Prompt and Perfect Contest Winner: “The Intercession” by Debra Celovsky

She awakened slowly, turning wearily to see early light framing the edges of the window blinds. Her eyes were red and swollen. She had lain prone as she prayed through the night, face toward the ceiling, covering her eyes with her hands, or raising them as though desperately reaching for heaven. Now she simply felt exhausted and, strangely, relieved. Coffee. She needed coffee.

It took a moment to realize she had not heard the baby.

Her son, Jake, and his wife had moved in with her after their quick marriage seven months earlier. The scene when he had told her that his girlfriend was pregnant was one in a mental log that played constantly through her weary mind. “A baby!” He was angry, so angry. Dear God, Mom, what have I done?” She had let him vent until he was wrung out. “Jake,” she then said quietly, “it’s a baby, not a problem.”

Why was she not hearing the baby?

Her marriage to Jim had been a good one, or so she had thought. Solid. Jim was a financial advisor in a successful business he had built with a friend. He had also been a church deacon. She worked in a local bookstore and taught Sunday school. “You have a sweet life, Jane,” her best friend, Nina, had said occasionally. “Hope you’re appreciating it.” Jake had been in his last year of high school, a good student, active in their church youth ministry. Then their life exploded.

It had felt like an explosion. Jim’s confession of an affair with a client was followed by a quick divorce. With a good attorney and a good financial settlement she had bought a modest home in a quiet neighborhood not far from the church.

But Jake was completely undone. The affair and subsequent exit of his dad had been devastating. In the months that followed he was raging and ragged by turns. And in the three years since the divorce she had felt like a first-time ice skater on wet ice trying to keep herself and her son upright. Her own grief and loss were subsumed in the grief and anger of her boy. He was sullen, barely communicating. Then, unexpectedly, he had consented to meet with a counselor recommended by their pastor, and Jane convinced herself that Jake showed progress in handling the pain.

Through it all she prayed. In the depths of her spirit she knew there was no remedy for the sorrow she shared with her son, no healing, until the balm of heaven was applied to their sore hearts. As yet, there had not been enough balm. Still she prayed. “As the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so my eyes look to you, O Lord, until You have mercy on us.” The verse from Psalm 123 was a hymn in her mind. I pray, O God, until you have mercy on us.

With a slight frown she lay quiet and listened. No tiny cry, no soothing voice from the room down the hall.

Jane had met Jake’s girlfriend, Lara, not long after they began dating. In his usual cryptic way, Jake had described Lara’s family situation as “lots of chaos.” Realizing the risk of further emotional disruption if she did not wholeheartedly affirm the relationship, Jane had greeted the pretty, dark-haired girl with a warm smile. Lara had responded with a shy smile of her own and said hello. What developed over the next few months had surprised her. The young woman took every opportunity to talk to her, calling her “Mrs. Jane.” Lara asked for advice about classes she was considering at the junior college. And, unexpectedly, “Would you pray for my family?”

Jake worked in a local builder’s supply store. “I can’t deal with college right now, Mom,” he’d said with a finality she had not protested. He enjoyed his job, was good with customers.

Then the evening when he had revealed that a baby was on the way. It had taken every ounce of self-control for Jane not to scream. Not one more thing. She could not handle one more thing. But he was the one almost screaming, and from somewhere deep within she had summoned the words, “It’s a baby, Jake, not a problem.”

She had sat down with Lara whose family in their constant state of “lots of chaos” had taken the news in stride. “I am so sorry, Mrs. Jane,” she had said with profound shame. “So sorry.” They had prayed then, sitting at the table in the sunny dining room. And Jane, in her own constant state of emotional weariness, felt a measure of peace.

Walking in from work one day, Jake had announced, “We’re getting married, Mom.”  And they did. But Jake, instead of treating his new bride with joy and tenderness, seemed to be in retreat. He was kind, but distant, communicating without enthusiasm.

Most distressing was Jake’s response to the birth of his son. Jane had anticipated the miracle of birth working its magic on the young father. It had not. He would hold the baby for brief moments, change an occasional diaper, but never with any sign of affection. Yesterday she had realized quite suddenly what it was: fear. Fear of fatherhood. Fear of failure.

And Jane knew what she must do.

This night had been her crucible. Hour by excruciating hour Jane prayed through her marriage, thanking God for the joys, repenting of her own failings, forgiving Jim. “I forgive Him, O God, as You have forgiven me.” The tears, once begun, poured from her eyes in cleansing freshets. She prayed through Jake’s life, thanking God for the gift of her son, and for the grace that had hovered over the fraught season of the past three years. Thanksgiving poured from her, too, for the gift of the beautiful boy whose sweet presence was a benediction in their home. And within her repentance and thanksgiving was desperate petition that cried out from her inmost being. The dark hours passed until the balm of heaven poured in abundance over her mind and she drifted into rest.

She sat up. Where was the sweet, early morning sound of her infant grandson? Lara’s low, lilting voice? She reached for her robe and felt for her slippers.

Making her way down the hall toward the kitchen, she passed the room where the little family slept. No sound. As she approached the dining room, filled with early morning light, she stopped. There was a low voice, almost a singsong. She peered around the door and froze.

Jake stood near the window holding his son. His face, usually so filled with tension, held a kind of wonder. Father and child were very still, the baby quiet. As she watched, Jake bent his face toward the baby and touched the soft, round forehead with his own. A holy glow seemed to surround them, mingling with the light of sunrise.

For a long moment Jane bowed her head. Then, slipping past the door of her miracle, she padded softly to the kitchen for her coffee.


Note: This piece was reformatted for the Web.

12 Comments

  1. Loved this story! I think you could write a book! I would definitely read it. Very creative and you definitely have a way with words and creating images in ones mind.

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