He shook his head teasingly. "No."
"Well who are you?"
"I'm here to bring you a message. Your prayers have been heard, Sally. Your answer is on his way. Be looking for him."
She looked away for only a moment, just a slight eye-rolling gesture of consternation. "Be looking for who-?"
He was gone.
She walked around the cottonwood, looked up and down the road and across every field, and even looked straight up the trunk of the tree.
He was gone, just like that, as if he'd never been there. After one more hurried trip around the tree, she stopped, a hand against the trunk to steady herself, her eyes scanning the prairie. Her heart was beating faster than when she'd come up the rise. Her breathing was rapid and shallow. She was shaking.
At Our Lady of the Fields church in Antioch, Arnold Kowolski was busy dust mopping the quaint little sanctuary, pushing the wide broom between the pews and down the center aisle, moving a little slowly but doing a thorough job. Arnold had been a soldier, a carpenter, a diesel mechanic, and a mail carrier, and now, since retiring, he had taken upon himself the unofficial title of church custodian. It wasn't a paid position, although the church did provide a little monetary gift for him each month as an expression of live and gratitude. He just did it for God, a few hours, a few days a week, pure and simple. It brought him joy, and besides, he liked, he liked being in this place.
He'd been a devout member of Our Lady of the Fields for some forty years now. He never missed Sunday morning Mass if he could help it. He never failed to make it to confession, though now at 72 the confessions were getting shorter and the penance easier.
He liked to think that God was happy with him. He considered himself happy enough with God.
Except for one thing, one minor grief he had to carry as he moved slowly down the center aisle pushing his broom. He couldn't help wishing that God would pay a little attention to Arnold's arthritis. It used to flare up occasionally; now it was only on occasion that it didn't. He was ashamed to think such a thought, but he kept on thinking it anyway: Here I am serving God, but he keeps letting it hurt. His hands throbbed, his feet ached. His knuckles cried out no matter which way he gripped the broom. He was never one to complain, but today, he almost felt like crying.
Maybe I'm not serving God enough, he thought. Maybe I need to work longer. Maybe if I didn't take any money for what I do here...
What am I missing? He wondered. What am I leaving?
He always took off his hat when he entered the building and blessed himself before entering the sanctuary. Right now, as usual, he was wearing his blue coveralls. Perhaps a tie would show more respect.
He pushed a little more dust and dirt down the center aisle until he stepped into a beam of sunlight coming through a stained glass window. The sun felt warm on his back and brought him comfort, as if it were God's hand resting on his shoulders. From this spot he could look up at the carved wooden crucifix hanging above the altar. He caught the gaze of the crucified Christ.
"I don't want to complain," he said. Already he felt he was overstepping his bounds. "But what harm would it do ? What difference would it make in this whole wide world if one little man didn't have so much pain?" It occurred to Arnold that he'd addressed God in anger. Ashamed, he looked away from those gazing wooden eyes. But the eyes drew him back, and for a strange illusory moment they seemed alive, mildly scolding, but mostly showing compassion as a father would show a child with a scraped knee. Sunlight from another window brought out a tiny sparkle in the corner of the eyes, and Arnold had to smile. He could almost imagine the eyes were alive with wet tears.
Copyright Frank Peretti 1999. Published with the permission of the publisher - Word Publishing. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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