The frustration inside him built up. It built up like a gradual crescendo of loud and discordant music, scrunching and screaming until it hit it's peak and trembled on the verge of explosion. He could not stand it any longer. He picked himself up and ran, as fast and as far as his shaky legs would carry him, stumbling the last stretch down the road to his house in a blind and teary panic. He wanted to scream. He wanted to shriek into the open, slightly dank, evening air. Let his cries carry over the village. Let them hear his suffering.
But there was silence.
No one could hear his pain, because no one was listening for it.
It had been six months since the passing of Thomas Long's little sister. The medics hadn't seen it coming, the doctors hadn't seen it coming, her family hadn't seen it coming and Tom hadn't seen it coming. No one saw it, because it wasn't foreseeable. Cars don't hit girls of nine years old. And they certainly don't kill them.
It's unbearable the way life goes on once yours stops. Maybe it's a lesson in humility, that the world doesn't centre on you, maybe it’s a lesson of our sin, that we've ruined this world- but that wasn't important. The only thing that seemed to count to Tom, or to mean anything, was the dark ache that waited in his lungs. It crouched in his stomach and it lurked in the back of his throat. It was this darkness that haunted Tom as he attempted, like a watch with failing batteries, to carry on, like moving underwater, like walking through fog.
No, no one was listening out for Tom because they'd all moved on- the card-senders, the church-goers, the well-wishers; they'd all packed up and taken their condolences with them. The Long family was left slightly more dazed than before but just as bereft and Tom couldn't stand it. No one wanted to remember her because it caused them pain- well, he would remember her even if he lived in agony for the rest of his life.
This was the determination that circled his head as he strode through his front door and climbed the stairs to his room. The door swung open and he turned on the light in the hands of monotonous, gloomy-routine. Inexplicably, the roving feeling of dark nausea swelled in Tom's stomach. It surged again, with increasing momentum. The sight of his room was becoming repulsive- it was the feeding-ground of tears and anger and unexplainable pain and bereft longing and missing and curses and hate and jealousy and depression and all the things that erupt from the hole death tears within you. Tom stood there for a few motionless minutes, dust floating in the air around his head, caught in the evening sunlight.
"God." He whispered.
He didn't really know what he was saying. Only that words were ebbing from a place without a shore- a terrifying ocean of endless pain that he knew waited at the edge of his subconscious. He knew it would consume him. He wasn't sure if he cared. He wasn't sure about anything. He only knew that this wasn't fair. And if this wasn't fair- someone was responsible. And if someone was responsible- they had to be brought to justice.
"God, was this you?" He whispered. Was it God? Wasn't God meant to be loving and all powerful? Wasn't God good? Wasn't He in control?
Tom had thought he'd known God. He thought he'd understood...didn't God understand? He'd prayed to God constantly, he'd accepted Jesus, he'd loved Jesus... he knew God had cared for him then... but now. Now everything was shaking. Everything that he thought had been as firm as rock was cracking, crumbling like the tower of Babel. The only thing that remained constant enough to latch onto was rage, a throbbing red haze that seemed somehow tangible when all else shivered in and out, halfway between something that made sense and nothing at all. The anger. It made him want to scream at God. To accuse God. To fight back.
He knew he couldn't.
A groan rumbled from the back of his throat and in despair, he sank to his knees and felt the short bristles of the carpet acutely as they rubbed against his skin. There lingered a smell of dust and the familiar feeling of tears in the back of his throat. He moaned. The pain. The constant, wearying affliction of pain that just wouldn't abate. He couldn't stand it. He missed her. The frustration boiled over in his stomach and he doubled over under the pressure, placing his head on the carpet and digging his nails into his arms with intense ferocity, the tethers end dangerously close...
"God?!" He was calling out. He knew he needed help. He knew he couldn't cope on his own. Everything was wrong. He was wrong. He could see that. He couldn't shout at God because deep within himself, deep between the needles of remembering and forgetting was the knowledge that he was wrong and God was right. God knew his pain. God felt his pain and God was in control. He knew it.
"God!" He cried. He cried into the carpet. Tears and more tears mingled down his cheeks.
"God! Where are you?" He needed God. The strain on his voice cracked-
"God, are you here?!"
The answer rang like a clear bell into the mist. It peeled off, but Tom still felt the echoes run down his spine. He shivered, his eyes wide in astounded silence. Nothing happened for a moment, and he lifted his head slowly from where he lay. Seconds turned into minutes. He felt each breath like it was a disturbance. Then, gently, words began to float into his head, a whispered sentence that came back to him. They felt familiar, like an old friend, like something he'd lost and found again, something he'd wanted returned but had given up searching for...
"For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
It was a verse his sister had sung months ago. The sing song voice still lingered against the verse, her small, slightly tuneless tones fluttering against the words. She'd believed it. He could still picture her steady, level gaze as he'd teased her singing for being whiny, shaky. Listen to the words Tom.
Tom did now. He let them lie. He let the verse sink in and soak up the rotten emotion pooling inside of him. It worked like a sponge. There began to be something unintelligibly different. There, amongst the foaming dark, was the tension of relief. A spot of white in the black. It was like suddenly gulping in air when you hadn't even realised you'd been taking such small, suffocating breaths. God knew. God had taken this pain, absorbed it, when he'd died on the cross. Of course God knew what it was like to lose someone you loved, his own son died. He died for Tom. He died for her.
She knew that.
She was there.
She was safe.
Tom lay on the carpet and abandoned all sense, abandoned all anger, and abandoned all grief. Six months on and finally he was giving up. Not on life. But on death. He surrendered himself to God who lifted the pain of his shoulders and held it himself. Then he picked Tom back up, brushed him down, and put him back on his feet.