The Road to Jericho

Synopsis:

A modern day slant on an old parable. Beaten, robbed and left on the roadside, a church deacon learns a lesson about unconditional love from an unlikely source.

Story:

The Road to Jericho

By Breanna Ramsey

Author’s Note: This story deals with topics relating to Christianity in a respectful way. If the idea of God offends you, read no further (I will pray for you though). If you are not offended by this idea, I invite you to take a journey down the road to Jericho….

Lightning split the night sky as the rain came down in sheets, obscuring the two lane black top. Jerry Harris strained to see the road ahead, the wipers of his Dodge Ram pickup struggling vainly to keep the windshield clear. He was down to a mere twenty miles an hour and still could hardly see the road. The empty horse trailer he was hauling behind the truck was not making things any easier.

It had been a profitable day for him. Jerry raised horses on his ranch just outside of Jericho, Texas, and had just sold two colts in Fort Worth, one for fifteen thousand dollars in cash. The sky had been clear when he started home but the storm had come up suddenly. The three hour drive had already stretched into its fourth hour and he was still miles from home.

Another bolt of lightning flashed, striking a radio tower just a short distance ahead. It lit up like a strobe light and Jerry saw spots. When his vision cleared he was already well into the curve and heading off the road. In a panic, he cut the wheel hard and the trailer fishtailed behind him. The truck spun around wildly and finally came to a stop in the ditch, pitched at a very steep angle.

Jerry killed the engine; there was no point in even trying to get the truck out without the help of a big tow truck. He checked his cell phone and was not surprised when the display read ‘No Service’. He waited for thirty minutes, hoping someone would come along and help, but he did not see a single car, which on such a rainy night was not surprising.

Finally, the lightning moved of to the west and the rain slackened to merely heavy downpour. With a resigned sigh, Jerry grabbed his coat and hat and opened the door. Getting out of the truck was a struggle; he had to climb up and then drop to the ground. He put on his coat and hat and began trudging down the road to Jericho.

After an hour of walking he was feeling very tired. Though fifty-five he was very fit and healthy, but the muddy shoulder made every step an effort, and his boots were heavy with caked mud. At least the rain had lessened to a drizzle. Then he saw headlights approaching, and his heart leapt for joy when the vehicle pulled off the road ahead of him.

"Praise the Lord!" Jerry cried as he quickened his pace towards the car. He was on the Deacon Board at Jericho Christian Church, and he was a deeply religious man. He tithed regularly and generously, and not because he was supposed to but because he believed it was the right thing to do. He was also a firm believer in the power of prayer, and he had certainly been praying for some time.

He saw three shapes get out but with the headlights shining in his face he could not make out much more. They stopped in front of the car and waited.

"I sure am glad you fellas came along," Jerry said. "It ain’t a fit night for man or beast."

They never said a word, and the first blow to his face took him by complete surprise and knocked him to the ground. He cried out as they kicked and beat him and he tried to defend himself but he did not stand a chance. Finally, battered and bloodied he just lay there as they robbed and stripped him to his underwear and left him in the mud. As the car sped away, mud showered his nearly naked body.

He lay there for a long time, semi-conscious, until the rain picked up again and his head cleared somewhat. He struggled to his feet, his ribs hurting terribly, and began staggering down the road once more. He could only take a few steps at a time before he stumbled once more to the ground. Blood mixed with rain ran into his eyes from a deep cut across his forehead, constantly obscuring his vision.

He saw headlights coming from behind him and he turned, fearful that it might be his attackers returning. The car approached and as it slowly passed him, he recognized the vehicle. Why it was his own Pastor, Ed Jenkins! Not only did he not stop…he actually swerved over to the other side of the road!

"Pastor wait!" Jerry screamed, and he saw the man’s head turn, then quickly turn away. The car disappeared into the storm.

Jerry collapsed to the ground and cried. He did not understand. How could a God fearing man like Pastor Jenkins leave him…leave anyone out here in this storm?

"Dear Lord, I need your help," Jerry cried as he turned his face towards heaven. "I can’t walk another foot…please God…help me."

Again Jerry saw headlights approaching and he knew his prayer had been answered. And once more, as the approaching vehicle slowed he recognized its driver. It was none other than Bill Perkins, fellow member of the church board. And just like Pastor Jenkins, he saw the nearly naked figure waving for help on the side of the road and he sped away, without even a backward glance.

