The Empty City

By Brent King On November 17, 2014 Under Short Stories

new-jerusalemLight shone everywhere. It shafted through the exalted spires and gilded windows of countless tiers that stair-stepped to the heavens. Beams shown through gold walls and halls, igniting the city like a diamond. Fire filled the urban heights. I had never seen such a place! Its architecture defied reason.

Yet something was wrong. As I strolled along the street, looking up and down, it came to me. The metropolis was silent. The glittering streets and broad squares were empty.

Well, almost empty. A lone figure moved toward me along the artery. As he approached, brilliance hid his features, and I shielded my eyes. After a moment I braved the light. He was tall and gazed into the distance.

“Look at it Brent,” the Brilliant One said. “It’s a shining gem of perfection, glowing in my heavens.”

He touched my shoulder and smiled.

“It, it is sir,” I said. “There’s nothing like it in the cosmos. None but you could make something so magnificent…” I waved my hand across the city’s expanse and inhaled, “so breathtaking.”

We strode in silence along the corridor before we stopped before a mansion. Its vaulted glory surpassed anything I had ever seen on earth, with stunning views of the city and the heavens.

“Does your Brandon know that this is his?” He pointed to another series of towers several tiers up, “and does your Dustin know that those are made for him, made to complement his interests and his talents?”

“I’m, I’m not sure,” I said. “We don’t have the minds to visualize such things. They’re beyond us. The world’s a dark place, but it’s all we know.”

“The dim world is not quite all you know.” He guided me to a bench. “For Emanuel is with you in the darkness, speaking to your hearts and bringing you to the light.”

We gazed at the entrance of Brandon’s mansion and out across the city for some time before he spoke again.

“It is all so empty.”

He said the words as if his heart was still pierced through with a spear, and I didn’t know what to say.

“It is just a shell without you here,” He caught my eye, “a corpse with no life.”

I mustered up my courage at last. “Then why don’t you come and bring us home,” I asked.

He held my eye with such intensity that I broke away. When I stole a glance a moment later, He yet gazed off in the distance, running his fingers across a scar on his wrist.

His eyes returned to mine, and water glistened on the brightness of his face. “I would, but…”

I shouldn’t have been so bold to ask. Minutes passed.

“Remember the bible stories you have heard all your life about Moses and the children of Israel?” he asked.

I nodded.

“When Moses led them out of Egypt, they could have made it to the Promised Land in seven days.”

That is all the further he got. He looked away, and I could see his shoulders shaking. Now I know how the triumphal entry ended in Jerusalem. What does a person do when God cries?

I rested there, staring at the splendor about me: stars and systems circling above innumerable dwelling places stretching as far as my eye could see, and God sobbing at my side.

“Jesus,” I said, after sitting there far too long.

His face that grew brighter as I spoke his name. He wiped his cheek with his arm.

“I have many names,” he said, “but I like that one best.”

He reached over again and put an arm across my shoulders. I couldn’t keep my eyes from the nail scar in the hand lying on his lap. His arm on my shoulder summoned the courage I needed to reach over and clasp its wounded form.

“Jesus,” I said.

“Brent.” He squeezed my hand.

I guess I could have sat there with him like that forever, except a burden weighed heavier and heavier on my heart.  At last I could take it no longer.

“How can we be so content in such a dark world?” I asked, gazing across the grandeur and feeling the reassurance of God’s hand on my back. “I must confess that I have rarely thought about the wonders of a place as this. I haven’t anticipated how it might feel to sit with your arms around me until now.”

“It is the enemy,” he said, “He busies your schedules and clouds your minds until you can’t see the light.”

He stopped and motioned toward the city. “It’s hard to walk these empty streets and wait while earth’s hell continues ad nauseum.”

I ran my finger over the scar on his wrist.

“Even my people on earth—the ones who are called by my name—forget about their home. They are so attached—so preoccupied with a dark world—like I’m not really here in a better place waiting….”

His voice trailed off into silence, like he couldn’t bear to speak any more of the truth. I had no words for I knew too well of which He spoke. I turned my face from such disappointment. His hand trembled on my back.

We cried together in that sacred place, he in his disappointment and I in my shame. I cannot say how long we sat arm in arm, but the last thing I remember was the sweeping arc of his scarred hand as he motioned toward the mansions standing empty around us.

“Brent,” he said, “why wouldn’t you want to come home?”


1 Comment Add yours

  1. Gary
    November 18, 2014
    9:37 pm #comment-1

    Thanks for this interesting perspective on the age-old question: Why so long?

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