When tasked with writing a story for the topic "Banquet", I could think of no other feast than the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. And I tried, believe me. It was my first thought, and it was accompanied by a favorite Bible School song from my childhood titled (what else?) The Wedding Banquet (aka I Cannot Come). Along with the persistent earworm, my Bible reading happened to take me through the Scriptures about the Wedding. The persistent earworm split, broke into beautiful harmony, and started broadcasting in stereo.
All this time, I was eking out a story. It was a pretty good idea, but then I came to a wall. I brainstormed with a buddy, and instead of no direction, I now had three. And I tried following each of them, but nothing seemed right. I'm tenacious, though, and was DETERMINED to finish SOMETHING and enter the "Banquet" writing challenge.
It was when I cried out to God the night before the 10am deadline, and told Him I only wanted to write what He wanted, but I was stuck and I couldn't go on unless He was in it. Then I sat, and was still before the Lord for a time (not easy for me). But my wandering mind took me to "What would a person wear to the Wedding Banquet, anyway?"
Why, "The Cloak of Righteousness" of course. And what does that look like? Then I saw the most beautiful thing unfold in my mind's eye. I hope I did justice to the vision God gave me, and that you are blessed.
Although she was very aware of his reputation, Lydia had never actually met him. That she would be asked to dine with him? The thought had never crossed her mind. But he issued the invitation himself--in person. And Lydia giddily accepted.
"I'll be hosting a banquet soon," he'd said, "and it would bring me great pleasure if you would be my guest. I have a place at my table reserved for you." His chocolaty eyes had melted her insides, and she was assured of his sincerity.
When she'd said yes, joy lit up his face, and he drew a folded garment from his coat. "My gift to you," he'd said, and let the small bundle unfurl to the ground in a shimmering cloud of pure white. "I pray you'll wear it to the banquet." He'd slipped the cloak over Lydia's shoulders, and she'd felt lighter, as if the weightless cloth was lifting her. She'd looked into his face and was ready to follow him anywhere.
"Soon," he said, "I'll be back to collect you. I can't say exactly when, but I hope you'll wait."
In the decades since his visit, Lydia had fallen about as far as a person could fall. Her descent from the suburbs to the streets was slow but steady, and now the only thing that remained of that giddy young lady with fanciful hopes and naive beliefs was her precious gift from him.
She ran her hand over the now dingy and stained cloak, its shimmer worn dull from years of serving as her backpack and grocery sack. It had kept her warm on many cold nights and cushioned her head on warm ones. She had misused it, but always appreciated its usefulness.
She didn't need a mirror to know her reflection would show the same ravages of time and trial, but Lydia had stopped worrying about the wrinkles, stains, and wear on both of them long ago; she was pretty sure homeless ex-prostitutes weren't welcome at his table.
Now, lo and behold, here he stood again. Even in the shadowy, dark space behind the dumpster she'd chosen as her shelter, she could see that his eyes hadn't changed. She started having that nice, melty feeling and looked away, embarrassed.
"Come, Lydia," he said, and held out his hand. "It's time for the banquet."
Lydia's tongue felt stuck in her throat. "But Sir, surely you don't still want me to...?"
"But surely I do! Your place at the table is ready and waiting. Come," he said, and he smiled.
"Your other guests, Sir. What will they say? I'm...?"
"Lydia, you are the guest I'm concerned about."
"Oh, but the cloak, Sir. I've ruined it. I'm so sorry. How can I...?"
"Ruined, is it? Rise, my good woman. Come out into the light. Let us see." He took Lydia's hand and pulled her to her feet, letting the cloak fall to makeshift cardboard pallet.
"Sir, I'm so ashamed. It's more than the cloak that I've ruined. I cannot come. I'm no longer worthy." Lydia could only look as high as his feet.
"Yes. You are." He picked up the cloak and led Lydia to the puddle of light from a street lamp. Shaking out the cloak, he said, "And look, your cloak isn't ruined either."
Lydia gasped to see the cloth radiating with diaphanous beauty once again. He wrapped the cloak around her shoulders and lifted her chin. She finally looked full in his face. No, he hadn't changed at all.
"Come," he said, "and take your rightful place at my table. The banquet can't begin without you."
"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (The Message)