The Threshold of Faith
by Nancy Callahan
Our entire congregation--286 souls strong--knelt atop the hill, watched the sun rise, and awaited salvation.
We'd spent weeks repenting. We'd unburdened ourselves of all our earthly belongings (land & livestock, tools & clothes). We were now as ready as ever to enter the Kingdom.
As the warm, windless day elapsed, sweat budded like holy water on our skin. We caught our breath at every sudden gust, every distant noise. We slowly, imperceptibly pivoted--as flowers do--to face the sun as it slid through the sky.
Yet the day died, and there was no indication that the Almighty had arrived.
It drizzled all night, and we huddled and prayed for a sign.
The next day was overcast: the hill seemed wounded, wrapped in gauze. Our clothes were soaked. Our joints ached.
In the afternoon, the first deserters--complaining of thirst, hunger--snuck away. We begged them to stay, for the sake of their souls; it did no good.
We spent the night conversing--quietly, piously--to ward off sleep, delirium, doubt. But we couldn't stop others from stealing off under the cover of darkness.
The third day, the sun was brutal. Sweat stung our eyes. Our shadows, tethered to swollen knees, circled us as if we were no more than sundials.
As the impassive sun sank from view, we gave up. We walked on unsteady legs down the hill, toward town.
Our only company, diffused through an airy quilt of clouds, was the moonlight: cold, pale, pure.