The Innkeeper’s Wife

Luke 10
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to thehost, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

The Innkeeper’s wife

She knew it was her son the moment the Samaritan opened the door, carrying the bloody body. Her husband helped set the body on the table. The boy’s legs were curled up, as though he had emerged from a generous womb, still wearing the blood of birth. Both legs wore cloth bandages like incomplete shrouds. The Samaritan had used oil and wine to cleanse the wounds. The oil shone on the boy’s thighs, which were naked to the crotch.

Her husband did not yet recognize their son. He didn’t expect him, she mused-—and certainly not like this. He was sure that the boy had perished in the caves and deserts, where he had sought and then fallen into a life of deception and drunkenness. (Yes, the seeking always comes first, whether it be from curiosity or boredom.)

“Can you hear me, Son? I am anointing you, preparing you for healing. First here—at the top of your head. Oh, how unruly your hair is now! We’ll wash these tufts. They’re clumped with blood. Oh, so many cuts!” She massaged soap into the hair and then poured cup after cup of water on it. “Once this hair is clean and combed, you’ll look more like yourself. Perhaps even you will recognize your image. You used to preen by any glass that showed your reflection. And you joked. I loved the way your mind worked! Always inventing adventures. You were hungry for action and mystery, restless for any new thing. I could see it as you fidgeted during evening prayer. You were eager to be done with our petitions and get outside to run with your friends. And oh, you did have friends! They were like you and so you found each other. I wonder if any of them is yet alive. Did they do this to you? But they did not kill you. I praise God. As your mother I hereby bless your mind to calm, to settle into your healing. Let your thoughts consider the grace that preserved you. Let the tangled philosophies of those who would trade debate for prayer unknot so that you might feel the strength of my love, which overpowers any words.

“Let your eyes find beauty and interpret it well. You have let yourself mock it in the past. Now examine the blooms on the cactus. Memorize petals. Acquaint yourself with the glory of rain and the majesty of dawn. And see God’s light in everyone you meet, just as the Samaritan saw it in you. Never look at another person without discerning beauty.

“Let your ears hear the quiet things, the whispers of angels and the patient river currents. Hear these sounds just as you heard them from my womb, before you entered the noise of barter and betrayal.

“You chased after intoxicating smells. Now let your nostrils take in less exotic scents–of grain on the fire and of cypress trees and olive leaves.

“You have learned to lie. I bless your mouth. Let no lie cross your lips now. Educate yourself in true and enduring things, and speak of them reverently. Laugh well, but never at the expense of another. Did the thieves, those who were once your companions, laugh as you fell? Remember the pain of their mocking and vow to never mock another.

“For a time, you would not turn your head to look at me when I called you. You were determined, and perhaps you were ashamed. Nor would you bow your head at moments of our family’s prayers. You were too restless, too preoccupied, perhaps too arrogant to bow your head. Now, let your neck do what it was intended to do—turn your head to the voices that invite you to peace. Let your neck teach your head to bow.

“Oh, these wounds! You will bear scars for the rest of your life. Each one will be an emblem not only of how far you went from home but of God’s mercy in sending someone to help you. You are not alone in knowing such scars. I bless your wounds that they will remind you of all you suffered, and thus remind you of others who suffer. The last of your healing will consist in serving others. That is always the last part of healing.

“Precious legs—let them run again. Precious feet, now blistered—-let them bear your weight to clean water and to sanctuaries for the soul. Let your feet be among those which are called beautiful.”

Her husband joined her then.

“Do you recognize our son?” she asked him.

“Eve,” he said sadly, “our son died. This boy is not ours.”

“Is he not?” she asked. “Is he not?”

The boy half opened his eyes. “Mother?” His voice trembled. It was not quite a whisper. His lips were crusted and striped with blood lines where they had split.

“Yes,” she said.

The husband looked into the boy’s eyes. Hazel green. His lost son’s eyes were brown.

“God is merciful,” the husband said.

The innkeeper’s wife was pouring oil onto the boy’s back now, whispering blessings about letting go of pain, and shuffling off burdens.

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (www.heartofafricafilm.com)


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