I Almost Lost My Mind
(The Jesus Diary Continues)
When Herod's men left town they took my mind with them. I was unmoored, suddenly adrift in a world with which I was not familiar. Everything was wrong, upside down. Evil had triumphed over good; death over life; hatred over love. My life fell apart. I fell apart.
"Why?" I screamed into the night air! Why did Yahweh raise my soul to the heights of happiness with the birth of Jesus, only to plunge me to the depths of despair with the senseless massacre of innocent children?
Worst of all, Jesus was gone. Mary and Joseph were gone. These three people lived in my soul. I was one with them. I needed them, and I had lost them. And I didn't know where they were.
"I was not made for this!" I cried. I was too fragile. Too weak. How could I possibly understand God's plan? What did he have in mind for Jesus, for me, for the world? My mind could not handle the complexity of these issues.
In my lunacy I thought maybe I had been wrong about Jesus, wrong right from the beginning. Maybe there was nothing special about him. Maybe Mary and Joseph were just two very likeable teenagers. Maybe I only dreamt of the shepherds and angels and chorus. Maybe it was just a fantasy. Maybe I was losing my mind.
Perhaps the Magi were mistaken and lost. They read the wrong signs; or they read the signs wrong. It had been a wasted trip for them. They should have stayed home and watched their star. If only they hadn't stopped to see Herod; if only they hadn't come to Bethlehem. Instead they did come and they did stop and so became the catalyst for the murder of innocent children.
I hated them. I hated Herod. I hated Og and his crew. I hated myself.
To ease the pain in my soul I began to drink. I made many new friends at Amnon's tavern, drawn by my generosity in paying their tabs. I was drowning my sorrows in wine and purchased companionship. But soon even my bought friends tired of my constant moaning about the loss of Jesus and walked away. So I drank alone. And I began to dream.
In my sober moments I realized that Jesus had indeed touched my soul; that this was not all happenstance. I believed this tragedy had some meaning even though I didn't know what it was. I felt I was meant to be part of his life, and he part of mine. I felt called. Despite my efforts to wipe him from my mind he kept reappearing in my dreams: lively, smiling, reaching out as if beckoning me. Those were the good dreams. They were few.
"Where is he?" I screamed in the darkness of my room. "Are you all right?" Amnon shouted from outside my door. I was not all right. Nothing was.
I tried not to close my eyes lest I endure another nightmare. I had relived a dozen times the horror of the children's massacre, struggling in my dreams to combat Herod's evil forces, fighting hand to hand with Og, slashing my sword violently at the attackers. But I always lost, waking up just when I was about to be stabbed or Og had his hands around my throat.
"No!" I cried, suddenly awake, breathless. Soon my eyes closed again. And a new dream began.
I saw Joseph leading a donkey. He was sweating, his face full of fear. Mary clutched Jesus close to her breast. Joseph was actually running beside the animal. Where were they going?
Suddenly I realized I was riding on a camel. Was I traveling with the Magi? I looked around. I saw pyramids and vast expanses of sand. A large city was in the distance. I saw a giant cat-like animal preparing to pounce, only to realize it was just a statue.
I saw someone in the distance, coming over the top of a dune. As he approached I saw that it was Joseph, still leading the donkey with Mary still clutching Jesus closely. I couldn’t move. They came closer. Joseph stopped running. He saw me and waved pleasantly, like he had been expecting to see me here. Mary held up Jesus. I fell to my knees, bowing my head until it touched the hot desert sand. I woke up to find myself kneeling at the side of my cot, my head to the floor.
"They're in Egypt!" I shouted to my empty room. This time Amnon was not so pleasant with his reprimand. Obediently, I got back into bed and shut up. I was immediately asleep.
Joseph looked into my eyes. Mine of course were closed but I could still see him. "I knew you would be here," he said. "I knew you would be looking for us. But I didn't have time to tell you where we were going. The angel said we should leave right away."
"Angel? What angel?" I asked.
Joseph continued walking as he explained. "After the wise men left, Mary and I tucked in baby Jesus and prepared for bed. We were exhausted. I fell asleep instantly. Then I began to dream. I saw an angel. He swooped down to my bedside with incredible speed. He wasted no time before telling me why he had come: 'Herod plans to kill every newborn boy he can find! His men are on the way! You must leave Bethlehem! Now!'
"'Can't it wait till morning?' I asked. 'I'm tired. Mary is tired. Jesus is already asleep. Her old mule is asleep.'"
"'Wake them up and go! Herod's men will be here in the morning! They will find Jesus and they will kill him. And they will kill you, both of you!'"
"So I woke up Mary and Jesus and packed up our old mule. The angel had energized him so that I had to trot along to keep up with him. I just held on to the reins. He seemed to know where to go. And so here we are." I said I was glad they were safe.
Then I told him what happened in Bethlehem after they escaped. Anger filled his eyes and he shook his head as if trying to erase the reality. "That's why the angel told me to stay here until Herod was dead. He knew he would keep trying once he realized Jesus is still alive."
"I would like to kill him myself!" I yelled. Then I woke up.
I avoided Amnon's tavern the following day. Excited at the thought that my dream might have meaning, I wanted to keep a clear head. Was it possible that Jesus and his parents might be safe somewhere, maybe even in Egypt? I was not a believer in the power of dreams, but Joseph had seemed so real that I began to reconsider my doubts. My spirits lifted. My life was pointless without Jesus but now it seemed once again to have a purpose.
I closed my eyes that night with a smile on my face. I thought there might be another dream in store for me. I was right.
I found myself atop a beautiful Arabian, a magnificent spirited animal. I sat tall, surveying the area with an eagle's eye. My horse moved without any direction from me. Where was I? And where was I going? I looked around and saw no one anywhere near me.
Then I noticed I was in gladiator's armor, and carrying a lance, broad sword and small rapier. My body throbbed with power. I felt invincible, self-confident, my arms and legs bulging with muscle. I moved at breathtaking speed and soon found myself before a magnificent castle.
"Halt!" A voice cried. "What business do you have with the great King Herod?"
Unbelievably, I heard myself say, "I have come to kill him!"