(a fictional short story based on biblical truths and ancient customs)
“Beulah, I do not understand why Avi does it—sit there day after day weaving away, hardly sleeping.”
“Shh, Ephah, she will hear you. Let her be. Whatever Avi is doing she has her mind fixed on it and there is nothing we can say to change her purpose. Now, come,” Beulah said as she tugged on Ephah’s arm.
Ephah pulled away and reached for the long cloth covering Avi’s open door. “I think we should go in and sit with her and find out what she is doing, Beulah.”
“No! Ephah, do not.”
“Are you not curious?”
“Yes, of course I am, but it is none of our business. We should go. We have work to do. The men will be home from the field soon and I must cook lentils and lamb stew for dinner, at the request of my husband.”
“Humph. Tomorrow then,” Ephah said, sorely disappointed that they did not have time to go inside and probe Avi about her sudden withdrawal from her people. “Tomorrow we will make her tell us.”
“No, Ephah. No. Tomorrow we must busy ourselves with preparations for the Pesach. We have one week left to get ready. Tomorrow, and all the days thereafter, we must leave Avi alone. We have too much to do. Come, go quickly. There is so little time.”
A slight breeze blew the thin covering nailed to Avi’s door and cooled the stillness in her one-room bavith. Plumes of dust entered the room as the two women outside scurried away. Avi stopped weaving and listened. “Adonai, thank you. It is peaceful again.”
Avi stood then stretched her back and wiggled her toes, shook the mat and repositioned the blanket that she had folded underneath it. The earthen floor of her bavith was smooth, hard packed; the walls made of clay. The bavith was old, built by her late husband and two sons—all dead now. Her roof, well-established, had a beam that ran from wall to wall and atop was a healthy crop of grass, barley, and the dying beginnings of a fig tree that wouldn’t survive the summer’s heat.
Simmering in a corner of the bavith was a pot of lentil soup. From the market, she had purchased a leg of lamb and placed half of it in the soup; the other half she shared with a neighbor. A small basket protected a portion of raw grain, enough to last three days. In a tiny bowl covered with a cloth were a handful of dates, olives, and a small serving of buttermilk cheese to nourish Avi if she needed to eat before dinner.
On the opposite side of the bavith where she was hard at work, was a bed mat rolled up neat, pressed against the wall. Next to the mat, all the clothes she owned lay wrapped and tied with a string.
For nearly a year, without fail, she rose early to fetch water from the well, filling two goatskins to capacity, doing so before the other women came to gather and participate in idle talk. Then she’d rush back to her bavith to cook today’s meal before returning to her sewing.
Avi shared Ephah’s need to understand, but even Avi didn’t know why weaving the garment until the wee hours of the morning had become an obsession. Sewing this garment, a man’s ef’-od, was a mystery to her, and she had no idea who would wear it. Without knowledge of his breadth, height, and age, everything about this undertaking seemed pointless. But the moment she made up her mind to stop fighting the message that kept running through her mind as she slept, her energy increased and she soon discovered that four hours of rest each night was sufficient.
With a week left before the Pesach, her people’s commemoration of G-d passing over them when he slew the first born of Egypt, Avi became more determined than ever to finish her work. Everyone in Jerusalem anticipated the holiday—buying and selling goods to ensure they had enough to host kinsmen and friends coming from afar.
Avi worked tirelessly and as she did so she pondered rumors of a man claiming to be the Messiah close to her heart. Ancient stories of the coming King had circulated throughout Israel long before her birth. As a child, she remembered the elders talking around campfires, saying, “He will rule the earth and bring us peace.” They celebrated this promise in full expectation—dancing to lively music, roasting the best lamb, feasting on honey, and drinking the finest wine. Recent rumors of this miracle worker who had come to save Avi’s people spread through Jerusalem like warm honey. She had yet to investigate these stories to determine if they were myths or truths. Perhaps he was another imposter who might leave her people downtrodden once again, casting doubts upon the ancient tales of the patriarchs.
