The Brown Wasps

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Just outside the great Eastern city of Jerusalem is a region called “Place of the Skull.” It is a place where men never sit. Sometimes known as Golgotha, the region is frequently the rendezvous point of those who have traveled to this place and their king. It is here that a certain element seeks refuge from their sins. They are the meek, the convicted and the poor and they cling to life for a few more hours, patiently awaiting death among the shadows of the city’s walls. Similarly, I’ve witnessed on occasion in mid-winter, the untimely emergence of a butterfly. Though the outside temperature may not characterize winter, the brightness and warmth of the sun may convey an inappropriate signal to the insects. They flitter and drift while seeking sustenance, attending to mock flowers and greenery. After awhile, they seem to settle onto some hollow stem, slowly shifting their wings, as if the motion would quit the inevitable. Quite promptly upon inactivity, the butterflies are transformed into brittle works of art, their stiff bodies belying their fragileness. There in Golgotha, it is no different except that Jerusalem is bustling with enterprise. Still, the hung ones cling to life while Jerusalem pursues commerce and condemning. The persecuted men cling to life not knowing that giving them up may beget life everlasting. Resting every now and then, their pierced bodies deliver great pain as they try to stave off the inevitable, their backs pressed into the olive wood.

These men are not at rest, for resting snatches their ability to breath. For a few seconds they may rest, only to require gasping for life-giving air to fill their lungs, by pushing their unnourished and parched bodies to their toes. A Roman guard comes by on his round, nudging them to their toes.

“If you sleep, you die,” he warns.

Then a strange ritual begins. One of the men is difficult to awaken. The guard places a sponge filled with wine vinegar on a long stick and proffers it to the man to drink. Like a chick raising its head to receive nourishment from its mother, the man rises to his toes, mouth hung open, anticipating the brew. Upon drinking, the man returns to his slumped position.

Yet, another man continues to sleep, but shifts slightly. On the cusp of death, he takes no drink. The soldier continues his rounds, knowing that perhaps, on his next pass, the man will have died. He moves on, not looking back.

Inevitably, all of the men will die. Like the butterflies, they will pass while clinging to a resource that once gave life. For many of the men, it is far better to die here, with women to care for their needs and others to share their misfortune, whether the crucifixion was earned or whether it was imparted on them by society’s ignorance. And amidst all of the great number of journeys that would begin here, somebody is bound to come out all right. Somebody.

Perhaps it is with the same vain feelings that the butterflies cling to the frozen stems of once life-giving plants. You hold on until the dear end, even if it’s being mounted onto a wooden cross on a barren hillside. A man needs a place to die – a place among the living, even if those living are the condemned, dying along side of you. A man has a right to his cross.

But oftentimes, the place is lost on our journey; at other times, it’s nonexistent. We cling to a time and a place so that we might be prepared for our death. This is why the voices, real or unreal, stirred from within our souls are disquieting. They bring memories with them; memories of places and people with whom there’s no reality of reunion. But the place brings out our faith; our faith that redemption may be replaced that which we otherwise might have thought forfeited. Jesus found his place on a cross just outside of Jerusalem. It was this event that permits men, along with the butterflies, to seek our place - our cross.

Created: Mar 16, 2010

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Pete Conrad Document Media