"We Follow Him in Our Hearts"

I took birth this time in northern Israel. My name was ABIGAIL. My brother BENJAMIN was a merchant who traded all over the Mediterranean with his wool. I remained at home weaving practical warm garments from our wool.  

Desert community and hills near the Dead Sea

One day Ben came across a trader who worshipped the man Jesus--you know, the one who had been crucified by the Romans? Ben was drawn to the trader’s shining eyes and his enthusiasm about the Gospel, or Good News, that Jesus brought.

Ben and I went to their meetings and in time we were both baptized. Our friends thought we were crazy. “Look At those Christians,” they’d say. “They’re loving people, but if you think that man was God, you’re crazy.”

In those days, Christian communities were starting to become more organized. Most of these people had never met Jesus, but they were drawn together to tell stories of his life and celebrate a symbolic meal in remembrance of him. Questions would arise about how to live our lives and we would all share our opinions, men and women alike.

We often gathered at the home of a man named GIMEL. He was the eldest person in the group and was in communication with other Christian communities across the Mediterranean. I noticed when we women spoke, he would disagree with us, but when men spoke, he’d listen and respond.

One day we were discussing whether we should have priests and bishops, as other groups were starting to do. “Are you saying that only one person would celebrate the Eucharist meal?” I asked. “Now we rotate this honor amongst us.”

“You are just a young woman,” Gimel said. “You should be guided by your elders, and not attempt to call attention to yourself. Pride is a sin, you know.” 

“What do you mean?” Ben said defending me. “Abby is just as wise as anyone here. We should all be priests, or no one should be.”

“Abigail is misguided,” Gimel declared. “Even the Apostle Paul advised women to submit themselves in silence. You also would do well to listen to those wiser than yourself.”

Ben stared at me. We both couldn’t believe what we were hearing. That night we talked it over. I said to Ben, “I can’t imagine having to follow Gimel’s advice. He’s so….so….full of himself!”

“He’s always been a bit opinionated,” Ben sighed. “I just ignored him, but this is serious.”

When we stopped going to meetings, our absence was noted.

“Are you all right?” a woman friend asked me. “We haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yes, we stopped going after all the talk about priests. Please tell Gimel that we love Christ. We follow Him in our hearts.”

Ben and I remembered Christ together at our morning meal and at sunset when the sun crept below the horizon. This was all right for a time, but something felt missing in our lives.

“You ever hear of that Christian group in the desert near the Dead Sea?” Ben asked me one day. “Maybe we should find out more about them.”

When we paid them a visit, we discovered that they lived communally and spent most of their time in prayer and study. “Why would you be interested in living here?” an older woman named DANA asked us. “This is a simple place with none of the comforts you probably are used to.”

“We may have comforts, I said, “But we are uncomfortable with the way that Christians near us are changing. It isn’t like the old days when we all just felt and shared His love.”

“We are organized also,” the woman responded. “Only here our teachers are those who have earned the respect we pay them. We spend most of our time nourishing our inner relationship with Christ. It takes effort, you know. We work and meditate and share in the practical work of the community.”

“That’s not very different from the life we live now,” Ben said.

“Why don’t you come on trial?” the woman suggested. “That way you can try us out and we can get to know you.”

So we came for a visit and remained there the rest of our lives. At first it was a lot of hard work, but Christ seemed more alive in my life. I would feel him sometimes when shearing the sheep or working at my loom. I think it was the growing ability to focus, to be mindful of His presence. I never regretted our decision. And God seemed pleased about it, too.

I stood outside the body of an old woman. It had been myself, but I didn't need it anymore. I saw that this had been a good life for me. How much I had changed between youth and old age. I was almost a different person. 

I could forgive that fellow Gimel. He was just caught up with starting a new religion. He didn't know what he was missing...

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