She’d been too preoccupied with the task at hand to walk a mile or two or three to witness the teacher everyone raved about. The vast majority of her people reported he had healed the blind, made the lame walk, turned water into wine. The entire countryside went into an uproar when he supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead. The most absurd story of all, at least for Avi, was his ability to walk on water. Avi couldn’t put that story to rest. It agitated her, woke her in the middle of the night, caused her to call upon Adonai and cry herself to sleep.
Not long after the dreams ceased, for reasons she still couldn’t comprehend, Avi saved every denarius earned from repairing neighbors’ old garments. With the money, she bought fine expensive yarn. Since Avi’s family died many years ago, it didn’t make sense to buy it. What would she do with this elaborate twisted fiber? Avi wondered if she had acted foolishly. So taunted with worry, she wrapped the yarn of fine linen inside her cloak then sat near a lamp and stared at it as if expecting it to move about her bavith and perhaps convey a message that she had somehow missed from the Holy One.
Then one day about ten months ago, she set her loom in the middle of her bavith. Upon a thin strip of leather, she placed seven needles. She commenced to inserting these sharp splinters of bone and bronze in and out of the yarn to begin the painstaking task of weaving a seamless garment from top to bottom.
Everyday since Avi sewed, stopping long enough to fetch water, cook, eat and drink, bathe and lie down. Her source of income came to a halt for she had given up mending her neighbors’ cloaks and scarves and belts, but was never in want.
Three days before Pesach, something strange occurred. She fastened the hem then clipped the thread and held the finished ef’-od up to examine it. “Perfect,” Avi said. Delight filled her eyes. She started to mount it to the wall to stretch and shape it in case the man who would wear it proved to be much larger, but an eruption outside interrupted her. Avi held the undergarment tight to her breast, refusing to allow it to touch the ground as she stepped outside.
Not far away, people shouted praises, fanning palm branches high and low. Something moved her forward, arms gently caressing the ef’-od in her hands, her feet unable to stop until . . .
Their eyes met.
No one ever described him, or told of the kindness in his eyes, the joy emitting from his face. If they had, their report was inaccurate. There was much more to him than the miracles they proclaimed. Avi searched for a word to describe him, but all her mind could come up with was love—something she felt the moment they locked eyes. The crowd all about him shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” As if someone had bellowed a thunderous command, the people stepped aside, making a clear path for Avi which led directly to him. Before she drew a breath to speak, he said, “Thank you.”
“My Lord, are you the one they speak of . . . Yeshua . . . the chosen one . . . the one who has come to save us?”
“I am he,” Yeshua said.
Avi loosened her grip on the garment, knowing without a doubt that the ef’-od belonged to him. After she gave him the robe, she fell to her knees and hid her face. In a low muffled voice she praised him. Overcome with unspeakable joy, Avi couldn’t articulate her thanksgiving above a whisper, but Yeshua heard every word. Yeshua touched her arm. Avi stood.
“Thank you, my Lord,” Avi said, “for I have received endless joy on this day and forever. All is now well with my soul.” Avi’s spirit confirmed what her heart had wrestled with for quite some time. As she had worked on the garment, a burning grew inside her, driving her, encouraging her, guiding her hands until she finished. Now, in this moment, gazing upon the Messiah, everything in her was complete and fully satisfied.
Point of Interest: Just as Ahijah tore his clothes into twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, depicting the division of the kingdom (I Kings 11:29-39); Christ’s seamless undergarment represents one robe in which we are all clothed and cannot be torn apart.
Definitions: ef’-od = Hebrew reference to an undergarment or tunic; bavith = a house, usually one room, can have an upper room/level; Yeshua = Hebrew name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ; Pesach = Passover.
Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the Ruby for Women Magazine (http://rubyforwomen.com) since 2013. Donna has also written devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life. She also contributes to The Christian Post blog section at http://blogs.christianpost.com/search.html?term=comeaux. Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna’s political views as well.
Donna and her husband have two grown sons and eight grandchildren. They reside in Oklahoma.
This story is also in the March 2017 issue of the Ruby for Women Magazine. Click here to purchase a hardcopy: https://www.createspace.com/6972935.
This story can also be found on The Christian Post: http://blogs.christianpost.com/an-unlikely-choice/waiting-for-the-messiah-28715/