As the frail and obviously tired old man continued his march through the wet summer forest, streams of sweat poured down his brow. He squinted intermittently as the salty drops pooled into his eyes. He longed for a free hand to wipe his brow, but alas, both of his were occupied, busy grasping a large basket full of freshly picked and colorful fruit. He had worked hard that morning; waking up before dawn, marching through the forest, fighting through the clouds of flies buzzing their way into his hair and eyes, bending, grasping, pulling, and collecting muddy fruit from the bushes and trees outlining the wet pools of scummy earth.
On his way back home he passed by his friend and neighbor, whose little humble hut should not have stood the test of time, or so the old man thought. His friend, as was his custom, was lying down in a hammock supported by two tall palm trees baring enough coconuts to feed a few families. If only the young man would jump out of his hammock and climb the trees and pluck the nutritional fruit.
“Adam! How are you my dear friend? I have not seen you since yesterday. What was it that you were up to again?” asked the young man frowning with his hand grasping his chin, faining deep thought, “Ah yes! You were marching through dirty mud carrying a large and heavy basket of fruit. Now I remember.”
“Very funny Chris”. Adam placed the heavy basket down on the front steps leading up to the door of his young friend’s little hut made of rotting wooden planks. Adam took a seat on one of the wet steps close enough to Chris that he can carry on a conversation. “What is your plan for today my dear friend?”
“You are witnessing it old man,” replied Chris. “I have already prayed to God to provide me with success and riches this morning.”
“Success! At what?” asked Adam smiling, sarcastically.
“At whatever it is I choose to do of course!” replied Chris. “That is the difference between you and I my old friend; I know not to toil at useless work when I know Jesus will be here to save me and take me to heaven for believing in him and his powers.”
“But who provides for you now and every day until his return?”
“God does! He provides for me everyday.”
“Does he provide shelter?”
“Of course! It is he who made the trees fall down for me to use to build this hut.”
“Does he provide food?”
“Yes. It is he who makes the fruits fall to the earth for me to eat.”
“Does he provide water?”
“Yes, it is he who makes the rain fall from the clouds above for me to drink.”
“But Chris! This is not an existence worthy of praise. Why lie down and hope for fruit and rain to fall when you can work hard and collect them yourself?”
“You see old man; this is where your lack of belief in our supreme father has clouded your judgment. You work hard everyday collecting fruit from the trees, and water from the rivers to sell in the market only to surround yourself with guilty pleasures. If it were not for the large mansion you live in and the women you entertain you would be lying here next to me waiting for Jesus to return and take you up to the ultimate and final pleasure, heaven.”
“Mansion! What mansion? It is nothing more than a well deserved home for my hard work each and every day. As for the women, they are adults like myself who choose to be entertained. Unlike you, who had married a young flower only to pluck her and place her in a confined vase of glass to be gazed upon whilst it dries and withers away.”
“Ah! The old man has become bold, much like his disrespect for our supreme father,” chuckled Chris as he stared up into the sky.
“How do I disrespect your God my friend?” answered Adam visibly irritated, “I fully respect your beliefs, as long as they do not interfere with my way of life.”
“But you see my old friend, by not believing in my God you are in essence denying his existence, and that is disrespectful to me.”
“Well, that is not my intention.” With that said Adam picked up the large basket of fruit and continued on his way through the muddy tracks towards the busy afternoon market.
“See you tomorrow old man!” yelled Chris smiling as he watched Adam walking away struggling under the weight of the basket on his back. “What an old fool!”
The very next morning, Adam as he had done every morning of his busy life woke up before the sun had had a chance to wink at the world, and marched through the thick bushes of the forest collecting fruit. Upon his return, he passed by Chris who had been sleeping in his hammock as usual. Adam dropped the basked of fruit on the steps of his friend’s little hut, and sat down breathing heavily.
Chris, without opening his eyes, gave out a loud yawn before uttering, “My old friend how was your harvest this morning?”
“Plentiful as usual.”
“I am quite surprised that God finds the time to provide you with a large basketful of fruit everyday even though you do not believe in him. God is a charitable man no doubt. You should be thanking him everyday.”
Adam said nothing. He rested his elbows on the wooden steps and raised his head backwards to absorb the sun’s warmth.
“My old friend,” continued Chris, “do your self justice and stop toiling everyday. Pray to God for his gift to you, and seek the rewards of heaven that you deserve.”
“Gift! What Gift? I secure my reward everyday with my bare hands. I have no one to thank but for my self and mother nature.”
“Mother Nature is our God’s gift to us my old friend.”
“He is your God, not mine.”
“My friend, I do hope that one day you would open your eyes and see the truth before it is too late. You do not have much time.”
“What truth? Please enlighten me.”
“That the rewards of everyday life are nothing more than God teasing us, for the ultimate reward are the bountiful fruits of heaven.”
