“The ceremony is about to start, father. We need you outside,” Nava said and then exited the room.
Nava was not her birth name but one she adopted barely two years ago; she answered to nothing else from anyone… not even me! That, however, was a much smaller matter in comparison to the event of the day. Nava’s older sister was getting married and that was worth all my attention. My joy was, however, tainted with a lot of pain from wishing her mother was here to witness this day.
Was it not just yesterday we came to this land as foreigners? In less than three years their culture and doctrine have become such an intrinsic part of our lives, like we knew no other before the migration.
I know parents should not think evil of their children but oh the many times my wife and I wondered if our older daughter would ever get married…and for good reason!
When we first heard she was a prostitute our hearts broke. Although whoring was considered an act of worship to our gods but, of all the things we hoped for her to be, prostitution was not on our list! We always knew she was some kind of rebel, doing her best to go against the grain of norms but this “job” was taking it too far.
We tried every approach possible but nothing worked. I honestly thought I would die sooner from the heartbreak. After a few years we all accepted her for who she was and moved on from there; all except her younger sister who got married to a merchant and lived in a nice corner of town.
Both sisters could never see eye to eye in meetings and it did not matter that one was older than the other. Their older brothers found their behaviour obnoxious but the prostitution did not help her case. They stopped patronizing the temple prostitutes for worship just to avoid running into their sister. We were all embarrassed by her but she did not seem to notice.
The day she walked in and said she had urgent news, her mother and I looked at each other and thought the same thing – What does she want to say that could be worse than what we already know of her?
“Did you hear about the spies from Israel?”
“They came to my house and I hid them,” she said with a smile. Her eyes lit up too.
In my younger days I would have smacked her hard across her face, drawing some blood in the process, before she completed her statement. But I was no longer as agile.
This girl has gone crazy, I thought.
“I see you want to get us killed for treason,” I said with as much steel in my voice as I could muster.
She explained to us as best she could how they served a God mightier than all our gods combined. She did not need to extol the wonders of their God though. Everyone in the city was well aware of the God who parted the Red Sea and fed his people for decades without clothes or shoes wearing out; the God who destroyed every enemy in the path of His people. This God already had quite the reputation!
“They’re coming back papa,” she said, her eyes glistening with so much excitement and thrill it was worrying.
My weakening heart beat even faster. Any faster, I thought, and it will explode in my chest. Her mother and I wanted to know if she slept with them and considered them better men than the ones in our city but we dared not ask. The thought of it was scarring enough.
She told us about their return and convinced me to call for a family meeting the next day so she could explain the plan to everyone.
The only reason we listened was because news of this God had instilled a healthy fear in all of us and death was not as attractive an option. We could all sense the hesitation in her younger sister whose husband we finally convinced to tag along.
Really, we had nothing to lose. We knew the Israelites were coming and if their success stories at wars were anything to go by then we were as good as dead. It did not matter that we had walls as high as the heavens and warriors skilled in fierce battles. Any God who could part the Red Sea for his people to walk on its ground could break down our walls with just his thoughts.
I convinced them that if we perished at least we would die beside each other as one big family albeit in a whore’s house! So gradually we deftly moved our most precious possessions to her house in case we did make it out. We went back to our various homes and then we waited, and waited but nothing happened.
“They’re here!” she squealed as she burst into my house waking me and her mother up from sleep.
“How do you know?” I started to ask but soon heard the sounds coming in from the streets. I raced to the window and saw the entire city gathered outside, mumbling.
Our finest priests donned their finest apparel and climbed on top of the altars set up in public spaces for ceremonial cleansing. People huddled around and wailed for salvation, drenching each other in ceremonially holy oils. Virgins were brought forth to engage in orgies of all kind in order to appease the gods. The first born sons of a few noble men were offered as sacrifices to gods because they were believed to be pure breeds with blood of the highest purity… all for the greater good of the city.
We watched all of this from the convenience of my daughter’s house in the wall once we arrived there. Our combined guilt tore away at our hearts for not being a part of the ceremony on the one hand. On the other, we desperately hoped she was right. If she was not right and our people won, we would be sacrificed for not participating. There was never a secret in this city. Someone would have noticed our absence and would only be waiting to report when things returned to normal.
Things never returned to normal.
My wife covered her ears as pain and death rummaged our city before some men came to whisk us away. I was still in shock at how our fortified walls fell. They did not hack at the walls. There was no new magic employed to pull it down. They simply marched and blew horns… the same thing they did the first day that informed us they were back!
For the first time, I let go of my guilt and embraced the remote possibility of knowing and serving this God that they served…if he would accept my worship. It was obvious He was at work, else there was no way a marching band of priests could pull down our walls.
“Father,” Rahab said as she knelt down in obeisance when I walked into her room in preparation for her ceremony.
My heart melted at the sight of her. She looked stunning in her regalia. It was nothing like what we used to wear in Jericho… it was better. She was indeed different. Nothing about her life followed a normal trajectory.
“I wish mama was here,” she whispered in my ear and I held her in a warm embrace.
“Every day I wish for nothing more but today… we don’t have time for regrets. Just rejoicing.”
She smiled. She always had a ready smile.
“Come on, let’s not keep Salmon waiting,” I said and we made our way out.
I should have cried. I wanted to cry hot tears of joy for many things but at the moment I focused on gratitude to this God. He proved to me that He was not only about the big miracles that affected everyone at large but anyone, individually… regardless of our doubts. I did not believe that my Rahab would ever get married but Salmon found a treasure in her and was not letting go; neither was she.
Overall, I was grateful for a new lease on life…for her, for me, for my entire family.