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Left Behind

by Vern Zielke

The young boy was an only child and lived with his parents on a Western Kansas farm. His childhood was generally a happy one, and although much of the time he played alone, he had many imaginary friends who were his constant companions. He was a great lover of books, and after he learned to read, books became his constant companions. Books transported him far from the Kansas prairie and introduced him to many kinds of people and places.

Books enhanced his imaginative powers and contributed to his awareness of the power of ideas. Many of the books which he read were written from a Christian perspective. Faith became a powerful force in his life. The Bible was read at home and at school, and he never missed church and Sunday school. His church and community placed great emphasis on personal salvation. Much was said about the need to be ready for the Second Coming of Christ. Sermons often vividly portrayed the fate of those who would be left behind, and films were made to dramatize the fate of these unfortunate ones. Stern warnings were given and people were exhorted to have "assurance of salvation."  This then is the background for the story of one dark, spring evening in 1946.

The boy and his parents were seated around the dining room table. Each was reading. The kerosene lamp stood in the middle of the table, shedding its glow on the table but only dimly lighting the rest of the room. Occasionally someone would move slightly as pages were turned, but no words were being spoken. The boy was totally engrossed in his story. After a while he looked up from his reading and to his surprise, found himself alone. The other chairs were vacant and the books were left on the table. His heart began to beat faster as he frantically looked around in the house. It seemed impossible that two people could have left the table and gone from the room without his knowledge.

He had often had similar experiences. Sometimes when he came home from school his parents were not there. Sometime when he awakened at night he would listen with baited breath for his father's familiar snore, which would assure him again that all was well. But this was different. They were, after all, right there beside him one moment, and in the next moment they were gone. This was exactly like the statement he had heard so often. "One shall be taken and the other left." Only this time two were taken and he was left.

He began to imagine what it would be like for someone who had been left behind. Where should he go, what should he do? He knew that a great tribulation would follow and that unspeakable things would now befall him. He had even heard of terrible battles where the blood flowing in the streets would be up to the horses' bridles. But first, he had to make sure that it had really happened. He had to look for his parents.

It occurred to him that there was a possible explanation for his parents' sudden absence. He knew that every night someone had to go and close the brooder house where the little chicks were kept. This was usually done as part of the bedtime routine, and often all three of them would go out to make the short walk across the garden, past the windmill, to the edge of the pasture. Since the chicken house was rather far from the central farmyard, it was rather vulnerable to raids by skunks or even coyotes, and it was important to make certain that all was secure for the night.

This night was very dark. There was no moon and the stars were brilliant in the heavens. He thought maybe his parents and all the other Christians in the world were passing through the galaxies, rapidly ascending to a better, more secure world. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he could just make out the windmill and the garden fence. Then the brooder house became visible, and with his heart in his throat, he hurried toward it. All was quiet, except for the night sounds of the insects. Not even the dog came out to join him. He wondered if the dog had sensed something strange and had crept under the porch to hide like he often did during a summer thunderstorm. His last hope faded and complete despair enveloped him.

But wait! He thought he heard a voice. He stopped to listen. Yes, they were there, in the brooder house, inspecting the little chicks, lingering longer than usual. He walked more slowly, trying to calm his beating heart. He came to the door and looked at them in the dim lantern light. Everything was so ordinary. They were speaking in low tones, so as not to arouse the chicks. Their concerns were earthly, and they would have thought it odd that the young boy who had come to seek them had just looked eternity in the face and found it terrifying.

He looked at them and waited for them to come out. After the door was securely shut, they walked back through the darkness. There was really nothing to talk about. It was a beautiful evening, the chicks were safe, God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world.

 

(copyright Vern Zielke)

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