“The rewards of everyday life are nothing more than the products of the cyclical workings of nature. Trees grow from the heat of the sun and the nutrients of the soil. Fruits grow from the trees to fall and spread their seeds in order to ensure the birth and survival of its species. The more we learn and solve the mysteries of Nature the more apparent its beauty becomes, and the more gratitude we should feel for our lucky existence.”
“Learn! Huh! We know nothing about everything my poor old friend. God has the ultimate answer to all questions. We may have our theories, but we shall not know the truth until the final hour.”
“You wish for the end of times then?”
“Of course I do. Unlike you my friend, I have nothing to fear, for judgment day will be the beginning of my true life. This life here on Earth is nothing more than a test.”
“That is the danger with you God lovers, your belief in a heavenly reward precludes you from enjoying this life and ignites your desire to see it all end. What motivation do you have to stand up and participate in ensuring the intellectual progression of our people and the quality of our daily life?”
“Quality of life can only be improved upon by believing in our lord. Spirituality cleanses the soul my friend.”
“You speak of spirituality as if it is infinitely intertwined with the belief in your God.”
“But of course! How can you be spiritual if you do not believe in a mysterious creator? If you do not believe in a greater power you would not be humbled, but feel as if you alone are in charge of your destiny. You would become an empty vessel, devoid of deep emotion and longing. God is the holy spirit.”
“That is not true. I am spiritual. I find joy in watching the morning sun. I am deep in thought as I gaze upon the land and imagine the inner chemical wonderland that begun at the beginning of time and continues to animate the world and all of its inhabitants. I am spiritual as I look into my lover’s eyes and feel her heart beat through my warm skin.”
“That is enough my old friend. Stories of your fornication had poisoned my ears enough in the past. God may have mercy on your soul. But I do doubt that.”
Adam stood up, picked up the large and heavy basket of fruit and marched on back to the afternoon market. He had grown accustomed to ignoring Chris’s condescending farewells.
The next morning Adam woke up full of energy. He had slept early the previous night as usual after a long and tiresome day of work. He washed his body with cool water, dressed in his usual tattered garb, picked up his large empty basket and began his lengthy march to the harvest. On his way back, carrying the now heavy basket full of nutritional fruit he passed by Chris’s little hut. Adam was surprised to find the hammock empty and no sign of Chris. He walked up the steps and to the flimsy wooden door, placed his basket down on the ground, and knocked. He heard slow shuffling footsteps from beyond approaching him, getting closer. Finally, the door opened slowly.
“My friend, you look horrible! What is the matter?” asked Adam after he witnessed Chris’s tired watery red eyes and face lacking in color.
Chris sounded off two dry and course coughs before replying, “I am not well my old friend. Last night I began feeling tired before a feverish heat wave took over my entire body. Please, come in, it is cold outside.”
“Cold! The outside air is cool and comforting. Your fever must be strong. Let me help you”, replied Adam as he stepped through the door and shut it behind him. Chris shuffled his feet slowly towards his old and dirty couch to lie down. Adam quickly soaked an old towel in cold water and placed it on Chris’s forehead.
“My dear old friend, there is no need for all this effort. God will heal me for I have been a faithful man.”
“You do not look well my friend. I will run down to the market and purchase some medicine.”
“No, do not!” quickly interjected Chris, “I do not take any man made medicine. It would be against God’s will. Our Lord has a plan for all of us. It is not in our power to alter it. I am confident in his power to heal me. I have been praying all day.”
“My dear friend, I urge you to reconsider. God may be a relevant part of your life, and he may have a great place in heaven for you but now, you need help. Let me help you.”
“No, never! God will heal me. I have faith. You would never understand. Now, leave me. Let me be. God will take care of me.”
Adam paused for a moment, and then followed Chris’s demand. He left the little hut, picked up the large basket and marched on towards the busy afternoon market. You are right my dear old friend, I would never understand, thought Adam.
The very next Morning, following a long and tiresome harvesting, Adam marched back towards the market. On his way, as customary he passed by Chris’s little hut. As was the case the previous day Adam’s young friend was not laying in his hammock. Adam dropped the basket by the front door and knocked. He heard nothing. He knocked again. This time a faint voice urging him to come in barely made its way through the door and into Adam’s ears. Adam opened the door and stepped in. His gaze instantly fell upon Chris as he lied on his couch. Sweat drenched his clothes. He had not changed his attire since the previous day. He could barely open his eyes. His breathing was slow and strained. His voice was weak.
“My dear young friend, you look horrible! Please, let me help you. I will hurry down to the market and acquire some medicine. It will make you feel better.”
“No! Jesus is coming. I know it. He will come and save me. He will bring God’s medicine for me. I have been praying for it all Morning. God cannot deny me. I have been faithful to him for all of my existence.”
“Chris, I urge you. You are becoming incoherent and delirious with fever. Let me help you.”
“I said no! Jesus is coming. Let me be. Go now. Jesus is coming to save me.”
Adam stood by his friend for a Moment, staring at him much like a father stares at his sick son. He then turned around and left the little hut, picked up his large and heavy basket, and marched on towards the market. He decided he would not listen to his friend. He would purchase the medicine and bring it to him the next day.
