The Unworthiness Of A Good Man
by Nicole Clevenger

Justin's body feels abused, skin bruised, muscles aching. His wrist throbs from the constant flagellation, and his knees are cold and sore where they meet the hard wood. The lash lays tangled on the floor in front of him; his body can take no more tonight. Yet despite the myriad of physical punishments he has inflicted upon himself, he knows in his heart that he's no closer to completing his penance for the unworthiness of his soul.

The lingering discomfort is inconsequential; his continued unworthiness is not.

If he is to follow the path that the Lord has laid before him, his spirit must be equal to the challenge. He welcomes the bite of the leather, welcomes the feeling of skin splitting and weeping slippery red tears down his bare back. It is only through the act of suffering that he can ever hope to find the pure white cleansing fire of Divine Love.

His sister called him a good man, and God knows how he wishes it were so. God knows how he strives to be the man she sees when she looks at him, the man whose image he can see shining reflected in her eyes. How he prays and bleeds and fights with every breath to have the strength to serve the Lord as He commands. But even as Iris praised his virtue, a part of him could think of nothing but the tantalizing sensation of her fingers kneading through the cloth as she rubbed at his knotted shoulders.

A good man resists temptations of the flesh, be they in thought or in deed. A good man does not look upon the body of a woman, unless that woman is his own wife. It makes no difference that he feels intense shame for his unintentioned transgressions, that he forces his mind from its filthy confusion the instant the vaguest impression of a notion begins to form. He is still a sinner in the eyes of the Lord.

And yet, despite his many failings, the Lord God has chosen him to lead this holy mission. Justin has seen the signs as clearly as a voice in his ear; he has been blessed with the tools to follow through with God's plans. It is not his place to question the wisdom of the Almighty. It is his destiny merely to do as he is bid.

But even in this, he proves himself to be unworthy.

For he has questioned. He has doubted and balked. It is written that the Lord's only Son struggled with His own destiny that long night in Gethsemane. While Justin would never presume to compare himself with the holiness of the Son, he too knows the bitter taste of that fear.

His throat is as dry as the air in his room; his tongue appears to wet his lips, but he does not rise from his position of supplication. A tickling trickle of blood or sweat inches its way down his back toward the waist band of his dark pants. It itches, maddeningly so. Still his hands, now folded together to rest on his thighs, remain where they are.

A good man resists temptation, even small ones such as these. This, too, is part of his penance.

He was a boy in the Reverend's orphanage the first time the Lord saw fit to speak to him, too young to see the experience for what it was. He'd touched Sister Agnes's hand and was shown the blackness of the disease eating away at her bones, and he'd cowered and ran and denied what he had seen. It was she who first taught him that suffering was a righteous path to salvation, she who took his child's fingers in her own and explained to him that the Lord had a plan for them all. He'd watched her waste away to a brittle skeleton inside a flimsy bag of skin, but he never saw her turn her back on God. Despite the agony of her body she'd breathed her last with a smile on her lips, ready to return to the Almighty's eternal embrace.

That this life is a difficult one, Justin has no doubts. He sees it in the eyes of the people he passes every day, in the set of their shoulders and the furrows of their brows. They live in uncertain and frightening times, beset by the demands and seductions of the material world as it attempts to distract them from staying their spiritual course. He must serve as he can, using his gifts to help them follow the path away from Damnation. God moves through him into them, flowing on His words from the pulpit to their hearts.

These hardships are nowhere more evident as on the dirty faces of the migrants; nowhere else is guidance more necessary. Brave souls moving west in search of a better life, only to find themselves turned away and shunned by sinners who have forgotten the meaning of Charity and Love for one's fellow man. That they cling to their faith in the midst of such a precarious existence is a testament to the Lord's true power. A testament to the miracle of faith itself.

God has chosen him to lead them in their daily struggle, to help them find their way to their final reward. God has looked upon him and found him to be worthy to lead this flock back to Him - this flock, his own colony of lepers. In this, as in all things, he will obey.

The air is cooling around him; goosebumps rise like a wave across his bare arms. The muted notes of the radio murmur to him through the floorboards as he replaces the punishing whip in its case and slides the box back under his bed. He holds his protesting body where it is for a moment longer, bowing his head and whispering a prayer of thanksgiving for the chance to seek redemption for his shortcomings. Then Justin gets slowly to his feet and undresses for bed.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix