Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical Works
I’d been staring at the man for a long time, intrigued by his familiar demeanor. I’d seen that look in his eyes before – a deep sorrow that could be felt as deeply as any physical sensation.
He was thin, this man. I suppose gaunt would be the right word. His cheekbones bulged out, shouting his hunger, and his skin gave off a strange hue, as if he was carrying some disease that was taking its toll.
The man stood inside a locked cell, his long fingers gripped around the metal bars, as if time had infused them. I studied his stringy hair, his worn clothing, his tattooed arms, and I was certain that I knew him.
From his confined location, the man stared back at me, meeting my gaze full on, and the sense that I knew him increased. Eyes that bleak could stay with you for a lifetime.
We remained like this for some time, the two of us silently communing, and I wished for the key that would unlock his cage. Eventually he looked away, his shoulders sagging under the weight of living, and I pitied him.
“What’s your name?” I asked. My voice pierced the silence, echoing several times down the cold hallway. The man didn’t answer me right off. He seemed to be pondering the question, as if the essence of who he was had been lost somewhere along the way.
“Joe.” The man finally spoke with a catch in his voice, as if he hadn’t said his name in some time. He coughed then said it again. Clearer. Stronger. “Joe. Joe Hamilton.”
“Joe Hamilton?” I repeated the name. Once. Twice. Three times, and an odd sensation flowed through my veins. “But that can’t be,” I said, rubbing my forehead. “You can’t be Joe Hamilton.”
“Look, mister. I told you my name. I’m Joe Hamilton.”
I sank down onto a hard bench, suddenly feeling light-headed. My skin grew clammy, and it seemed someone was playing a cruel joke on me. I knew the name “Joe Hamilton” better than any.
I glanced back at Joe, who sat down on his own hard bench. My eyes narrowed, making a more thorough examination of his tattoos. These were intricate markings that had been etched over time, ink trails bearing permanent reminders of history. I peered down at my own arms, also thoroughly tattooed, and marveled at the striking similarities between his markings and mine.
“You don’t look so good, Hamilton.” I must have been staring at the man across from me for some time when the burly guard came lumbering up the hallway and called out to me. The guards never bothered to call me by my first name. “Hamilton, if you keep staring at that mirror, you just might burn a hole in the wall.”
I stood up and began to shake the bars, desperately grasping help. “That man. That man! He’s a liar. He says he’s Joe Hamilton.” I frantically pointed an accusing finger at the other prisoner who simultaneously pointed back at me, but all the guard did was shake his head. “I’m Joe Hamilton. I am!” I shouted it at the guard and at the imposter across from me, pounding my chest with confidence. It didn’t matter what anyone said.
“Look, Hamilton. Just calm down and eat your dinner. And stop looking at your reflection,” the guard growled and shoved a meager plate through the slot. “Don’t know why the warden thought putting up all these mirrors was a good idea,” he muttered to himself and walked off. “A man could go crazy staring at himself all day long.”
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25 (ASV)
Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron, because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High: therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto Jehovah in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bonds in sunder. Oh that men would praise Jehovah for his lovingkindness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. Psalm 107:10-16 (ASV)
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (ASV)
-Questions to Ponder: What areas of fear, guilt, and shame have imprisoned you? What has God told you about your identity that needs to be remembered?
-Song Recommendation: Frail by Jars of Clay (available on Spotify & Itunes)
Written by Benjamin & Heidi Sadler, Inspired by James 1:22-25, Psalm 107, & Hebrews 12:1-2. © 2016, Benjamin & Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.