70. Indian Hill
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and take heart,
And wait for the Lord.
– Psalms 27:14
The sky was full of clouds when Sara woke up. She looked at a series of X’s on her calendar. Her hands started to shake with anticipation. She let out a little scream.
She picked up her phone and called Jeremy.
“Hello?” he said, after the first ring.
“Jeremy!” she said. “It’s today! Today!”
“I know, I know, I know.”
“We’ve been waiting for so long!”
“I know,” he said.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you,” Sara said back.
She hung up the phone. A moment later it rang.
“Hey, it’s me,” Jeremy said. “I forgot. Do you want me to pick you up? We can sit on Indian Hill and watch the storm as it builds. And imagine waiting for Jesus in such a beautiful place.”
“Perfect,” she said. “Should I bring my raincoat?”
“I guess so. But you won’t need it for long.”
Jeremy had met Sara at a party thrown by a secular friend of his. His parents had encouraged him not to go.
“Those people aren’t like us,” they had said. “They don’t have our values. Satan will be all around you.”
But Jeremy had insisted on going. He wanted to test his strength, he said. After all – Jesus had spent forty days tortured by Satan. And Moses, too, was sent to wander in the desert. Why shouldn’t Jeremy put himself to the same test?
So at 10:00 he drove his little green car to his friend’s house. He opened the door and was immediately confronted with debauchery.
Sodom and Gomorrah, he thought. Couples kissed in the living room. People drank and then vomited. Everyone danced too close. They talked too loud. But Jeremy had to admit that the party was exciting, despite its ugliness. It was fresh. And he was proud, too, that he could resist the temptation all around him.
He walked into the kitchen. A beautiful brown-haired girl stood quietly by a bowl of potato chips. Jeremy noticed that she wasn’t holding a drink in her hands. He walked over.
“Can I have some?” he said, pointing to the bowl.
“Sure,” she said, “go for it.”
Jeremy filled a red cup with potato chips. He leaned against the wall, next to the girl.
“I’m Jeremy,” he said.
“Sara.” She covered her mouth with her hand.
“Nice to meet you.”
“I don’t really know anyone here,” she said, opening a can of soda.
“Yeah. I came with a friend but she disappeared. Went upstairs with some guy or something.”
“I don’t really know anyone either. This isn’t exactly my scene.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Jeremy hesitated, unsure whether he should witness to the girl.
“I – I’m a Christian,” he said finally.
Sara looked up from her soda.
“So am I,” she said.
“Wanna go sit outside? Away from these people?”
“Yes, please,” Jeremy said. “It’s awful in here.”
“I know,” she said, and they both laughed.
They sat down on the back steps of the house, the cup of chips between them. They talked about God, and their stories, and about everyone else. Sara knew a lot of theology. Jeremy noted how graceful her collarbone was, just above the neck of her dress. Her skin was translucent.
“Do you think we’re in the end-times?” Sara asked.
“Absolutely,” Jeremy said.
He pulled out the small notebook that he always carried in his back pocket.
“I’m sort of an amateur prophecy scholar.”
“That’s wonderful!” Sara said.
“I’ve made a list. All the signs, all the biblical prophecies – they point to now. This year, even. I’m pretty sure of it. I have it down to the day, I think.”
“Wow.” Sara rubbed her arms. “That’s really impressive. Really.”
“Thanks,” Jeremy said. His palms were clammy. And a ray of light shot through him, even though the night was dark.
It turned out that they lived only five minutes away from each other. They went on dates – traditional ones – drinking milkshakes and sharing cheeseburgers. They talked a lot. They would take walks in the woods behind Jeremy’s house. There they pointed out birds and tried to mimic their calls. Sometimes they held hands as they picked their way through the twigs and small plants that covered the ground.
One evening, Sara’s father knocked on her bedroom door.
“Sara?” he said.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes,” his daughter answered.
Sara’s father opened the door and sat down on her bed. Sara turned around in her desk chair and looked at him expectantly. Mr. Calvert looked at his beautiful little girl. He and his wife had raised a good daughter. He looked around her room – a poster of Jesus above her bed, her Bible on her nightstand – and he couldn’t help but smile. Sara loved to read and she did well in school. She loved Jesus truly and went faithfully to Bible Study each Wednesday night. But he could not shirk his fatherly duties in discussing the relationship questions that all Christian children struggle with.
