The truth of it is – I have always been an outsider.
“You should have been called Wolfling,” my mother said to me, stroking my head, sometime when I was four, and once more sitting alone by a tree watching my friends play noisy games in the field.
“You’re a little wolf.”
Certainly I am hairy and lean enough to be a wolf, but it wasn’t this that she was commenting upon. I have always been someone who pulls away from others.
It’s like this: if you are known as a child of promise, everyone wants to know you, and more than that, they want to touch you. My childhood memories consist of strangers’ eyes on me in the temple: older men slapping me on the back, a look of wonderment in their eyes; women claiming to be distant aunts, looking up at my mother with a knowing glance, their thick arms pulling me to their breast, their plump hands squeezing my cheeks, lifting my chin, ruffling my hair.
I was surrounded by their glances, their weighty expectations, their hands on me, all throughout my childhood. They all wanted to speak with me, but I knew they would soon be disappointed. They sat by me at family gatherings, asking me their faltering questions, unsettled when I gave surly answers. I grew tired of it all.
After a few years, I just refused to answer their questions, and ignored them. My mother knew better than to force me to answer them, because on the one occasion that Great Uncle Mordecai asked me at my Bar Mitzvah what I thought the Holy Spirit was saying to our fine nation today, I said I thought that our current High Priest was utterly corrupt, we had forgotten our heritage as wanderers, and that we were, figuratively speaking, in bed with the Egyptians. Sir.
He asked: I answered. It was just plain bad luck that his best friend happened to be the cousin of the current High Priest.
That Passover was an awkward one in our household, and after that time I just remained silent. My silence was offensive, but less offensive than saying what I really thought.
Years passed, and my hair grew longer, unkempt and wild, and I found that although the eyes still stared, the hands no longer embraced me. I did my duty, took my turn in the temple service, but the rhythm of village life made me uncomfortable, irritable, restless with too much energy. I disdained the giggling teenage girls who were already planning their wedding, and I killed time by writing scripture verses in the dust with a stick, experimenting in secret with how much I could memorise. I wanted to kick against the gossip at the butcher’s shop, and the insular attitudes and hypocrisy, everywhere I turned. But I was the only one who felt like this.
I am unsettled, and unsettling. It was in the wilderness that I finally found my place, my identity.
In the village I was wild: in the wild I was filled with peace.
It was there I could hear God’s Spirit more clearly than before, without the distraction of my mother’s matchmaking, or my aunt’s disapproval. The energy of the desert winds calmed me, and the whisper of God’s breath came into sharp focus. Even the fear of beasts made me feel more alive than ever, more aware than ever of my need of God as my protector.
The openness of the desert landscape helped me to see spiritually. I learnt to live in harmony with my surroundings, and walk to a new rhythm of creation and spirit. Days passed: I ate what I could find: locusts and honey, until food just became a fuel for me, and my hair grew yet longer and became matted in the dusty desert wind, and I walked with God, and felt gloriously alive.
I walked, I waited.
And at some point, the wind changed, blown by God’s spirit. After my years of silence, I finally have things to say, and I am not holding back. The strangest thing is that now when I call my people a brood of vipers they listen, they nod, they can’t get enough of it.
The crowds keep coming, every day still more, and my voice grows louder all the time. But the multitudes don’t matter to me, because I have my eyes fixed on the day that one will come over the horizon, the long-awaited one, and when he comes it will be all I can do not to leap with joy.
The time is coming; I can feel it in my bones. He will come. He will come.
Advent is all about waiting: for Christ’s incarnation, and Christ’s return. This Advent, I am meditating on those in the Bible who had to wait. The four weeks of Advent traditionally focus on the Patriarchs, the Prophets, John the Baptist, and finally Mary, so I am writing a dramatic monologue for a Bible character, following that pattern. The first one is Sarah’s Story, and the second one Isaiah’s Story.
“It was in the wilderness that I finally found my place, my identity. ” @Tanya_Marlow: Those Who Wait – John’s Story
“I learnt to… walk to a new rhythm of creation and spirit.”- @Tanya_Marlow. Those Who Wait – John the Baptist’s Story
“After my years of silence, I finally have things to say” – @Tanya_Marlow. Those Who Wait – John the Baptist’s Story
“My silence was offensive, but less offensive than saying what I really thought.” – @Tanya_Marlow. Those Who Wait:
Over to you:
- When have you felt like an outsider?
- What have you learnt from retreating ‘in the wilderness’?