“Lord, You lead like a drunken man.”
The dust picked up again under the crunch of sweat-soaked feet. Carolina Snibbs was walking. Outside the city gate and up toward the hills, his mouth was dry again. Another city turned away. Another dry day. And comes the wind.
“You always tell me step one and step ten. Never mind that step five is West and step seven is North when my path is heading South. Never mind that. I’m following Your rhythms. And You lead like a drunken man.
“Preach to the City Where No One Gets Saved; then up the hills of barrenness: ‘Lord, send Your rain.” And all this because You said I would go to the land beside a lake, and build with a people who know Your name. No small wonder they called Abraham crazed.”
Behind Snibbs’ left shoulder stood a great city, and getting greater. Everyone there was happy; everyone was driven. And Snibbs was walking away.
“It’s a good thing I don’t carry a literal cross, just this weight on my back and this burning burden in my heart.”
On his right shoulder lay a knapsack: a night’s shelter, a change of clothes, enough money for a week, or a day.
“It’s a wonder I still follow, but I’m afraid I trust You. Why did You send me there, Lord? Nobody needed me; nobody wanted me. There was nothing I could do. It was like climbing sheer walls with nothing but the strength of my fingernails. And now, here I am, going, when all the world is coming. But for Your glory, Lord. But for Your glory.”
Snibbs stopped, set down his bag and stretched. He was ten miles outside the city. A little further and for the night he would rest.
“Good morning, old man.”
Snibbs started, and looked. There, on the other side of the path was a boy, about ten, sitting on a fallen tree. “Old man?” he thought. “So I’m an old man today.”
“Good day, little boy. And how are you today?”
“Well enough. Why are you going out of the city, when everyone else is coming in?”
“I’m not sure I know. The Lord’s timing is a strange thing. But it’s time for me to go. Walk with me a ways.”
The boy jumped up. “I must be old today,” thought Snibbs. “Such youth! Such vigor!”
They had walked for a few minutes before the boy asked, “Old man, what is your name?”
“Carolina. Carolina Snibbs,” he answered.
The boy laughed. “What a funny name!”
He smiled. “It means ‘King of Songs.” And then he let a sad chuckle. “But I couldn’t sing very well in that city. What is your name, little boy?”
“My name’s Treader. It means ‘Bright and Swift.”
“And an appropriate name it is. I’ve never seen anyone so eager and so quick as you.”
“My brother Cleveland’s stronger,” Treader said.
“I’m sure he is. But strength isn’t always everything.”
Treader grinned and ran down the path an hundred feet ahead.
“I think,” said Snibbs, when he had caught up again, “That this…would be a good place…to camp.” He sat down his bag, got on his knees, pulled out his tent makings: the cloth and poles, the ropes, the hammer and nails, and set to work. Treader pulled up the sack and sat on it.
“Did you finish all the stories you started in the city?”
“No, I didn’t,” answered Snibbs. “There was an old woman whose cupboard was bare and I meant to fill it. But it was time to go. And there was a boy who was lonely and afraid. I meant to find him a home, but it was time to go. And another: a family that had everything it needed, but had forgotten how to give it all away. But I had to go. He was calling. It was time. Could you hand me that hammer?”
Treader stood up and grabbed the hammer. “Someone will finish all your stories,” he said.
“I’m sure they will. Thank you.”
Treader stood there, one hand on the half-built tent as Carolina hammered. When he glanced up from his work, he saw Treader standing there with a look of quietly disturbed concern that only a young child could have. “What looks like a broken swagger to us is so often the greatest dance to God,” Carolina said.
In a whisper, almost like a prayer, Treader said, “Don’t be old, Song-King. Be young, and full of light.”
Carolina crinkled a smile. “I’d love to,” he thought.
Slowly, the boy walked back to the bag, shoulders stooped. Suddenly the boy jumped and turned around. “I will finish your stories for you, Song-King! I can do it!”
Carolina stopped his hammering. Looking up, he said, “Well, Treader, that’s a very nice– Gesture…of you…” The boy was gone.
Carolina stood up. Tent was finished, and he leaned on it.
“Well, Lord, You give your servants many different forms. I won’t even bother to ask if that one was born on this side or the other.” There was no sign of the boy. He must have been very fast.
The sun had barely set. It was almost dark. And out from the tent-folds shone a white and golden gleam of light that had no visible source. Without hesitation, Carolina Snibbs crawled inside. As he lay down, the burning inside his heart grew, reaching out until it joined forces with the glow inside the tent. He could feel the gray of his hair fading back to brown. Eyes closed, he could feel his vision clearing. Tears flowed down his cheeks and past his ears.
“Oh! To see the city made with no human hands, standing by the crystal sea. But for Your glory, Lord. But for Your Glory.”