His heart pounds loneliness.
It courses through him so mightily that he wonders if, instead of blood, his heart is pumping emptiness.
His veins are filled with nothing.
How has he survived?
How can he survive?
He feels as though shriveling up is not so far away.
Inwardly, he does shrivel.
Each time he walks down the street and people turn from him.
Turn their backs.
Turn their eyes.
Turn their feet.
He shrivels each time that cold metal is placed in his hands.
His hands warm the coins and the coins frost his heart. How many layers of frost would need to be melted for that heart to feel warmth again?
He can’t imagine not feeling the heaviness of ice inside.
He feels as though he is fading away. All of that shriveling- it has made him a small man.
He is small.
People obey him because they must. He knows that they are repulsed by his tiny power.
He disgusts himself.
This is success.
When he lies down each night, his desire to be different than he is lies down with him and wraps around him- his only and lonely companion. When it is just him lying there- money pouch and documents and heavy robes and other people stripped away- he feels a tiny bit of hope. Maybe I am real. Maybe I have a heart. Maybe it could be warm. Maybe I could change. But it is so fragile that the pounding of I can’t I can’t I can’t murders it every time.
And so he wakes each morning- opens his eyes, dreads the day- and continues in the way that he always has, because there is nothing else to be done. This is the existence that he has created for himself.
He cannot change, even though he knows that this is not the way it is supposed to be.
He is trapped.
He is alone and dirty and will always be that way.
He knows it, and so does everyone else.
It used to sting and prickle, but it has become a purely factual dull ache.
One day he hears the news that Jesus is coming. The news whirls down the street like the breeze. No one directly tells him, of course. He overhears it and is suddenly seized by the desire to see this man. This God.
He doesn’t know what to think. He has heard about Jesus before. Everyone has. He has no strong opinions on the man. He has heard stories about him- stories of healing and restoration.
His cold heart stiffly picks up its pace, and he is surprised to feel the quickening.
He follows the crowd, curiosity and excitement tingling.
He wants to see Jesus and they want to see Jesus. How long has it been since he has been part of something?
The crowd thickens, and he is jostled and helpless and lost in the mass.
He sees backs and shoulders. He senses the increase in tension and knows that Jesus must be drawing nearer.
He feels panic.
He actually wants this- wants to see Jesus. The thought of missing out on this makes him feel so disappointed. He must see this person.
It feels so good to want something. If he weren’t so afraid of not getting what he wants, he would laugh with the exhilaration.
Such a big feeling- this wanting.
If he is going to be able to see Jesus, something about his current situation must change. His eyes dart. His mind darts.
That big, old, twisted sycamore tree. He could climb it? Surely Jesus would pass that way.
But then… people would know how much he wants this.
People would know how desperate he is.
In a moment of unfamiliar boldness, he decides to do it anyways.
Climbing that tree is not easy.
He is hindered by his long robes and his pride.
Climbing a tree like a child. Except far less nimbly. He snorts to himself. Ridiculous.
But as he leaves the ground behind and smells the bark scrape under his hands and feels the grit and strength of the tree, he feels better and better. He chooses his branch and sits comfortably with his back against the trunk. His feet dangle. He settles in.
To see Jesus.
The crowd is approaching. Noisy and many. How is he to find Jesus? His eyes rove the crowd. What if they pass by before he finds Jesus? What if-
His eyes make contact with the eyes of another.
So this is Jesus.
He was looking for Jesus, and here Jesus had already found- located, seen, recognized- him.
Memorized words sprinkle through his mind. ”…he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” (Psalm 33:15)
It does feel like he knows.
And like he understands.
It feels as though Jesus has seen into the prison that he had built for himself. As though the light and warmth that He glimmers with have already begun to seep through the bars and chains and darkness.
He feels that his very heart- even the parts that he has been terrified to explore- has been known.
Those eyes- they see him, and they don’t look away. The contact is so unfamiliar and so welcome. His spine feels weak with the knowledge that Jesus knows him, and has chosen to look into his eyes despite all the ugly that he holds inside himself.
Worth the climb.