23

Justin Goes Home

Two years had passed before order was restored in Rome. Justin, having completed his twenty years of military service, was granted retirement. He was given a five thousand denarius bonus for valiant action in stopping the charge of the rebels on Tiberiusí palace. The citation read, "Centurion Justin offered his life and the lives of his men to protect the life of Caesar Tiberius." A ship now carried Justin back to Spain to be reunited with his wife and son.

He thought to himself, "Surely, despite the detour and delay, Malchus somehow found his way home."

Back in Spain, Brigitte had kept herself busy with her weaving. She had finished the woolen cover for Malchusí bed and had returned to Lauraís shop to buy more of the same blue and green yarns for a cover for the bed where she and Justin slept. As she would hold the cover against the bed to measure her slow progress, she would be reminded of how empty the bed had seemed these many months.

Outwardly she seemed cheerful to friends and neighbors, but inwardly she carried the burden of a wife and mother not knowing if her husband and son were indeed safe. Many a morning she would rise early and bow her knee to the God of the universe, Who knows all and created all. In His presence, she would pour out all that was in her. Sometimes she would go on for over an hour, and other times all she could do was cry. But whatever she did, she always had the assurance in her heart that He heard her and would someday answer her cry.

Every now and then, just when she wondered how she could make it through another day, a neighbor or a friend would stop by with an encouraging word or offer a kind act. Sometimes she would even be so fortunate as to get wind of the fact that Justin was alive and well and had met with no injury in the heat of battle. Unfortunately, she hadnít heard a word from anyone about Malchus or his whereabouts.

Some days were better than others, but on her worst days, she would have to fight against the inner debilitating fear that Malchus was lost at sea or had met with some murderous fate along the way. He was her only child. God forbid that any harm such as this should come his way. And if it had, she didnít know if she could bear it.

It was early in the morning when she knelt down this day to pray. The mist was still lifting off of the garden outside when she began, "God of the sun and moon and stars." But before she had finished the address, she heard another voice behind her joining in. Wondering if the dear voice that she recognized was part of her imagination, she turned her head to behold Justin standing in the doorway right behind her in his military cloak.

"Oh, Justin, youíre back!" she exclaimed, almost in disbelief, "You made it safely!"

"I did at that," he said with a smile on his face.

It had been so long since she had seen him that he looked taller than she had remembered, and the squareness of his jaw seemed more pronounced. Whatever it was about him certainly looked attractive and pulled her to him like a magnet. It felt so good to be in his arms again. Finally she could relax a little knowing that he was safe. But where was Malchus? What had become of him?

"Justin," she said softly as he rocked her back and forth, "have you heard any news about Malchus?"

There was a long pause, then he said reluctantly, "No, my dear, I havenít heard a word. I was hoping he would be here. All I know is that the ship on which he traveled was diverted to Palestine to pick up more soldiers for Rome. Other than that, I havenít heard a thing."

For two long years, Brigitte had held on to the hope that Justin knew where Malchus was and that he was safe. Now, all of the hope she had clung to vanished like the mist from the garden under the morning sun, and she feared that Malchus was dead. She could no longer hold back the tears.

Justin, understanding the kind of fear she felt, held her more closely and began to stroke her long blond hair. The wetness of her tears dampened his chest through his cloak, and all he could do was hold her and let her cry. After a few moments, Brigitteís sobs began to subside, and she asked rather hesitantly, "Do you suppose we could go to Palestine and see if we can find him?"

"Of course we can," he answered gently. "And since Iím now a retired centurion, I can draw whatever money we need from the governors in any of the Roman provinces along the Mediterranean. The money will be drawn out against our account, of course, but with my regular retirement pay plus a bonus, we should have enough that we shouldnít have to be too concerned."

"Do you think Palestine would be a good place to start?" Brigitte asked.

"I think so," answered Justin, "as that was the place that General Cornelius sent the ship. Ever since the shipís diversion, I have found myself praying to God asking Him to keep Malchus safe."

"I have too," said Brigitte as she looked up into her husbandís eyes for reassurance.

"Donít worry, dear," he said tenderly, "Everything is going to be all right."

"Do you really think so, Justin?"

"I donít just think so. I know so," he said confidently.

Even though Brigitte knew that he couldnít know any more than she did about the situation, it was good to hear the confidence in his voice and that all would someday be well.

"Justin, do you think it would help if we prayed together about this situation?"

"It certainly canít do any harm. Come on. Letís kneel down and pray."

With that, Brigitte pulled her face away from Justinís chest and brushed the matted hair back from her forehead. She then took her husbandís hand and kneeled down on the mat that covered the dirt floor. Justin kneeled down next to her. Drawing Brigitteís hand close to his heart, he began, "God of the sun, moon and stars, hear our prayer on this early morning. Our son has been missing for two years, and we want to find him. Please help us in our journey and give us Your favor and Your direction. Thank You for bringing me home safely and help us to bring our son back safely as well."

A bit relieved, Brigitte wiped her tears away and managed to put a smile on her face. Justin, sensing her hope, placed his hand under her chin and lifted her head saying, "The ship I arrived on is leaving tomorrow for a stop in Rome and then on to Caesarea. What do you say we plan to be aboard?"

"Oh, Justin," Brigitte exclaimed, "that would be wonderful. I just hope that we will find him."

"We only have to do our part, then we can trust God for the rest. If He has placed this in our heart, then it will most surely come to pass."

The rest of the day was spent packing and making arrangements for the long trip so that they could leave early the next morning without delay.

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