***This story was posted previously, though slightly different. Revised, I’d submitted it for the 2022 Serious Writer / Write-to-Publish ‘Almost an Author’ contest, and it won 1st place for fiction. I love Elizabeth’s story for many reasons but particularly because God answered her long-awaited dream for a child. My heart understands her longing, and it can’t help but beat faster when I imagine how hers must have raced upon hearing Zechariah’s news, having returned home from that holy trip to Jerusalem. This story is my creative imagining, taken from Luke’s account in the first chapter of his gospel story.
“The Lord has done this for me…” (Luke 1:25a NIV).
I’ll never forget his face.
The moment he stepped over the threshold, a ray of sunlight shining through a window struck his brow, and, for just an instant, he looked as though he’d been in the presence of angels. And my heart fluttered.
“Zechariah?” My own voice sounded unfamiliar. Of course it was Zechariah—my husband who’d been away for days. The one I’d missed, for whom I’d longed.
Taking another step, the sun’s ray shifted, and I could see him fully—that face I’d known, each mark and line, for many years. The scar just above his right eye told the story of the time when, just a boy, he’d been struck by a rock thrown by a friend in our small village. The age spot near his left temple—this I’d only noticed recently, had run my finger over it, asked a question as I traced a southward trail, stopping on the tip of his bearded chin.
“Would you still choose me as … as your …?”
I remember that night of the setting sun some months earlier. My voice broke before I could finish, and Zechariah knew. He understood. His one-word answer whispered in the darkening room was all my heart needed, and dust specks caught in candlelight were diamonds again, no longer the ash of momentary mourning.
Our life had been difficult, though a delight too. Where we are different in many ways, the similarities of our upright spirits, our desire for righteousness, bound us tightly, made us—yes, kept us—kindred. Such was the God-given material, raw and determined, that carried us through hardships. Saw us past the ridicule. Guided us into and through dark valleys of judgement. And there was that, for certain—even from those who loved us most, held us closest. After all, to be barren was a curse, an indication of God’s blessing removed, or, at the very least, delayed. And such was a blemish on our lives, making many speculate concerning our plight.
“But what about babies?” my own mother had cried in pleading tones nearly a decade after we’d married.
And all I could do was hold my face in my hands and weep, so desolate was I. In honesty, despite my own priestly lineage, I’d shaken fists at Abba more times that I care to admit. His withholding of fruit from my womb seemed cruel—something I simply could not understand. Most days in those early years of marriage, my ethnic righteousness hung like rags, my face downcast, like my soul.
Only Zechariah understood the depth of my despair. Only he heard the desperate cries of my heart, and he, too, pleaded on my behalf, though not just for me. His heart, like mine, was broken, and he wasn’t free from the condemnation of others. For him, to be an active priest of the Lord Most High and not have children, evidence of God’s supposed disfavor—I know he suffered too. Yet, in some merciful measure, this was Abba’s plan for our unity, that which bound us more closely together—a cord of three strands, not easily broken.
Still, even with Zechariah’s love, my heart yearned to see him cut the life cord upon the delivery of a child. To hear our baby’s cry. To see our son or daughter grow—become all that Abba intended. And yet, with the passing of years, this dream went unfulfilled, though my love for God, by His grace, only grew. My love for Zechariah also. And though a piece of my heart threatened to callous, grow tough from broken dreams, somehow God grew good and beautiful things from our union—namely, a deeper desire to pursue Him. To pursue holiness.
And time went on.
So on this particular day—the day the sun danced on his cheeks, made him appear like a friend of angels—my aged hands took his face, and I held it, saw again the story scar from our youth, the more recent age spot of our many years. I took him all in in those holy moments and sensed something was different, though he’d only been gone a handful of days.
Stepping back, I spoke again. “Zechariah?”
But silence. My question was met, not with an audible answer but, rather, with his stone-hard stare. And what I saw as I looked in his eyes was an earnestness that frightened me. So intent, with a passion I’d not seen in many years—not since our love was new, before the heartache of barrenness made me bitter cold for a season, robbed us of the heat of our summer. Though I’d warmed over time, discovered again pure desire in the gift God had given—no longer holding out hope that our love might produce life—our age had taken its toll. More and more, our love expressed itself in lying close, in whispers in the night, in our ever-growing union with Abba. Such was our unity—tried and true.
And such was beautiful.
But this was different. This was fueled by a fire I’d not seen in our lifetime, not even in our earliest days. Zechariah’s eyes were locked with mine as he took a step back. In doing so, he stood once again in sunlight—the ray illuminating his head. His gaze, too, shifted, washed over me—all of me—as he took my hands in his own. Only his lips moved Elizabeth—though no sound, not even breath.
His own silence seemed to startle him, and he searched wildly about the room for something upon which to write that his urgent message might be conveyed. Seeing the table where I’d been grinding flour and kneading dough only minutes before he’d arrived, he led the way. Letting go my hand, he leaned over my work, and with one finger in fresh flour, he began to form the letters, and my eager eyes followed.
He wrote one word at a time, erasing each only after he was certain I’d understood.
I repeated the phrase aloud, “An angel visited you?”
Zechariah’s desperate nod told me there was more.
“While you were in … in the Holy Place … you … you saw an angel?” The reality of the sacred nature of his words hung between my heart and mind.
More nodding. More writing.
My mind raced. I searched my husband’s face, attempting to comprehend. Zechariah had seen an angel—yes, while fulfilling his duties in the inner sanctuary. “You were visited by an angel in the Holy Place?” The repetition of this question helped me make sense of my husband’s words. “And now you can’t speak—because of doubt? But … but what did you doubt?”
Zechariah’s eyes brimmed with tears. Were they tears of mourning? Of joy?
Once more, he wrote in the dust of bread.
Zechariah’s finger stopped. With both hands gripping the table’s edge, he leaned hard against the wood. His head fell forward, and I saw his shoulders shake. He was weeping. My husband was weeping. I placed my hand upon his back, felt warmth.
He turned then, took me in his arms, clutched me so tight I feared I might break. His heart beat against my breast as mine, too, drummed its poem. A duet—like we’d always been.
Suddenly, he released me, but before turning to complete his message, he took a step back and stared at my abdomen. Raising his right hand, he placed it there, then, lifting his gaze, our eyes met again. The intensity in Zechariah’s burned, and my face flushed. Finally, he bent over the table one last time and, with finger in flour, wrote one word. That single word that made the world stop and start in a second.
There. He brushed off his hands and stood, unfolding tall, taller still. Squaring his shoulders to face me, this old man I’ve loved for nearly a lifetime looked younger in that moment than ever before.
And this old woman?
Though not made mute, I, too, was silent. When I finally spoke, the resounding song on my lips was and is proclaimed often, to many, to any who will hear—
The Lord has done this for me. In these days, he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.
Mostly, I sing to Zechariah, which always makes him smile behind silent lips. Their only sound for this season is the song of his tender kisses, his hands often caressing my swollen middle.
Just to be sure. To be certain.
Together we dream of the day Zechariah will cut the life cord—when we’ll hear our baby’s cry, watch our son grow, discover who Abba wants John—God’s Gift—to be.
Yes, a song of three chords, soon to be four.
As I said, I will never forget his face.
It’s good to recount God’s goodness. What blessings from above come to mind? Give Him thanks, again.
Thank you, Kind Father, for using people like Elizabeth and for allowing our hearts, even all these years later, to be stirred with gratitude by her story. Amen.