He had come to talk to Sara about Jeremy. He liked the kid – a good kid, he thought. He was happy that Sara had found a reputable Christian boy to date.
“Sara,” Mr. Calvert said, “I wanted to talk to you about love.”
“Okay,” Sara said.
“You know that – as Christians – we love Jesus first.”
“Yes, Daddy,” Sara said.
Mr. Calvert shifted his position. This was not an easy conversation for him, although he had practiced it many times in the shower that morning.
“Well” – he cleared his throat – “that kind of love is not just spiritual. It’s corporeal as well. That means ‘of the body.’ And it means that, in loving Christ, we choose not to love anyone else in a way that could dishonor Him.”
“As you know,” he continued, “love of the flesh not only dishonors the Lord, but is Satan’s way of working himself into our souls.”
He paused for Sara’s nod.
“Love – physical love – is a commitment between a man, a woman and God. And God only condones that within – well, within the holy bonds of marriage.”
Mr. Calvert sat back and breathed. His speech was finished.
“Don’t worry, Daddy,” Sara said. “Jesus is in my thoughts always. And my body, soul and mind are His.”
“Good,” Mr. Calvert said. “Good.”
He stood up and kissed his daughter on the head.
“I love you, sweetheart. And Mom does too. And we like Jeremy an awful lot.”
“Love you, Dad,” she said.
Jeremy sat in his room studying prophecy. He had started with Revelation, and then Isaiah, and then interpretations of the books by leading prophecy scholars. He played around with numbers and ideas, interpreting them as he thought wisest – always making sure that he did nothing Satanic. Jeremy loved his prophecy, though. It wasn’t a game to him, but it was his greatest hobby. If you could call it that, that is. He didn’t like to.
First Corinthians ran through his head:
“Love never fails. Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
The greatest of these is love, Jeremy thought. Paul’s own words.
He put down his notebook and lay back in his bed.
“I love you, Sara,” Jeremy whispered. His eyes were open and he looked, through his window, at the moon. It was beautiful behind the trees, and half full.
One Sunday evening Sara and Jeremy were walking through the woods behind his house. Sara held a bunch of red and yellow leaves in one hand. She held Jeremy’s hand in the other. Jeremy was reciting from Romans, and the moment was perfect.
They stopped to rest on a log.
“Look at the sky,” Jeremy said.
Then he leaned in and kissed Sara on the mouth. Sara pulled back and they looked at each other – just for a moment – and then they kissed again.
Sara didn’t feel real. She closed her eyes as his tongue intertwined with hers. Jeremy’s body against hers left her with a sensation that was strong, and intense, and unfamiliar. Their lips held a kiss that both were afraid to break.
Sara closed her eyes and let herself become just a body – just a body on the log, while her soul and her mind sat behind a tree and looked at leaves. The next few minutes coasted hazily over her. She and Jeremy continued to kiss. With her eyes closed, Sara watched her body moving against Jeremy’s. They took each other’s clothes off, ritualistically, and then they were naked. Jeremy’s skin felt soft and his arms were strong as they held her. He kissed her face, her stomach, and Sara watched as her body responded, moving closer to Jeremy’s. Her breasts pressed against his chest as she kissed him. Her hands moved along Jeremy’s back, pulling him closer. She saw his nakedness, and her own. She saw herself lie down and she saw Jeremy climb on top of her – and it was perfect, and it felt so good – and then he was inside of her. It was like Love Meringue Pie or a warm cup of Life and Beauty, mixed with milk.
Suddenly Sara pulled herself back from behind the tree. She opened her eyes.
“Jeremy,” she said. Her voice was strained and thin.
Jeremy jerked back as if he had been burned. He climbed off of her, turned around to pull on his pants and then crouched in the dirt, shaking.
“Oh my God,” he said. “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.”
He leaned his head against the log.
Sara started to cry.
“I need to go,” Jeremy said. “I – I don’t – one of us should go. I don’t know what to do right now.”
“I know,” Sara said, “It’s not Christian.”
“What do we do, Jem?” she whispered.
Tears dripped into her mouth.
“I don’t know.”
“Do I go now?”
“I don’t know.”
“I guess I should go,” Sara said.
“Ok,” he said. He didn’t look at her.
Sara put her clothes on, and with each item she felt a piercing note of shame. She started walking down the path. As soon as she was out of Jeremy’s sight, she stopped and threw up three times.
