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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 14 March 2009 - 2:28am. | | | | | |

In The Garden
Steven G. O’Dell © 2009

The mild sobbing was barely audible in the wooded, off-the-path setting, and masked only by the singing of birds, it seemed out of place. The arboretum and decorative garden should have been a hot spot of the city, due to its beauty and tranquil atmosphere, but the Gardens were all but ignored in a city where so many other forms of diversion and entertainment were available. Perhaps that was why Cynthia Rheames had come to be found there. The solitude was preferable to the unwanted notice of friends and family she knew she would find elsewhere. Only here could she be alone to wrestle with her considerable burdens.

The solitude was not to last, however. A slight rustling of the vegetation tipped Cynthia to the fact that she might no longer be alone. Quickly rubbing the tears from her eyes, she turned to survey her surroundings. A black Labrador retriever was slowly and methodically sniffing the ground on its way toward her. It was all but impossible to wonder what its mission might be. And coming behind the dog was a tall and well-proportioned man who was apparently searching for the same object, whatever that might be. In a moment Cynthia was discovered by the dog and then the man. Both were exceptionally friendly, so she didn't feel the need to withdraw from her isolated perch on the rock she had chosen within the confines of the wood.

"Oh! Hello. I'm sorry to disturb you. Have you seen a Frisbee come your way?"

That answered for Cynthia the question of the object of the hunt. She knew what the errand was. "No, I'm sorry. Are you sure it came this way?"

"I was relatively certain, but it may have bounced off a tree and gone another direction easily. Timbuk may be disappointed, but it isn't the first time we have lost one and it won't be the last."

"Timbuk?"

"Oh. That takes some explaining. I had thought that if I ever had a second dog to keep the first one company, I would call the second one Timbuktu. I know now how confusing that would have been to the dogs and how foolish I would have appeared to do so."

Cynthia couldn't help but laugh out loud at the thought. For the moment, at least, her depression was gone.

“That’s better,” the man said with a smile.

“I’m sorry, what’s better?” Cynthia was puzzled by the seemingly out of place comment.

“You’re smiling now. I couldn’t help but notice that you were troubled by something when I first approached. It’s good to see you smiling now.”

“Oh, yes. It’s nothing, really.” Cynthia tried to pass it off as being of no consequence, but she was anything but convincing.

“A person seldom comes to tears for nothing. Would you care to have an unbiased listening ear to unload your troubles on?”

“Oh, no; I wouldn’t presume to bother you with such things. Thank you, but no.”

“My apologies. It was never my intent to make you uncomfortable. I sincerely wanted to help, that’s all.” There was a sudden change in his manner as he called the dog to himself and prepared to go.

“No, wait! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you. It’s very kind of you to offer to listen, really. But I wouldn’t want to trouble anyone else with my burdens.”

“I would never have offered if I wasn’t sincere, I assure you.” His manner did assure her of his sincerity.

“Alright. Thank you. Maybe I do need to use someone as a sounding board now and then.”

The stranger found a tree trunk to sit down and lean against, paying immediate and close attention to Cynthia, who then began to pour out her concerns without measure.

“It’s my past. There are just some things I am not too proud of." She hung her head instinctively and stared at the ground. "And I'm not certain how my family will react to what I feel I need to tell them."

"I see. How long have you been carrying this burden?" The man had, in one question, cut right to the heart of the matter. Cynthia looked up in surprise. She had been struggling with the problem itself for many years and then later with the prospect of having to reveal her secret to those who loved her most, for several more. She hadn't counted the cost in that way previously. It had been on her shoulders and weighing her down for far too long. She must remove it, and soon, no matter the repercussions.

"Too long," she said simply.

"It sounds as if it's long past time to lay it down. Your family loves you, I take it."

"More than I ever guessed possible. That's why it will be so hard to hurt them."

"Who is more likely to forgive quickly and completely than those who love you most?"

Cynthia began again to sob softly. What he said was true--she knew it instinctively. Still, somewhere inside was the resistance against disappointing those who cared most about her. The stranger sensed her hesitance.

"Young lady, how quickly would you forgive your family members if they came to you with the same confession?" He waited patiently for an answer. When it didn't come, he continued. "Likely, you never will meet one who is perfect--not in this life. And often, the greatest burden is that we are loathe to forgive ourselves for our weaknesses, so we torment ourselves far longer than the simple act of humble confession and forsaking would hurt. You do understand, don't you, that the sin you keep punishing yourself for was long ago paid and forgiven, in a garden not unlike this one?"

Cynthia lifted her head in surprise.

"In a garden very similar to this one, the Savior took upon himself to the right to own and pay for the sins that would keep all the other sons and daughters of God from returning to their Father's presence. He who was without sin himself, became sin for our sake. If he has forgiven you, can you not forgive yourself?" The question was filled with genuine tenderness and heartfelt compassion that was irresistible.

Cynthia wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded agreement to the unquestionable logic. It was pure truth and plain to see, unless you were so blind or hard-hearted and stubborn that you refused to accept it as such.

"Then I think you know what you need to do next." He rose from his position against the tree trunk and smiled lovingly. "Don't waste any time in rethinking it yourself, alright?"

Cynthia quickly jumped to her feet and without warning hugged the man tightly. "Thank you," she sobbed quietly into his chest. "Thank you for helping me to see things more clearly."

"Isn't that what friends and family are for?"

The words sunk deep into her mind and soul as Cynthia released her sounding board and stood back to study his face. "Yes, I guess it is."

"Then I need to be on my way and you have some healing to see to. The Lord's blessings go with you always, Cynthia." He then called the dog to himself and with a smile, turned to go.

It wasn't until he was gone from sight that Cynthia remembered that she hadn't told him her name. Her mouth hung open for a good long minute before she regained her composure. Again his words came into her mind. 'The Lord's blessings go with you always, Cynthia.' She was fully convinced their meeting was no accident as she looked upward and smiled in complete and utter gratitude.

Before she left to take care of releasing her burden once and for all, she spent a few more moments appreciating the gardens about her and reflecting on the price that was paid two millenia before to ensure her return to good graces with a loving family in eternity. A sense of awe and wonder had now replaced the sobbing and tears that had so recently afflicted her. Everything was going to be just fine—all because of a Garden.

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