"Oh God, why?" Jerry moaned as he collapsed again to the muddy ground. He felt his faith shaken like it had never been shaken before. Not even when his dear wife Anna had passed away from cancer five years ago had he felt so forsaken by God. He began sobbing softly as the rain continued to fall.

He must have passed out or fallen asleep, because the next thing he knew he was being nuzzled by a horse.

A horse?

Jerry opened his eyes and sure enough, there was a horse standing over him, an Appaloosa from what he could see, and it was sniffing him curiously.

"Easy there Ashkii," the rider said. From the voice it was a woman, and she dismounted and was soon kneeling by Jerry.

Jerry tried to speak but could not, he was so drained. She looked down at him, concern evident on her pretty face. Jerry could see she had long, blonde hair dangling from beneath her western hat. She was dressed in jeans and a denim shirt and wore a duster over it all that was far more effective against the rain than Jerry’s sport coat had been.

"Take it easy, mister," the young woman said in a soft drawl. She wrapped a blanket around Jerry and he was vaguely aware of being pushed up into the saddle before he passed out again.

He drifted in and out of consciousness as the young woman walked beside the horse, one hand on Jerry to keep him from falling off. Soon they left the road and turned up a long gravel drive. Jerry came around as she carefully helped him down from the horse and practically carried him into a small ranch house.

She walked him into a bedroom and helped him onto the bed, and then disappeared. The house was dark, and Jerry suspected that the power was probably out. A few minutes later the girl returned with a basin, some wash cloths and a Coleman lantern. Very gently and tenderly she began cleaning the mud and blood from Jerry’s body.

To say he was embarrassed would have been an understatement, but he was too weak to even protest.

Once she had him cleaned up, she bandaged his cuts and taped and wrapped his ribs. Then she pulled back the covers on the opposite side of the bed and gently shifted him over and under them. Once that was accomplished, she stripped away the comforter, which was soiled and ruined, and took it out of the room. She returned quickly with another and covered him with it, but Jerry did not notice because he had passed out again.

When he opened his eyes about two hours later, he could see the young woman in a chair next to him. Her head was bowed and her hands clasped together as she spoke so softly he could barely understand her words.

"Dear Jesus watch over him and give him strength," she prayed, over and over.

"Wh..where am I?" Jerry asked.

The young woman looked up and smiled, and Jerry though she looked like an angel. She was very pretty, and had crystal blue eyes and hair the color of honey.

"I found you beside the road," she said. "It looked like someone beat you up and robbed you. I brought you to my home."

Jerry tried to rise but his weakness and a terrible pain in his side stopped him.

"I’m pretty sure you have some busted ribs," she told him. "I tried to call an ambulance but the phone lines are down. I don’t think you have any internal injuries though, thank the Lord."

Jerry smiled, knowing his prayer had been answered, and he felt ashamed for doubting God. It was people that had forsaken him, not the Lord.

"T…thank you," he whispered.

"You don’t have to thank me, hun," the young woman said. "Would you like something to eat? I can heat up some soup on the stove, at least it still works."

"That would be wonderful," Jerry said.

"You just rest then," she smiled. She had a very pretty smile. "I’ll be back in just a few minutes."

In the light of the lantern Jerry looked around the bedroom. It definitely had a feminine flare to it. On the wall there were many pictures, some of horses and others of two young women, one of whom was his rescuing angel. He supposed it was her sister or perhaps her best friend, since they did not share a family resemblance. The other girl was a very pretty brunette who looked like she might have some Native American in her.

There was also something very familiar about the young blonde woman. It was almost as if he knew her, though he could not place her face. She looked to be in her mid twenties, and he was certain he would remember if he had met her before.

She returned a few minutes later with a tray holding a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup and a glass of iced tea. She helped Jerry into a semi reclined position, and when his hands were so shaky he could not hold the spoon she fed the soup to him.

"That was very good," Jerry said when he had finished the soup.

"Thank you, I made it myself," the young woman smiled.

"You look very familiar to me," Jerry said. "Do I know you?"

"No, I don’t think you know me, Mr. Harris," she replied. Her eyes had a bit of a mischievous glint to them.

"You know my name?" Jerry said, confused. "But you just said we have never met!"