The next Morning, Adam had a wonderful harvest. He was able to collect several large fruit at the ideal ripeness. He was excited, but also tired. On his way back to the market he passed by Chris’s little hut. As he expected, Chris was not laying in his hammock. He quickly walked up the steps and placed the heavy basket by the door. He took out the medicine from his pocket and knocked on the door. He heard nothing. He did not wait. He opened the door and stepped in. He was horrified. Chris was sprawled on the floor, breathing heavily, drenched in sweat. Adam quickly ran to him and kneeled down beside him. He lifted his head from the floor and rested it in his lap.
“Chris, my dear friend!”
Chris barely opened his eyes to see Adam staring down, worried. “Do not be afraid my old friend. Jesus is coming. I know it. I can feel it. He is running to me, to heal me. I prayed for it. Jesus is coming.”
Adam was afraid he had brought the medicine too late. He was angry at himself for listening to him. He could have given him the medicine two days ago, when it could have helped him. The medicine was useless at that Moment
“Hold on my dear friend. I will carry you to the market to see the physician.”
Chris said nothing. His eyes were shut. His chest was motionless.
“Chris my dear friend! Chris!”
Nothing; no sound, no movement, no breath.
“Chris!” Adam began to cry. His tears ran down his face, paving a clear path through the dry and salty film of sweat that had collected on his face from the morning's harvest. Chris had passed away. Adam could not move. He held Chris’s body in his lap, crying. There was little noise inside the hut save for Adam’s sobering cries. Then suddenly, what seemed like an explosion through the air was only a knock at the door. Adam’s cries instantly subsided. He was frozen in anticipation. Who could that be? thought Adam.
Then once more came the knocks from beyond the door, louder. Adam, not knowing what to do demanded, “who is knocking on the door?”
There was no answer. The door slowly opened, and a short frail man stepped in. He had long hair and an unkept lengthy beard. He wore a tattered white robe, and a worn pair of brown leather sandals. He also was wearing a pair of dark sunglasses. The man removed the sunglasses and hung them from the neckline of his robe. Adam would guess the man to be no More than thirty-five years of age.
“Where is he? Is that him?” asked the man as he pointed towards Chris’s lifeless body.
Adam said nothing. He was still puzzled as to who this man might be.
“Is this Chris?” asked the man.
“Yes, it is”, replied Adam.
The man quickly ran towards Chris and placed his right hand on his chest.
“God damn it! Not again! I am always late. For once, I would like to make it in time.”
Adam said nothing. He was now fearful of the man before him. The man stood up and walked over a large bucket of rain water that Chris was collecting. The man cupped his hands and scooped some water to drink. He sipped the water then quickly spit it out.
“God damn it! Nasty stale water.”
Adam’s curiosity cold last no longer. “Who are you?”
The man turned to him, “Who am I ? I am Jesus Christ! Who are you?”
“My name is Adam.”
“Adam, Adam!” the man stared into the ceiling attempting to recollect his memories. “I do not recall an Adam!”
“I do not believe in you. Or I should say, I did not believe in you before today.”
“Ah ha! A non-believer”, chuckled Jesus.
Adam began to cry. He kneeled on the floor, held his hands together, and placed his forehead on the floor. “Please forgive me my lord. I was not faithful. I did not pray. Please, do not send me to hell. I urge you.”
Jesus stood there smiling at Adam. He then walked over to him, and offered his hand. Adam held it and let Jesus pull him to his feet.
“My dear old friend, collect your self. You have nothing to fear.”
“But I have sinned all of my life my lord. Please forgive me.”
“You have sinned?”
“Yes my lord.”
“Did you murder anyone?”
“Did you work for your riches?”
“Have you been charitable and kind to the needy?”
“Yes, my lord, I have.”
“Did you cheat or lie to anyone?”
“No, my lord.”
“Then my friend”, said Jesus smiling, “you have not sinned at all.”
“But you will not take me to heaven. I did not believe in you!”
“Are you enjoying your life?”
“Yes, I am. I work long days, but I do enjoy the riches that I deserve.”
“Then my friend, you are already in heaven.” With that said, Jesus places his sunglasses back on his face, and walks over to the door.
“Where are you going my lord?” asked Adam.
Jesus turned to face Adam, “I have to hurry. A faithful man is in need of my healing power but I must confess that I will not be able to save him. I have yet to save anyone. I am always late.”
“It must be those sandals my lord. Please, let me present to you my shoes, they are padded.’
Jesus waves his hand, “No thank you. I love my sandals. They are airy and comfortable.”
“Then lord, please, let me present to you on of my horses in the stables.”
Jesus shakes his head, “No thank you my friend. No time to march over to your stables. I will go now. God willing I will make it in time.”
Jesus leaves without closing the door. Adam walks over to the door to watch Jesus clumsily make his way through the muddy road. Jesus suddenly fell into the mud as one of his sandals was stuck. Adam could hear Jesus yell as he stared into the dimming sky, “God damn it!”