A grinding, rattling noise interrupted the afternoon stillness surrounding the big yellow house. Tony glanced up from his homework.
“What on earth was that?” he muttered.
He listened, straining to hear more, but the only sound coming through his open window was the warbling work song of a busy house wren gathering twigs for his fencepost estate.
“S-c-r-e-e-c-h . . . Bang! There it was again. The boy got up from his desk and walked across the room. Bending low by the window, he searched the yard for the source of such an awful racket.
Ra-tat-tat-tat-boom- tinkle- thud! This was getting interesting. Then Tony stiffened as he realized the clamor was coming from the direction of his workshop.
“Hey,” he yelled out from his second-story perch, “what’s going on down there? Is there someone in my worksh–”
Crash! Tony jumped back from the window, almost tripping over the end of his bed. He raced down the stairs,through the kitchen, and out the back door. Running across the yard toward the barn he envisioned his precious workshop in shambles, victim of some uninvited burglar or vandal. “Not Voyager,” he whispered to himself. “Please, not Voyager.”
The door to the workshop hung open. Tony entered, ready to do battle with whoever was causing the disturbance. The room was empty. But someone, or something, had been there just moments before. Tools, charts, printouts, circuit boards, and computer cables lay in scattered heaps on the floor. Across his normally neat worktable, an assortment of books, electronic diagrams, software manuals, and drafting pencils created a frantic mosaic of destruction.
“Oh, help!” Tony gasped, his brain refusing to accept what his eyes were showing him.
Footsteps sounded in the doorway as Tie Li rushed into the room. “Tony, I saw you running. What the mat–” Her words caught in her throat. The girl surveyed the awful scene, her eyes wide with shock. “Tony!” she said breathlessly. “Your workshop. It look like war.”
The boy nodded. “That’s for sure.”
“But who do this? Who make such a mess?”
Tony sighed. “I don’t know, little sister. I just don’t know.”
“Can you fix it?”
“I think so.” Tony stepped over a pile of broken glass that up until a few minutes ago had been a lamp. “It looks like my stuff was just thrown around the room. I don’t see any major damage.”
He flipped on his computer resting on one comer of the workbench. Tony studied the words and numbers appearing in rapid sequence across the screen.
Tie Li joined her brother at the keyboard. “Is Voyager OK?”
Tony typed the command VOYAGER SYSCHK and waited, watching the computer screen. Within moments the words SYSCHK COMPLETE–ALL SYSTEMS NORMAL flashed in glowing letters.
“Well, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the machine, but I’ll run several more tests just in case.” The boy scratched his head. “But I sure would like to know what happened in here.”
Outside, a car door slammed and Kim’s voice called out, “Tony, Tie Li, anybody home?”
“We in workshop,” Tie Li shouted back, not looking up from the computer. Tony typed in command after command. Each time the screen reported everything normal.
Kim entered the room. “Whoa, what happened in here?”
“That’s what we’d like to know,” Tony said, his eyes concentrating on the words flashing in front of him.
“Is Voyager OK?”
“I guess so.” The younger boy rested his arms on the workbench. “I don’t understand. Nothing is stolen. No major damage has been done. My workshop’s just been . . . trashed.”
“I sorry, Tony.” Tie Li placed her hand on her brother’s shoulder. “I sorry this happened.”
“One of life’s little mysteries,” Kim said soberly. Kinda spooky.”
“Yeah, spooky,” Tony repeated.
Tie Li looked around the room. “I don’t like spooky.”
The three of them spent the remainder of the afternoon putting the workshop back in order. Tony’s appraisal of the situation proved correct. Nothing was stolen. Whatever had paid a visit to the little room at the edge of the barn had simply rearranged its contents.
After the supper dishes had been washed and dried, the children excused themselves and made their way back to the workshop. Tony had promised another trip in payment for the hard work his brother and sister had provided all afternoon.
“We’re going to Galilee,” he said, booting up his computer. “The Book says the Nazarene spent a lot of time there.”
“I don’t blame Him,” Kim added. “It’s beautiful along the shoreline, especially in the early morning, like when we were there last time.”
“Everybody is probably happy that Jesus is God’s Son,” Tie Lie joined in. “I know it make me happy to know that.”
Tony paused, a puzzled look on his face. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But the Book says not very many people believed who He was. Most just ignored him. Strange, isn’t it?”
Kim and Tie Li nodded. “He just wanted to help them,” the older boy said thoughtfully. “It is strange.”
Tony motioned for the others to take their places in his machine. Soon the workshop sat empty. Voyager was underway.
