This is the fifth part in The Stutterer, a fiction series by the author. Installments run on Sunday mornings. You can find the first three parts here.
You say I’ve been chosen, that I’m special and important and that this is my destiny; that you gave Isaac to Abraham, and Jacob to Isaac so that Jacob could spread your creation to twelve more; that among these twelve you chose Joseph to go to Egypt and now here I am. You say that it’s my turn, that all existence, everything you’ve created, has led to my being here, right here; at this time on this spot. So I ask you: Why a bush?
Because, for the gravity of the situation, a bush seems rather drab. There are trees here. You could have set fire to the entire hillside; you could have simply made it disappear! You could have wrapped me in flames, a cascading fire from the heavens, blocking my way to my sheep and home. But a burning bush? What if I hadn’t seen it? What if all existence had conspired to get me to this exact place at this exact time and I had missed the sign?
It could not have happened you tell me. Coincidence is a silly word that has no context where you’re from. What we perceive as coincidences are really just boxes, stacked one on top of the other, creating a staircase of happenstance that only leads to one place. And that only you, with the knowledge of hindsight for this life that I have yet to live, know how this story ends. Only you know where my staircase leads.
But how do I know it’s you? How do I know that I am alive in this moment, seeing and hearing and feeling all this as real? You tell me to throw my staff on the ground and I see it turn into a snake. You say that’s proof of your existence; no earthly matter could produce such magic. But I also see a bush that burns without cindering. Is this proof of your existence or simply proof that my eyes deceive me. Or that I’ve gone crazy. You know as well as I that it was only a matter of time. Does a crazy person know he’s crazy?
Are you there?
Is this all a dream?
I could have tripped in the rain while chasing after my sheep, fallen and hit my head, and now I’m lying face down in the grass, invisible to all my directionless sheep. Where do dreams end and realities begin? How do I know that I’m not still floating down that river?
If it’s just me, and you’re not there, then why am I doing this? I don’t want to do this. Do I? I don’t make a convincing prophet. I stutter; nobody will believe that I’ve come to save them. Besides, I have a good life here, a simple life—healthy sheep, an obedient family; what do I need from Egypt anymore? You don’t want me; you want my brother Aaron. He’s there. To him they listen.
You tell me this is real, and that the future of Judea relies on my acceptance of this task, but I still have doubts. Does a prophet choose to be a prophet, or is he chosen? If I have been chosen then I have no choice. The steps only go up and I have no other option but to follow them. Yet if this is my choice—if you have no part in what is to come next for me, then I am convincing myself of going to a place far from home, to do something that nobody has asked of me, which has no guarantee of success or even acceptance by the people I am tasking myself to rescue. If this is not my destiny then I have convinced myself of foolery. And if that’s the case, then I really have gone crazy. What do I do? Where do I go? Are you there?
(Photo: Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden)