The story of the leper continues…
The priest comes out. I stand up. I recognize him and he me. I’ve been here many times, never like this. He can tell by the look on my face that things aren’t good. I show him the spot. He examines it carefully, asking me all kinds of questions. Then he tells me what I already know.
For seven days I will be confined. You might say, quarantined. Alone with my thoughts and with my God. Praying. Begging. Please God. Waiting is so hard. Wondering is torture. And I’ll watch. I’ll watch that sore like I’ve never watched anything before. Will it spread? The priest interrupts my worry. He shows me to my home for the next seven days. Tells me he’ll see my on the seventh day. That’s seven days. Seven days to wait…and think. 168 hours alone with my thoughts. No conversations. They’ll bring me food every day. But they’ll just slide it in to me. No one will touch me. I’ll touch no one. I’ll wait. And pray. Pray and wait. 10,080 minutes alone with my thoughts. Minutes that will seem like decades. Hours that will seem like centuries. A week that will last an eternity.
Seven days passed. The seven longest days of my life. They called for me. I went again to see the priest. I showed him the sore. He’s seen many of these, unfortunately. He knows what to look for. I know what he’s going to say before he says it. I’ve seen a change. Oh, I’ve tried to convince myself that what’s there isn’t really there.
Like you hope you’ll wake up from the nightmare in your life. Your boss didn’t really say “you’re fired.” Your husband didn’t really have that affair. You think, “I’ll wake up and it will be gone.” Sleep is your friend. The only time you’re not thinking about your problem is when you’re asleep. That was me. When I woke up I had a moment of peace, then I remembered. And my day was spent in worry.
The priest again interrupted my troubled thoughts. It has spread, he says. It isn’t good. His eyes are full of compassion. He’s seen this too many times. His next word pierces my heart like a dagger.
The word hangs in the air. There is silence. He then reads my sentence. It is a death sentence. It’s a diagnosis and a prognosis rolled up in one. I’ll tear my clothes. Cover my face. And cry “Unclean. Unclean!” I’ll leave town immediately. No time to say goodbye to my wife. No hugs for the kids. No one will touch me. And I dare not touch anyone.
With that one word my world changes. Leprosy. I rip my clothes. I cover my head. I make my way out of the synagogue never to return. I walk through the city streets a different man than I was seven days ago. I cry “unclean, unclean.” I can hardly get the words out. I walk toward the city gates. I want to go home. I want to be with my wife. My kids. Just one more embrace. Just one more time for them to run and jump into my arms.
What will she do? How will she make it? I look down the tiny dirt street that leads to home. I dare not go there. She can’t get this. I want to hold her, want her to hold me. But I would never do this to anyone I love. My kids. They deserve better. Who will provide for them? Who will make sure they’re fed, they have clothes on their backs? Who will…? The questions come faster than answers.
I arrive at the gate leaving the city. I look back. Back to a place I will never call home again. With one spot on the outside and infection on the inside I have become an outsider, an outcast. I look again toward my home. I already miss them. How I miss them.
I enter the world of the leper. There is no cure. No treatment. Just waiting. Waiting for the sores to spread. And they spread. All over my body. I’m covered from head to toe. I itch. I hurt. I smell. My clothes are torn, my body is wrecked with pain. Emotionally I’m spent. I feel worthless, helpless, hopeless.
Sometimes I slip into town. I try to go when nobody’s around. I hate yelling “unclean, unclean.” I hate even thinking that about myself, let alone telling everyone else. Who wants to be an outcast? A misfit? An outsider?
Sometimes I slip into the backside of my little neighborhood. I hide behind a tree and watch my kids play. They don’t know I’m there. And if they saw me, they wouldn’t even recognize me now. Oh, how I’d love to run and grab them up. Just to hear them call my name out. To hear them say, “Daddy.” To rush to their side in the night when they’re scared. To greet them first thing when they wake up in the morning.
Tears run down my scarred faced. And there’s my wife. She gets more beautiful as the days go by. Just one embrace. One hug. If I could put my arms around her one time. The tears come again.
I am alone. I know no other word to describe me. Alone. I have no one and no hope. No future, only a past. Nothing to look forward to. Nothing to work toward. No goals. No thought that tomorrow will be better.