I've been called many things: apostle, whore, lover, preacher, mad-woman, sister, follower, wife. Fact or fiction, myth or reality--judge for yourself. All that really matters is that that I once loved a healer and a teacher, God and man, a crucified and resurrected peace-maker and rabble rouser. This is my story.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jerusalem, the first time

The journey to Jerusalem ended as quickly as it began. We made it all the way there, but as we drew closer to the city, families began to split off, meeting up with relatives, going their own ways. Joshua and I passed each other in the city, spoke briefly here and there, but the nights of sitting by the fire, watching the stars, journeying together in the day--those were over once we reached Jerusalem. Time with him became something to steal. I've always loathed this city. Not because of the people, or the land, but because of what I associate with entering Jerusalem. I always seem to loose him here. We're camped here now, but I think it won't be long until I set out on my own. There are too many ghosts in this city, but it's not time for me to leave, not yet.

Back then, when we were very young, I didn't associate Jerusalem with losing him, only with the knowledge that it got lonely again after we went our own ways. The stories that are told now, the ones I hear going around, tell of him staying behind at the temple that year, his mother losing track of him and going back to find him teaching there. It didn't quite happen like that.

The men and the women were, of course, separated for worship. At night, I would come home to the small room my father had rented. It was there that Mary first showed up at our door.
"Mary!" my father greeted her. "So good to see you."
"And you as well, Benjamen. I've come to invite you both for dinner. We're staying down the way a bit."
I could hardly contain my excitement. To be with his family again, to be with him again, had my heart racing. We joined Mary and Joseph, James and the younger children at dinner. Joshua was nowhere to be seen.
"He's at the temple," Joseph said when he saw me looking around.
"He's always at the temple," said James, his younger brother, in a decisively annoyed-little-brother tone. "He always prays."
Mary didn't say anything, but looked at her younger son. I was disappointed and hoped he would come home soon. But he was gone the entire time we were there.

When we were gathered for prayer the next day, I asked Mary about Joshua.
"He is different, isn't he?"
"How do you mean?" she replied.
"I mean that he prays more than the other boys his age. And he knows more of who he is. And he isn't like the rest of us."
"No, he isn't. But sometimes he forgets that. Sometimes when he's around a certain girl," she said, laughing gently. "He can not be what you hope for him to be. Or what he hopes to be. It is not what waits for him."
"What does wait for him?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said and for the first time I sensed she wasn't being entirely truthful. And her eyes showed the same distress that I had seen the night Joshua and I returned from watching the stars.

Three days later, as we were packing to go, I looked for Mary, Joseph and the family. Mary had said they would leave early, but I hoped to walk the first part of way with them. I was almost to their house when I met James.
"He said you should meet him behind the temple."
"You heard me."
"Thanks, James."

I found him and he smiled when he saw me.
"I have to stay for a few more days" he said.
"But your family is packing to go."
"I know. My mother says it will help me learn who I am. And she says it will help the priests learn who I am. She says it's part of my destiny."
"You don't look happy about it."
"I'm not. I mean, I like to talk and debate with the rabbis, to learn from them and to teach them, but I'd rather walk the way home with you." Sometimes Joshua's face would change. From the man who I would come to know as not only my friend, but also my Saviour, into the face of a sheepish little boy. It didn't happen often. This was one of those times.

"Mom's going to wait for me and then come to the temple few days to pick me up."
"I'll see if I can wait and walk back with you and your mom," I said, excited for this next adventure.
"Great. I'll see you in a few days."

I returned to my father, who was looking for me at Joseph and Mary's house. I asked Mary and my father if I could stay, but both of them were insistent that I return to Magdala with my father. So we did. Crushed, I began that long journey home with my father. And wondering when I would ever see Joshua again. It would be awhile.

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