Tanara McCauley

Culturally Imagined Stories



A woman had a dream.

She walked for miles through fields and deserts, grasslands and marshes, following the sun. It warmed her face and shined in her eyes, making her squint as she journeyed.

She pushed aside tall stalks of wheat, trudged through wet sand. Her thighs strained up steep mountainsides. In every place the sun led her past countless people. At the river they fished and washed. On the plains they shepherded. In the cities they bustled. Each of them backs turned and busy.

All but the deformed ones.

Every face she saw was contorted in some way. Young and old, from snow-white skin to complexions of polished sable.

They looked at her as she approached, then beyond her as she passed.

Hope. Relief. Joy. These emotions changed their dull expressions at sight of the invisible presence behind her, but each time she turned for a glimpse of who or what moved them so, she saw nothing.

Then she reached the end of her journey.

She stood at the edge of a cliff overhanging the ocean. The waves danced and bellowed beneath her. She could feel the spray dust her face and settle in her hair, smell the water tinged with the scent of marine life.

She breathed deep, and the cool air coursed through her like a live thing. She gasped and fell to her knees, her body radiating inside as the sun beamed overhead. It rose higher, calming the waves as its rays stretched across the sea. The same stillness settled over her.

She turned. The deformed ones had followed. They gathered around a young man dressed in white, their excited chatter floating through the air like feather-light laughter. Something about the man struck her as familiar. His hands glowed. Beautiful. He reached out to each face, his touch healing and drying heavy tears.

Then on they went, one by one, faces lifted like blooming flowers, into the brilliance of the sun.

The man faced the woman, and she woke with a start.

Her husband sat next to her in bed, mouth gaped, eyes on her. “You won’t believe the dream I just had,” he said.

Their son rushed in, his five-year-old legs pumping, and landed between them. “Jesus touched my hands, Mommy. So I could touch the people.”

Heat spread across her chest, as if the sun from her dream hovered over her heart. She wrote these things on lilac-scented stationery and tucked it in her Bible.

Her son grew and finished his schooling. His mother came to the graduation, her husband with her in spirit. She had fished out the stationery for the occasion, held it gently between her fingers, the faint scent of lilac still present on the worn paper.

He laughed when he saw it. Surely she didn’t expect him to follow through on a dream nearly two decades old. His name was already renowned in circles, his future wealth guaranteed, the likes of which he couldn’t achieve if he didn’t choose his own path.

Stunned, she opened her mouth, but the accusing stares of his colleagues silenced her. She tried to remember the dream, how vivid it had been, how real. She wanted to convince her son of the urgency of his purpose. But like the scent on the paper, the dream had faded. The faces had wilted to a silvery blur in her memory. “But Jesus…”

He shook his head. She looked at her boy, into those bright brown eyes that shined with defiance yet yearned for her approval. Not wanting to push him away, she shunned instead the unsettling stir in her heart. She crumpled the paper. “Do what makes you happy, son.”

After he hugged her, he and his colleagues stood among throngs of people that had appeared from nowhere. A deafening rip sounded from the ground and a great chasm opened the earth. The woman stumbled toward the edge but someone caught her from behind. She looked and saw her husband there, his face grave as he gazed past her to where their son stood on the other side.

The young face that had just beamed with triumph and promise now twisted in fear. Her boy.

A bitter cold knifed through the woman’s heart, even as the light of the sun fell so that particles in the air glittered like diamonds.

A voice cried out, “Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.”

The woman fell to her knees. The light increased around her like the touch of a soft blanket. He said her name, and she knew His voice. She lifted her head, but could not bring herself to look past the feet of bronze.

His hand touched her face, and she woke with a start.

Her husband sat next to her in bed, his eyes red and watery. “You dreamt it too,” he said.

Their son rushed in, his five-year-old legs pumping, and landed between them. “Jesus touched my hands, Mommy. So I could touch the people.” His little nose wrinkled. “He said I had to become beautiful first, so I don’t forget. But boys can’t be beautiful!”

Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.

The words filled the woman’s chest, like a whisper sparking a flame. Her husband pulled her close, and moved their son so that he sat on both of their laps. “Yes they can, son,” he said. “In their hearts and before God they can. We’ll teach you, both of us.”

Her husband looked at her. His eyes a letter of deep love, of memories and laughter and tears and forgiveness. Of peace. Of resolve.

He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“We’ll both teach you,” he repeated. “And when you forget, Mommy will never let you be okay with it. We love you too much.”

The boy mimicked his father. He grabbed her hand with his small one and planted his soft, wet lips on her skin. His fingers thin and nimble. His bright brown eyes shining. His heart soft and open, like soil for blooming flowers.



2 responses to “Beautiful”

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