It was a long ride for a pregnant girl. Rough terrain. Her husband was reluctant, but the trip had to be made. Two young people feeling a little rejected in search of a future that they couldn’t possibly understand.
Back home her pregnancy had stirred a scandal. She came from a conservative home in a conservative town where young girls don’t get in her condition out of wedlock. She had told them her story, but they didn’t believe her. Her father was ashamed, not so much for her as for himself. He was a respected member in the local church, and now his role as a father and a leader would be questioned.
When he found out about it, the first thing he did was to send his daughter out of town. He said it was so she could visit with family. Everyone, including her, knew it was because he couldn’t bear to look at her. That bump in her belly, to him, was a sign that he had failed.
The shame he bore was nothing compared to the ridicule she suffered. Every time she walked into a room or strolled down the street to the store the conversations hushed. She knew they were talking about her. She knew they despised her. She knew they didn’t believe her. She could feel the cold stares piercing her soul. Whatever joy she had once felt was overrun by the tears on her pillow when she laid down at night. Even her own fiancé didn’t believe her. For months, she cried herself to sleep.
He eventually came around and they had a small private ceremony. “It’s the right thing to do”, he told her. He, at least, was a man of honor. He said he understood, but she could tell that he was distant. Unsure. Struggling to understand her situation. Often, she would wake up in the middle of the night and he would not be next to her. She’d find him leaning in the doorway, lost in his thoughts looking out into the night sky. He was with her. But he wasn’t fully there.
“You okay?”, she’d ask.
“I’m fine. You go back to bed.”
He seldom said much more than that. Men don’t do well with this kind of talk. Which left her even more alone in a world where she already felt like she didn’t belong.
Word came down that they needed to make this trip home. By now she was close to full term with the baby. Her family had mostly abandoned her. Her husband was concerned and kind, but still weary of it all. Still confused. His dreams kept him up at night. Having a child was supposed to be the greatest joy in life, but this had proven to be their greatest test. A test of love and faith and of endurance.
When they finally made it into town it was late. The crowds of people overran the streets like a river out of its banks. As they worked their way through the dark, they found a small motel. Nothing fancy. A simple home with a few extra rooms. He left her outside and went in to ask if they could stay the night.
“Didn’t you see the NO VACANCY sign out front. We’re full.”
He pleaded with the clerk about his wife’s condition, and the clerk softened a little. His own daughter was expecting, and somehow this guy’s story found a soft spot in his heart.
“I’ve got a shed out back. It’s not much. I can move my plow out of the way. Put the calves in the pen outside. But you can stay there if you want. It’s a roof and place to sleep. That’s the best I can do.”
By the time he got his young wife into the shed, it was all she could do to collapse on the floor without hurting herself. The cramps were excruciating. Every move was painful. The journey had not been easy.
The clerk brought them both a bowl of chicken soup. He rolled up an old horse blanket for a pillow. He busted up two bales of hay to spread out and cushion them against the rock-hard floor. She was uncomfortable. He was nervous.
When he looked at her, he saw the girl he fell in love with. They had known each other their whole lives. She was 15 years younger than he was, and he wondered how he could be so lucky as to win her affection. This whole ordeal made the betrayal he felt cut deeper than he could stand. He thought he knew her. He did know her heart. He knew that she was his, no matter what.
He was awakened from a troubled sleep by her moans. He had been around enough to know that this baby wasn’t going to wait any longer. He called out for help. A lady from the motel finally came to see what all the noise was about. Lucky for them that she had delivered a slew of babies in that town. He held his wife’s hand. She screamed like there was no tomorrow.
It was two long hours of the most agonizing pain she had ever felt. The most scared he had ever been. But when it was over, she was holding her son. He forgot all about his regrets. And for the first time in months, they both felt a sense of relief. Like a weight had been lifted. Like a sense of wonder had blown through that little shed and swept away the dark clouds of their doubt. They couldn’t explain it. They just knew.
She dozed throughout the rest of the night. He watched over them both. She held their baby to her breast. He ran a thousand memories through his mind. Dreams that told him about his son. This child that would make his mark in this world.
“A penny for your thoughts?” she asked him.
“Not now. You try to get some rest.” There was just too much to tell. So many strange and incredible things he didn’t know how to describe.
Did she know? She wasn’t sure. Maybe. She had said that she was willing, but so many things turned over and over in her mind. So many things that stirred in her heart. Were they dreams? Were they premonitions? Storms calmed. Lame men walking. Blind men seeing. Skies turned dark. Lambs slaughtered. Tombs opened. What did it all mean?
He laid next to his wife as daylight began to break. Both of them exhausted. Their son finally asleep. She kissed her child on the cheek. He kissed her on the forehead. Their son’s tiny fingers gripping theirs. And they closed their eyes to rest. The dreams came again, but this time they were of peace and hope and goodwill for all men, for they dreamed on this night that they held between them the very hand of God.