As usual, the machine materialized right where Tony had programmed it to appear. The Sea of Galilee sparkled in the noonday sun, its silver waves washing along the sandy shore stretching in a wide arc in both directions. Noisy gulls fought for fish scraps among abandoned boats. Cool sea breezes carried the sweet scent of distant fruit orchards and freshly plowed fields out over the waters where fish jumped at low-flying insects. The sun felt warm and friendly on the faces of the young visitors.
“Like I said, this is a great place.” Kim skipped a stone across the waves. “Everybody should have a Galilee to go to.”
“Even kids like us?” Tony pointed north along the shoreline.
The children saw a boy about their own age walking with determined steps along the beach. He carried a small bundle thrown over his shoulder. The young traveler didn’t notice the sparkling water’s cool breezes or the distant mountains. He walked, head down, mumbling to himself. As he approached, it became evident he’d been crying.
“Some friend,” the boy said, kicking at a stone in the sand, almost tripping himself in the process. “Herod should have such a friend.”
When he reached a fishing boat resting on the sands near where the children stood, the boy stopped, letting his load drop to the ground. “What’s the use?” he called out to no one. “You do your best, and nobody notices. You make one little mistake, and the whole world knows all about it.” He turned and faced the gentle waves washing in from the deep- blue surface of Galilee. “Fish,” he shouted into the wind, “you’ve got it made. Nobody tells you what to do. Nobody sits around waiting for you to make a mistake. Nobody yells at you when you do something wrong.”
“Yes, but who wants to be a fish?” A man’s voice echoed along the shore. Startled, the boy looked up to see a traveler coming down the hillside toward the waters.
“It’s Jesus,” Tie Li whispered.
The man walked over to where the young boy stood. “You look angry,” he said.
“What do you care?” the boy snapped back. “You’re just like everybody else.”
“Oh, I suppose you’ve never had your best friend turn on you like a jackal.”
The man paused. He looked out over the waters, his face suddenly sad. “Everybody has a friend like that sometime in his life. It’s just . . . part of living in a sinful world. ” He turned back toward the boy. “It must have happened to you a little earlier than some. You want to tell me about it?”
The boy studied the Man’s face. “I know you. You’re that rabbi my village is talking about. I saw you not long ago over there on the hillside. Yes . . . I remember. You talked about peacemakers and love and stuff like that.”
“I’m glad you were listening.”
“Hey, you’re a pretty good storyteller.”
The boy looked out over the waves. “How come nobody does what you said?”
“I wish I knew.” The Nazarene sat down on the sand. “It would make life a lot easier on all of us.”
The boy thought for a moment, “Rabbi, you said for us to love our enemies. But what if our enemy used to be our best friend? What if he hurt us real bad? It’s hard to love someone all over again.”
The Nazarene nodded. “Yes, it is hard. You feel . . . betrayed, right?”
“Yeah, that’s it. How do you love a friend who betrayed you?”
The young boy sat down in the sand beside the man. He waited, watching the waves spread across the shore.
“It depends on what kind of love you had for your friend in the first place,” the man said thoughtfully.
“What kind of love?” The boy looked up in surprise. “I thought there was only one kind.”
“Oh, there are many types of love, but only a few include forgiveness. You see, that’s the secret. The best love is forgiving love. That means you make a person your friend, no matter what he or she does in the future. You say, ‘I will be this person’s friend no matter what happens.’ Then, when your buddy does something to hurt you, you have forgiveness all ready and waiting. You may have to work at it, but it’s the best way to love someone.” The man’s voice softened. “Believe me, sometimes it’s the only way that love is possible.”
“Forgiving love,” the boy repeated. “Do you love all your friends that way?”
The Nazarene smiled, but the boy noticed tears in the eyes of the traveler. “Yes, I do,” he said softly. “I must.”
“There you are!” A group of disciples joined the two on the shore. “We’ve been looking for you. Let’s get going. They’re expecting us for supper.”
The Nazarene stood and helped the boy to his feet. “Would you like to walk with us? We’re heading north to Capernaum. Is that where you are going?”
The young boy thought for a moment. “Yeah, that’s where I’m going. That’s where I live.”
Jesus smiled and nodded. “Good. Walk with us.”
One of the disciples pulled the Rabbi aside. “Master, we don’t have time to baby-sit a runaway kid. You know that’s what he is, don’t you? I mean, look at his bundle. Classic runaway, if you ask me.”
“Yes, I know,” the Rabbi said. “But he needs a friend right now. You can understand that, can’t you, Judas?”
The group walked away, moving along the shoreline. Tony, Kim, and Tie Li watched them go, each lost in thought. The Nazarene had presented a new meaning for love. It was simple, beautiful. Tony frowned. Time would tell just how strong forgiving love can be.