Monday Rewrite: God’s Country

It’s dark down there. And cold. And worst of all dirty. He can see the bits of rubbish and human waste drifting past his face, brushing against his skin, leaving their mark.
He doesn’t care. His face already has a thousand unpleasant marks. Leprosy does that to you. That’s why he wears the mask. He can be rugged and confident again with metal for a face. Leprosy can’t destroy that.

He thought it would never get this bad, he’s a proud man and knew that somehow, one way or another he could fight it off. Sheer willpower and stubborn pride, he was sure these weapons would see him though. But then disease spread, the creeping nerve-rotting killer would not lay down and die. Instead it grew stronger, and he grew weaker. So now he finds himself here. Crouching in the darkness of polluted water. Hiding from the day, holding his breath, hoping against hope that he might not ever have to come up and show his face again. Maybe he’ll just grow gills and fins, or better still, grow tired of living, let the bad water into his lungs and drift away into Gehenna.

Jeers. Laughter. Mockery. He can hear it the moment he bursts from the river. He shakes the water from his ears so he can hear the torrents of torment more clearly. Go on. Mock if you must. It’ll be over soo… Hang on. That’s not jeering. It’s cheering. Cheering and applause. What’s going on?

He hears running feet and looks up to see one of his young officers leaning towards him on the bank with a sword in his hand. No not a sword. A dull metal disk. A mirror. and the man is grinning like an idiot. There are strange tears on his face. What’s wrong with the fool?
‘Take a look, sir.’
Naaman frowns. Does he have to? Has he not checked every day to see how bad it’s becoming, wondering where he went behind the clay that’s overtaken his face. He steals himself, shuts his eyes and hold up the piece of silver. He’ll take one quick look then be straight off to his party. Why are they still clapping? He opens his eyes. Who’s that? It’s not a mirror it’s an old picture. The man’s trying to fool him, giving him a sketch of the days when he was young and good-looking. The officer’s grin grows and he gestures at the picture again. Slowly Naaman turns his head one way then the other. Oh my… pictures don’t move. Pictures don’t flinch like that. Pictures don’t break into a grin. Pictures don’t display emotion like this. He turns to the young man.
‘Where’s that prophet?’ he yells and he comes blustering out of the water.
The officer can’t tell if he’s angry or ecstatic.

Two hours later and Naaman wields a spade. If God lives in this strange land then he’s taking a bit of it home with him. This God is too great, too astonishing, too powerful to leave behind. If Naaman can take a bit of God’s country with him then maybe, just maybe, this powerful Deity will go with him. He shoves the soil into his saddle bags and turns to the prophet, he reaches out and grabs the strange man’s hand. He still can’t believe those are his fingers. No longer gnarled bits of wood. Smooth, strong, recognisable as human. This God has given him back his dignity. He’ll never forget that, every morning and every night when he looks in that mirror he’ll know. This face comes from God.

(2 Kings 5. Taken from Pulp Gospel)

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