He couldn’t remember. It must have been a long time. He wasn’t a bad person. He was a little careless and impatient and perhaps full of his own self-importance. Well, at least he had managed to go and visit the old man when he was in the neighborhood. Why he’d even mowed his lawn now and then. There had been a lot of times in his younger years when he’d loved hearing the stories the old man would tell, and sat for long minutes listening. He’d been happy to mow the lawn, or hurry to help him carry in groceries, when he saw him struggling. Then life had suddenly just gotten……well……busy. He remembered the old man talking to him of the Master earlier in the year and again, as he had become grown up.
He looked around. The valley appeared again, but this time it was not such a big valley. Taking the cross downhill should be much easier. Surely it wouldn’t be too much longer, before the chasm between earth and heaven would be reached. He had to admit he dreaded the mountain which they’d been told, would be the last part of the journey.
Now a friend from high school came to walk beside him, obscuring the sight of the old neighbor. “Hey Bud, I’ve been watching you struggle with that cross. Why isyours so heavy? Mine isn’t so bad. Take a look.“ The young man glanced around and indeed the cross was much smaller then that which he carried and he asked why. “Well, I have decided that all that stuff that made my cross so heavy, so much a burden was just to much for me to bear, so I chipped away here and there, till it was more bearable. After all, I’m not a bad sort. In fact I’m thinking this journey is rather silly, and I might just lay my cross aside and go back, to wherever back happens to be. You sure wasted some time back there in our ‘used to be’ world. I see you are hanging out again with that old man. There must be better company to keep than him. If you were smart, you’d move somewhere else and be with someone not so old, Listen to the others. Some seem pretty cheerful and happy. Perhaps they aren’t as concerned, as I am, about this foolish journey. If I were you, I’d chip off some of that cross. Look at that old man. Early in the morning, I’ve seen him almost collapse with the weight of it, but I have to admit, later in the morning he almost has a lightness in his step. I just can’t figure it out. Well see you buddy. Were you me, you’d pay attention.” Having said that, the other young man moved to another place to chat with yet another person.
“Well, Lord, sure doesn’t look so good for me. I’m sorry I didn’t do better when I had the chance. Sorry I didn’t pay more attention to my old friend. I wonder if he’d let me share a little of the weight that surely will bow his back before much longer. I believe I will ask how I could help. Would you please let my wife and family know I didn’t mean those things I said. They loved me anyway, Guess, what I’m trying to say is I hope you love me too.” The young man moved over to where his old friend continued walking, almost struggling to keep up with him. “Sir, your cross has to be heavy. You aren’t so young anymore, not like me. Let me share a part of that cross to make your journey easier. “
The old man smiled and said “No need my friend. My cross is as light as balsa wood right now. Check it out.” The young man reached out an arm to lift the long bar of the cross, amazement on his face, for just as the old man had said, it was indeed very light. “What happened to make your cross so light and mine so heavy?” “Well son, my cross is almost more then I can bear every morning, but I pick it up and turn all the burdens in it, over to the Lord. It becomes very light. It’s no trouble at all to bear my cross. It’s I, that should offer to help you with yours. You know I never fell asleep without saying a prayer for you and your family.”
All of a sudden, the valley ahead was no more. The mountain seemed to be what he felt contained that of a heavenly nature. Upon it, he saw grass tall and green, weaving in the wind, no rocks to get around, no boulders to almost block the roads, no harsh winds or heavy showers to endure, and in the far away distance, was that angelic singing? A stream meandered here and there, clear as a crystal.
The alarm clock rudely awoke him and he found himself back home. Had he ever left it. Was it a dream? Whatever it was, he saw it as another chance. He leaned over and wrapped his arms around his wife, rubbing her swollen belly where she carried his child. She’d cried herself to sleep last night over the harshness of his manner with her, earlier that day. He kissed her again, whispering how sorry he was, admitting what a hardhead he’d been. He was going to change that. He’d be a good husband. He could be responsible.
It was Saturday. They’d walk to the park together and later go and visit one, or both, of their parents. Tomorrow was Sunday, and wouldn’t his old neighbor be proud and happy to see him and Missy plop down beside him in the pew.
He had a song in his heart and he was going to sing it.
LIFE WAS GOOD