“Oh, Lord,” she said, resting her head on the soft ground. “Forgive us, Lord. Please.” She lifted her head off the ground and vomited again.
Sara and Jeremy walked together to Indian Hill, watching the storm gather. The first drops of rain spotted Jeremy’s t-shirt. Sara could feel the energy crackling through her hair.
“Do you think it’s happening?” she said, squeezing his hand.
“I hope so,” he said.
They sat down at the top of the hill. Jeremy held his notebook in his lap. He ran his fingers absently over the words.
“What do you think Heaven will be like?” Sara asked.
“I don’t know. I guess I’ve always pictured Jesus. The feel of His hands on our shoulders, the smell of honey in the air…”
Sara nodded. She tucked her knees to her chest and looked up at the sky. It was dark, and getting darker.
“Look,” she said. “The clouds are edged with red. It’s beautiful.”
“And Heaven will be better. Just imagine. Heaven will be thousands of times better than this.”
Jeremy turned to Sara. He took a strand of her hair in his fingers.
“It’s gonna be so beautiful. And we’ll see it. Tonight. And we’ll finally be surrounded by our Brothers and Sisters.”
Sara looked into Jeremy’s eyes and smiled.
“Everyone will be like us.”
They didn’t talk for a week, overwhelmed by the weight of their mistake. But after eight days, Jeremy called Sara.
“I miss you,” he said.
“I miss you, too,” she said. “What if we prayed together?”
Jeremy agreed, and the two of them developed a new routine. Every day they knelt side by side in the woods behind Jeremy’s house, their Bibles spread across their knees. They read important verses on repentance, on forgiveness, and on sin.
They spoke about living too much in the corporeal world. They recited a simple prayer that both had learned early in their lives, as they came to accept Jesus into their hearts:
I admit that I am a sinner and I know that nothing I can do will save myself. I come to You in faith believing that You died for my sins. I invite You into my heart and accept You as the Savior and Lord of my life. By Your Grace, I will follow and obey You in all that I do.
In Your Name,
Over and over they repeated these words. Jeremy liked having Sara beside him, whispering the same things he did. They were working hard. And, he reminded himself, Our God is a loving God. He is the Good Shepherd, and He will not let His flock stray too far.
But each night, when he was alone, Jeremy was plagued by his weakness. He repeated Psalms to hammer out the images of Sara’s naked body next to his.
“I’m sorry, God,” Jeremy whispered. “I shouldn’t have slept with her. I shouldn’t have touched her. I shouldn’t have let her touch me back.”
But a flame licked at the back of Jeremy’s mind. He couldn’t shake the idea that love – physical love, love not just for God – could be something beautiful. It hadn’t been dirty or lustful – not for them. What they had done – they had made love. And he’d done it with a woman, a Christian woman, who he loved. He wasn’t sure that Jesus hadn’t been with them that evening; that He hadn’t been a player in their lovemaking.
And then Jeremy would turn back to his Bible. He searched for a verse that could offer an explanation of their passion: something that would separate them from the evils of earthly desire. But even as he looked, he knew he wouldn’t find anything.
Lightning cut bright gashes into the dark sky. The rain began to sting Sara’s legs. They had been sitting on the hill for two or three hours, waiting. Sara glanced down at Jeremy’s notebook. The pages were soggy and no longer legible.
“Jeremy?” Sara said.
He opened his eyes.
“What if He doesn’t take us?”
Thunder rocked the sky, the sound resonating through their bodies.
“What did you say?” Jeremy said.
“What if He doesn’t take us?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think we could be left behind? For what we did?”
Jeremy didn’t answer for a few seconds.
“I don’t know,” he said, exhaling. “I’m scared, too.”
Water was falling in rivers onto their heads. Sara and Jeremy continued to sit, watching the sky. Their clothing stuck to their skin. They were quieter than before. They both had their eyes closed. Sara focused on the sound of the rain hitting the grass. Eventually the two sat in complete silence.
Within an hour, the deluge stopped. The sky began to turn blue. The earth smelled damp and rich beneath them.
Sara blinked and wiped her face with her forearm. She reached for Jeremy’s hand.
“I think it’s over,” she said.
“I guess so.”
“He didn’t come.”
“I guess we should go down,” Jeremy said.
Sara nodded. Jeremy gripped her hand. They walked down the hill, marching back to their lives. The storm was over, and they were still waiting.