Theme verse: Rom. 6:4 “Buried with Him…that…even so we also should walk in newness of live.”
Silence draped over all. From her cell, Eshana could see the river escape its banks. Water covered the grassy meadow, creating a shallow swamp. As the cyclone had roared like a tiger, rain had slashed through the open fretted window and the crumbling sections of roof to scatter puddles across her prison floor.
But the household noises that Eshana had grown accustomed to had ceased.
Dawn had come an hour ago. By this time of day the chatter of servants below should equal that of birds squawking in the trees. The clatter and ping of brass pots from the kitchen should carry over the air. She should have heard the Hindu priest ring his bell as the family made their morning puja in their private temple.
But not even the wailing of mourning for Lala’s mother disturbed the breezes. Only a warm wind blowing over the tops of palms and betel nut trees reached Eshana. That gentle current of air stroked her face as her stomach cramped. For the past two days no one had come to bring her water or food. And there had been no sign of the child.
She turned from the window and sank to her knees by the cot. As she had watched the river rise, she had expected Lala to return and fulfill the threat she had uttered. But no one had come.
Eshana lifted her head to listen. Strained to listen. And sniffed the air. No wood smoke. Cooking fires did not burn in the kitchen. Had the family left for their pilgrimage to the River Ganges in spite of the flooding? Had they thought to leave instructions for her well-being? Vanji, surely Vanji had not forgotten her?
Sunlight poured in from the east and warmed the stone floor where she sat, her upper body sprawled on the cot to pray. The garden below steamed as the sun rose higher and turned the world below into shades of emerald, jade, and leaves the color of limes. Blossoms burst forth, scarlet, yellows, orange, and pinks. Upon the wafting steam ascended the perfume of lilies, jasmine and roses.
This room, so similar to that of Miriam’s at home in the mission, rose high in this abandoned wing. It overlooked a vast area—not the Golden Temple of the Sikhs and the city of Amritsar—but this fertile valley on the bank of the River Palar. Unlike Miriam’s room, this cell did not contain a Bible. It had been too long since she had held God’s Word in her hands, but she comforted herself by the biblical accounts she had learned in years past and laid her head on her arm.
If she were to die here, she could rest in that joy. To go home to be with Yeshu was far better than life on this earth. Though her heart still ached with the desire to accomplish much work for Him. Work she had loved in Miriam’s mission. Had she loved that work more than Him? Was that why...?
A whisper, like that of a foot brushing against stone, pulled her from her thoughts. It came from outside. Ruchi!
She jumped to her feet and swooned but crossed to the window and clung to the sill. “Ruchi. Are you there?”
Only a palm frond had landed on the parapet, and the wind pushed it so that it scratched across the stonework. It had not been the patter of Ruchi’s tiny feet running up the broken steps.
“Ruchi,” she whispered, dropping her chin to her chest and squeezing her eyes shut. “Come to me, little one. Someone...Vanji...someone...”
The heat of the morning sun embraced her. With her head heavy, she opened her eyes to look at her feet poking out below the hem of her widow’s garment. She lifted her arms to study her funeral clothing. For two months she had worn this cloth and been buried in this tomb.
Her words rang as if wrung from her chest. “I wanted only to serve you, Yeshu, with my life. I wanted to live my life...for you. Be holy...for you. Yet you keep me in this prison where I can do nothing.” She bowed her head again. “I have tried to count this persecution as joy, to be like Joseph when he was in prison. Like Peter...Paul.” Her speech weakened to a breath. “But I am failing, Lord. I am failing.”
Have you come to the last of your days, light of my eyes?
She glanced up, the tingle of life running along her arms. Had she heard His small and still voice within her ear? Her heart? Fingertips of a breeze touched her cheek, her brow, her chin. “My Lord? Speak, for I am listening.”
Beloved, are you ready to die, as I died? Are you ready to cease striving, cease fretting? Are you ready to say as I had said,‘Not my will, but Thine, heavenly Father’?
The rising sun had reached midway up the sky so that she could stare straight into its all-consuming countenance.
Come, light of my eyes, be one with the Father and with me. You have believed. You have been buried with me. Now walk with me in newness of life, for I am the resurrection.
The sun blazed upon her, and her coarse sari whitened in the brilliance. Softened in the brilliance. She held out her arms, and sunlight flooded her, seeping into her soul. “Not my will...but thine. I die to myself, my plans, my aspirations. Yeshu, live your life through me.”
Laughter eddied through her and met with her current of tears. Renewed strength took hold of her body, and she set her arms, her hands, and her feet in the ancient ways of Indian dance. She tapped her feet and let her hands open and shut like those of lotus blossoms in worship of the Son of God.
The memory of Chandra came to her in that moment, of the day she and Laine had laid the young girl in the wooden crate before they had hammered down the nails and boarded the Bombay Mail. Her own words to Chandra came back to her. “Do not be afraid at this confinement. It is only for a short time, and then you will be released, and free to enjoy all the good things God is preparing for you.”
Eshana whirled in her dance and released a joyous cry. “My precious Lord, I trust in your love. Thy will be done.”
A scratch like that of the palm frond on stone stopped her in her dance.
She looked out to the parapet. The soft noise came again. But not from outside.
The grating of a key in the lock invaded the quiet joy of her cell. Had Lala returned to make good on her threat?
She turned to the door and rolled back her shoulders. The warm sun ran like a hand along her spine.
I am here, light of my eyes, do not fear. I am the resurrection...and the life.
With the strength of her Savior she would accept with joy whatever He allowed in her life...or did not allow.
The key rasped again in the lock and clicked. The door popped open an inch, yet no one entered. Only a whisper of noise came from the passageway.
She took tentative steps and peeked through the sliver of space, but where she expected to see an adult face there was nothing. Her gaze lowered, and there stood the child. So small. Backed against the wall of the passageway, her hands splayed against the stones. But fear pinched the normally laughing little face.
“Ruchi. Gem of my heart, what has frightened you?”
The little one strove to speak. “The man...with the shiny face. He brought me...to you.”
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