The U.S. of After Chapter 46


Clayton

Amy didn’t sleep for about two days after Ralph died.  She just sat in the boat and cried and held little Anya who didn’t really understand what had happened.  We stopped down the river a ways after we was sure them militia guys was gone.  We had ourselves a burial for the ones that didn’t fall out into the river when they died and the ones we were able to grab along the way.  I said a few words, but Amy stood silent, her face lookin’ pale and worn.  A lot of the people were really shucked out at God that so many lost their lives.  I did my best to love on them and prayed earnestly for their faith.

We camped out after travelin’ down river another day or two and that’s when Amy finally came over to sit by me on a big ol’ log.  For a while she just moped there all quiet, her right foot diggin’ in the soft sand, diggin’ up little muscle shells, their little pearly insides exposed.

“Why Ralph?” she asked, not really lookin’ at me.  “Why did Ralph have to die, Clayton?”

She then turned and looked at me with them beautiful green eyes of hers, her mouth carvin’ out a terrible frown, and if it were solely up to me I would have caved, but it wasn’t solely up to me.

“I hate it, too, Amy,” I said, my voice somehow calm in the storm of all this.  “Ralph was doin’ what he could to keep us alive.  I know it don’t make no sense, but sometimes things happen and we don’t have a reason for it.  Sometimes things don’t seem to have a reason for us, but God knows the reason, and since he sees past present and future all at once, I choose to trust him with it.”

“But…” she managed, her chest hitching in air.  “Ralph was a good one.  He was a good guy who had just given his life to Jesus, and he… It has to make sense.  God owes me that.”

“I think about Job,” I said to her.  “Job was pretty much at the bottom of a hole with no ladder.  He’d lost his land, his family, his health, and everything, but he didn’t hate God for it.  It doesn’t make sense right now, but it will someday.  God said in the book of Isaiah ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’  God made Sarah barren in her youth so that he could speak to her in her old age, he denied Moses’ right to be a prince so that he could return as a shepherd and lead his people out of Egypt, and he took Daniel out of sweet and pretty Jerusalem so that he could be a blessing in ugly ol’ Babylon.”

“Don’t get all preachy on me, Clayton,” she said, but I knew that was the enemy, so I prayed a little and lowered my voice a bit more.

“Sorry, Amy,” I said.  “Just think about it this way.  If you believe that Jesus died for you, and you have faith in that, I mean really have faith in that, then we’ll see Ralph again one day.”

“But I want to see him now,” she sobbed. “I want to see him now!  I don’t want to wait.  Why was he taken from me when I was just learning to love him?  I loved him, Clayton, and now he’s gone.”

She started to crying most terrible, and I just let her, but she didn’t lean on me as before.  She put her hands over her ears and pulled her head down by her knees and sobbed.  A wailin’ came from her that was all too common on this broken earth.  People started to look, but I just let her.  As my Momma used to say, sometimes you just have to shut up and let a girl feel, so I did.  She finally looked at me after a while and frowned, closed her eyes and sat up, her face looking up toward the darkenin’ sky.

“I guess my faith isn’t very strong right now, Clayton.  Nothing really matters to me anymore.  I’m just tired.  So tired.”

I didn’t answer her.  I thought about Jesus and how his friends came and told him about Lazarus dying, but he stayed away knowin’ that God was gonna to do a great work through Lazarus’s death.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show the world what true faith could do.  That’s why I knew in my heart that Ralph was gone for a reason, that Jacob was taken for a reason, a reason that was not readily available to me at that time even though I think Jacob was tryin’ to tell that to me just before all this happened.  I just trusted that God knew, and left it at that.  If he wanted Ralph to come back, he’d let me know, I’m sure.  If he wanted to, God could make Ralph walk right up out of the river and eat dinner with us, like nothin’ happened.

Amy walked away from me and toward the cook fire.  Beans again.  Oh well.  I figured when we reached New Orleans there’d be steaks and baked potatoes for everyone.  At least I hoped there’d be.

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