"No I said you don’t know me," she replied. "I do know you. You can call me Sherri, by the way."

"Well now I am very confused," Jerry said. "Are you married, Sherri?"

"Well I like to think so," Sherri said, still with that little grin. "You wouldn’t though. I have a life partner…her name is Becky."

"You mean…you’re a lesbian?" Jerry said, whispering the word like it was an obscenity, which to his thinking, it was.

"I guess I would have to say yes to that," Sherri said, and she almost giggled.

"Well now I am sure we never met," Jerry said. "I don’t know any..any…"

"Any of my kind?" she finished for him.

Jerry was confused and felt as though his faith was being challenged again, though he did not understand how. But he could not fathom why God had sent this…this misguided young woman to his rescue. Unless…perhaps he was supposed to tell her the Gospel? Yes that was it…he had endured this trial so that he could bring a sinner into the family of God!

"Sherri, I am very grateful for what you have done for me," Jerry said. "You have a kind and compassionate heart. I would truly hate to think that you might spend eternity separated from God because you are confused."

"I used to be confused Deacon Harris," Sherri laughed. "I assure you now I am not."

Jerry looked at her in shock; she had called him Deacon!

"Would you like to lead me in the Sinner’s Prayer?" Sherri asked, her eyes softening. "Perhaps quote John 3:16 to me…’For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have ever lasting life’.

"It’s very commendable of you, Mr. Harris, but I’m already saved."

"I’m sure you believe that, Sherri…"

"I’m sure I know that, Deacon," Sherri interrupted. "You see, you were there when I was baptized. You heard me pray the sinner’s prayer when I accepted the Lord as my savior."

Jerry stared long and hard at Sherri, still unable to place her, yet now more certain than ever that he did know her.

"You attended our church?" he asked.

"Attended is the right word," Sherri grinned. "I was born and raised in Jericho. I went to your Sunday school class at Jericho Christian Center, back when it was still a denominational church. I was part of the youth group when I became a teen, I even played guitar in the worship band…until I turned sixteen."

"W…what happened then?" Jerry asked. But a memory was already stirring in his mind. Surely it couldn’t be that?

"That was when I told my parents the secret I’d been hiding for years," Sherri said, and for the first time her smile was replaced by a sad look. Tears glistened in her eyes and her voice began to tremble slightly.

"That was when I told them I wanted to be a girl," Sherri said, "and when they supported me, even though they didn’t really understand, that was when the Board of Deacons asked us to leave the church."

"Marvin?" Jerry asked, eyes wide in shock. "Marvin Braddock?"

"It’s Sherri Braddock now," she said, her smile returning. "After we left Jericho, we moved to Dallas. My folks got me a therapist who specialized in gender issues, and I started taking hormones and going through transition. When I turned nineteen I had my gender reassignment surgery. I’ve been living as a complete woman for the past seven years, and have never been happier."

Jerry was nearly beside himself, he was so confused now. Marvin Braddock had been a shy, timid boy who bore no resemblance to this confident, sure woman before him. Yet as he looked at her face, he could see the resemblance. Marvin had always been soft looking. Tall and athletic, but lanky and not muscular, he had been a good baseball player, but his real love had always been horses. Why he used to come out to the ranch and help out in the stables and the only payment he would ever accept was a ride. He had a natural way with horses.

"It really is you, isn’t it?" Jerry asked.

"Yes it is," Sherri smiled.

"I don’t know what to say, Mar.. I mean, Sherri."

"When we were asked to leave…I was so angry with God and the church," Sherri said softly. "I carried that anger for a long time…through my transition and into my life as a woman. But deep inside there was a part of me that still believed the things I learned in Sunday school; that God loves us all, that He wants us to spend eternity with Him. Then I met Becky and she told me it was all true still, that it was people who had forsaken me, not God."

The words cut Jerry like a knife; echoing his very thoughts from earlier. Still, what she had done, it was obscene…to change the gender God gave you was wrong!

"But Sherri, to go against the way God created you…."

"I was very sorry to hear about your wife," Sherri said, catching Jerry off guard. "She was a very kind woman."

"Yes she was," Jerry said.

"Do you believe God caused the cancer that killed her?" Sherri asked.

"Of course not!" Jerry replied heatedly. "Disease, sickness, things like cancer came into the world because of sin. When man fell, he opened the world to such suffering."

