20. Jake Returns

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

Reaching the top of the pass just as the sun was going down, Friend had instructed the Rendezvous team to make camp there, taking advantage of the relatively flat terrain. Patches of snow in the shadows provided great fun for the children, and soon enough was melted over the cook fires to produce both supper and coffee.

Taking his steaming cup with him, he wandered a short distance away from the camp. Looking back over the dark valley from which they come, he wondered again if they had done the right thing, leaving Fisher and Sandy to venture off the trail alone in search of Lisa’s family. This was their calling, he was certain, just as surely as his calling was to guide the Rendezvous team. But did the two have to be exclusive to one another? Couldn’t they work together, helping and supporting one another when the need arose but remaining faithful to what each had been given to do?

“Oh Lord,” he prayed. “I need Your wisdom. Help me do the right thing.”

“Sometimes we just have to wait.” A familiar voice came from Friend’s right, and he turned to see Jake, sitting on a rock and watching him in the starlight.

“Jake!” Friend exclaimed. “Is it really you?” But even as he asked the question, Friend knew beyond a doubt whom he was addressing. It seemed so long ago, back down the trail, when this seemingly old and grizzled traveler had come into his life. Before they had parted, Friend discovered that the man was actually a messenger from God.

The angel smiled, and Friend could feel the warmth invading every part of his heart and soul. “Like I told you before, God has given me the best job in the world, looking out for pilgrims like you.”

“You did say that,” Friend declared, filled with joy at the confirmation. “Oh Jake, I have so much to ask you. I don’t think I’m doing very well at this responsibility. And now … well, I just don’t know what to do.”

“I know,” said Jake, the smile never leaving his face. “That’s why I’m here. I have a word for you, and it comes from God Himself. The word is: wait.”

“’Wait’? That’s it? How long do we wait? And what do we do in the meantime? When will I know when it’s time to stop waiting? How …”

Jake held up his hand. “If I knew the answers to those questions, I’d tell you. Unless of course I wasn’t supposed to. Listen Friend, you’ve been on this trail long enough by now to know that sometimes the best answers are the shortest ones. The long ones just get people confused. What I’ve given you is simple and easy to obey. Just wait.”

“Yes … yes, of course you’re right. And I’ll do that. We all will. For as long as it takes.

It seemed as though the conversation was over, leaving Friend with a sense of panic. “But Jake, please don’t go. Please tell me something, anything.” Even in the semi-darkness, Friend could see Jake’s eyebrow go up, as if he had just heard something funny. “I know it sounds silly,” Friend went on. “It’s just that, well, you’re up there with Him, seeing things and doing things that people down here can only dream about. If you could only teach me what I need to know, I would …”

“You’d what?” Jake demanded. “Go on with your journey with no more doubts, no more fears, no more questions? I think you’ve read His Word enough by now to know that things like that never bring people closer to Him. It’s like those ‘long answers’ that get twisted and turned until they’ve lost all sense of the original.”

Jake stood as if to go. “Speaking of His Word,” he said, “do you remember what we do?”

Thinking this was some kind of test, Friend thought carefully, then answered, “You’re messengers … and warriors, right?

“That’s right,” Jake said. “But one thing we’re not is teachers. That job has been left to the Sons and Daughters of Adam. And in order to do that, you have to spend plenty of time in God’s Word. And remember this: one day you’ll be in authority over us, so study hard.”

And then he was gone. There was no puff of smoke, no flash of light; he simply vanished. Friend resisted the urge to fall on his knees, remembering what Jake had told him the first time they had met. Realizing that he was standing in the presence of an angel, he had almost knelt to worship when Jake stopped him with a strong reprimand. Friend would never forget his words: “Stand up! I know where you’re going with this, and I need to tell you right now, it’s the wrong way. You think I’m some kind of superior Being because I know a few things about you and I talk about your friend who died in the present tense. But let me tell you something: it’s you that’s turning heads in heaven. From the very beginning, God’s been doing some amazing things with the sons and daughters of Adam. None of us knows for sure exactly how it’s going to play out, but everyone knows that you and those like you will be at the center of it all. I’m just a caretaker, nothing more.”

Some caretaker, thought Friend to himself with a smile. He turned to head back to camp, and almost threw out his coffee, which by now had to have turned cold. A warm sensation in his hand made him stop, though, and noticing steam rising from the cup, took a cautious sip. It was piping hot, and he even imagined that it tasted better than before. “Well, there’s one for the next Bible study,” he said aloud.

Returning to the camp fire, he found his wife, his daughter April and little Lisa sitting close together, wrapped in a sleeping bag and soaking up the heat from the flames. The two girls were laughing about something while his wife stirred the coals with a stick. Joy doesn’t come any deeper than this, he concluded. “What’s so funny, you two?”

“Lisa’s trying to say ‘Tall slim slick sycamore sapling’”, laughed April. “But she can’t do it!”

“Yes I can!” demanded Lisa. “Tall, sim sick, sickie, sickie mores!” That brought another burst of laughter.

“Honey, can you put some more wood on the fire?” Friend was glad to oblige, and as he stacked it carefully, his wife said, “It’ll be good to get off this pass tomorrow. We’re freezing!”

“Well my dear,” he said, dusting his hands off on his jeans. “I think we better break out the long underwear.” When she gave him a puzzled look, he added, “We’re going to be waiting here awhile!”

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