Saturday, November 21, 2015

Literature: Flannery O'Connor

The preacher was standing about ten feet out in the stream where the water came up to his knees. He was a tall youth in khaki trousers that he had rolled up higher than the water. He had on a blue shirt and a red scarf around his neck but no hat and his light-colored hair was cut in sideburns that curved into the hollows of his cheeks. His face was all bone and red light reflected from the river. He looked as if he might have been nineteen years old. He was singing in a high twangy voice, above the singing on the bank, and he kept his hands behind him and his head tilted back.

He ended the hymn on a high note and stood silent, looking down at the water and shifting his feet in it. Then he looked up at the people on the bank. They stood close together, waiting; their faces were solemn but expectant and every eye was on him. He shifted his feet again.

“Maybe I know why you come,” he said in the twangy voice, "maybe I don’t.”

“If you ain’t come for Jesus, you ain’t come for me. If you just come to see can you leave your pain in the river, you ain’t come for Jesus. You can’t leave your pain in the river,” he said. “I never told nobody that.” He stopped and looked down at his knees.

“I seen you cure a woman once!” a sudden high voice shouted from the hump of people. “Seen that woman git up and walk out straight where she had limped in!”

The preacher lifted one foot and then the other. He seemed also but not quite to smile. “You might as well go home if that’s what you come for,” he said.

Then he lifted his head and arms and shouted, “Listen to what I got to say, you people! There ain’t but one river and that’s the River of Life, made out of Jesus’ Blood. That’s the river you have to lay your pain in, in the River of Faith, in the River of Life, in the River of Love, in the rich red river of Jesus’ Blood, you people!”

His voice grew soft and musical. “All the rivers come from that one River and go back to like it was the ocean sea and if you believe, you can lay your pain in that River and get rid of it because that’s the River that was made to carry sin. It’s a River full of pain itself, pain itself, moving toward the Kingdom of Christ, to be washed away, slow, you people, slow as this here old red water river round my feet.

“Listen,” he sang, “I read in Mark about an unclean man, I read in Luke about a blind man, I read in John about a dead man! Oh you people hear! The same blood that makes this River red, made that leper clean, made that blind man stare, made that dead man leap! You people with trouble,” he cried, “lay it is that River of Blood, lay it in the River of Pain, and watch it move away toward the Kingdom of Christ.”