"What about a child born with a birth defect," Sherri asked. "Is that God’s will?"

"No, the same applies there. God created a perfect world for us to live in, but Adam and Eve sinned, and they gave Satan a foothold. They allowed sin into paradise, and with that came all the suffering we endure today."

"And if medicine or surgery could correct that birth defect, are the parents going against God’s will?"

"To ease suffering and give someone a better life is never against God’s will." Jerry said patiently.

"But the child was born… created with that birth defect." Sherri persisted.

"Yes but again, sin allowed such things into the world."

"So if disease and suffering, cancer and birth defects came into the world because of original sin, couldn’t other things have too?" Sherri asked. "Isn’t it possible that a girl could be born in a boy’s body? Isn’t it possible that who you are attracted to is part of you from birth?

"I believe what you’re saying Deacon…I believe that God created a perfect world for us, and maybe if Adam and Eve had not sinned, and the world was the perfect place it was intended to be, then I would have been born a girl, and Becky would have been born and grown up and fell in love with a man…and your wife would not have died of cancer. But the world isn’t perfect, is it? Why is it wrong for me to correct a birth defect, and why is it wrong for Becky to love me. Why is it wrong for us to be happy?"

Sherri  was crying now, not angry or bitter tears, but tears of pain. Tears that told Jerry she truly wanted him to understand. And something was stirring in his heart…a flicker of light that told him what she said made sense. He had been brought up to believe that people like her had chosen to be the way they were…but what if they really had no choice? What if they were born that way?

"I..I..I don’t have an answer for you, Sherri," Jerry said.

"I should let you rest," Sherri said, drying her eyes. "You’ve had a rough night. If the phones are still out in the morning, I’ll take you into town in my truck. Holler if you need anything, I’ll be just out in the den."

Sheri collected the tray and stood up. As she walked towards the door Jerry could not help but notice the graceful, feminine sway to her hips. He also could not hide from the fact that Sherri seemed to be much more comfortable and happy than Marvin had ever been.

"Sherri?"

Sherri stopped in the doorway and turned.

"I’m very sorry for the way we treated you and your family," Jerry said. "I hope one day you can forgive us."

Sherri smiled, and it was like the sun had come out in the middle of the night.

"I forgave you all a long time ago," she said. "It’s something I learned in Sunday School."

*****

The phones were still out the next morning, so Sherri found some clothes for Jerry; she still had a few pairs of men’s jeans that fit him and a big flannel shirt. She brought her truck around to the front of the house, a weathered Ford F150, and helped Jerry into it.

As they drove to town, they could see the signs of damage all around. The storm had truly been severe, and it looked like several tornadoes may have touched down.

"Sherri, please don’t take this the wrong way, but what are you doing back here?" Jerry asked as they neared the city limits.

"I got my degree in veterinary medicine a year ago at LSU," Sherri told him. "Besides working at your place, you might recall I used to help out Doc Carter at the clinic."

"Yes I remember," Jerry smiled. "He always said you would make a fine vet one day."

"Well we kept in touch, and a few weeks back I got a letter from him," Sherri explained. "He wants me to join his practice, and in a few years, when he retires, I’ll take it over."

"Doc Carter is a sly one," Jerry smiled. "He’ll get you in here and let people get to know you and by the time he retires and you take over you’ll be part of the community, and too valuable to be run off again."

"I have no intention of hiding who I am until he retires," Sherri said. "I am not ashamed of who I am."

"I am ashamed of who I am," Jerry said. "Or perhaps it’s of who I was. I still don’t have the answer to the question you asked me last night Sherri, but you have given me a lot to think about. I for one will be behind your return one hundred percent."

"That might make you a bit unpopular on the Deacon Board," Sherri said.

"I intend to resign from that immediately," Jerry aid, and then he told her about the Pastor and his fellow board member leaving him on the roadside.

"Well Jerry, you were in your skivvies and covered in mud," Sherri offered. "I’m sure they didn’t know it was you."

"Did you know who I was when you stopped?" Jerry asked. "No, of course not. But you would not have left another human being there. You acted with love and compassion towards a stranger."

"Just something else I learned in Sunday School," Sherri smiled. "’Love thy neighbor as thy self’."

"Well I was certainly blessed when God sent me my own Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho." Jerry replied.

Notes:

As always I would love to see your comments.



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