Anne squeezed Harmony’s hand. Harmony squeezed back in an unspoken understanding that they were both anxious but excited. Adilah walked a few paces infront of them. The woodland path was opening out to a spacious clearing.
“Here we are,” said Harmony, gently.
In the middle of the clearing was a fireplace. Three figures sat around it talking quietly. As the three women approached, one of the figures turned and saw them. He stood up, which made Adilah hesitate.
“That is a man,” said Adilah under her breath, but loud enough for the group to hear.
“Yes, it is,” said Anne. “This is our friend Simon.”
Simon waved with both hands, they were now close enough to see the big smile on his face.
“Welcome,” he said as the women approached. “Come, would you like some soup?”
The other two figures now stood, slightly awkwardly.
“You must be Adilah?” said Simon. “Come and meet Tunde and Kanu.”
Adilah took a deep breath and held out her hand to Simon. Simon shook her hand very gently. “It’s so good to meet you,” he said warmly.
They all shared greetings and sat down on the haybales around the fire. After some initial pleasantries, they began to share their stories. Both Tunde and Kanu had been abducted into slavery, just like Adilah, and had been forced to work in diamond mines under great duress and hardship. Both had been killed when a mine shaft collapsed. They were crushed trying to rescue one of the cruel militias who had captured them. Ruach had seen this act of extraordinary Agape Love and Jesus had put them both in similar communities to Adilah upon their resurrection.
“It was so good to be around men, and men that understood my journey so well,” remarked Adilah as they walked back through the woodland to their cabins. “It’s clear that Jesus is giving us all so many ways to find new life.”
Harmony took a sip of water. “And that is how Adilah began to overcome her fear of men.”
A mumble of approval went around the table, each member of Thomas’ team talking quietly with those near them. The third jubilee had ended, and they were relishing every second of being together again. Jesus had taken them to one of his favourite restaurants in Zion.
“Tunde and Kanu are just two of the many men in Simon’s community. Simon knew they were ready to meet women, who they had been denied seeing for decades whilst enslaved,” said Jesus. “It was healing for everyone.”
“That was about 15 years into the Jubilee,” said Anne. “After initial meetings like these, the men and women began to socialise and learn how to be around each other.”
“Do you think she is ready to live with more men in the next Jubilee?” asked Jesus.
“The remaining years of the Jubilee have been peaceful. I would say that she is ready,” said Harmony.
“Adilah is seeing that choosing forgiveness for her captors will be a path to further healing, but she is not truly at peace with this, yet,” said Anne. “Through her conversations with Tunde and Kanu, she has worked out that this must be a choice she will have to continually make.”
“Forgiveness is an attitude that is at the heart of Agape Love,” agreed Jesus. “It asks of us an ongoing attitude, which is maintained through understanding that Love does not hold anything against anyone.”
Harmony furrowed her brow slightly. “This is what she is are now aware of, many of the community recognise this but are finding it difficult. They don’t know how to think of those who were so cruel to them, without wanting them to face penal justice, and to suffer like they did.”
“Agape Love still pursues justice, and the justice of God includes correction,” Jesus replied. “For those who perpetrated evil and suffering, it is in the facing up to their wrongdoing where the suffering happens. Recognising what they have done becomes its own punishment, just as love is its own reward. Their suffering is not inflicted by Papa God, or by angels. However, suffering is often a necessary part of the process toward maturity in this Age.”
“So, their captors are in environments like Yuri,” observed Bull. “He meted out horrific pain and suffering during his Previous Age. This past three jubilees he has been experiencing the futility of violence and having to get used to the ineffectiveness of power and abuse. It has been an assault to his ego and his pride.”
“Tell me more about his third Jubilee,” asked Jesus.
“Yuri adapted to being in a rural farming community very quickly,” began Thomas. “He was pleased to find he was in a completely new environment with new people and decided from the first hour to have a new attitude, being quicker to smile and make friends. But, this change of heart didn’t last through the jubilee as he regularly became discouraged when friendships didn’t mean he always got his way. He tried meditating, but this often led to devastating flashbacks to his violent life in the Previous Age.”
“Yuri had not had true friendships in the Previous Age,” added Bull. “Not since he was a child, but there came a time in this jubilee when he realised, he wanted friendship.”
Yuri was walking in the woods and came across two men.
“Timothy!” shouted Paul. “We have a guest… sorry… guests!”
Timothy came out from inside the tent. “Great! The mushroom soup is almost ready, I’m just going to add some more pepper.”
Paul wandered over to Timothy. “Smell’s wonderful, Tim.”
Timothy grinned widely at the compliment whilst continuing to stir his soup. Yuri, standing at an awkward distance, felt his taste-buds prickle with excitement.
“Let me ask you something,” said Paul to Yuri. “Have you ever had strong flashbacks to your life in the Previous Age?”
Yuri inwardly flinched at the precision of such a blunt question.
“Have you?” Yuri retorted, defensively, but with sincere curiosity.
“I had them when I was made blind in the Previous Age. They were extremely powerful; almost like reliving your own life.”
“How were you ‘made’ blind?” asked Yuri.
“I met Jesus and his presence was so bright! But, you know, I needed to have my sight taken away so that I could only see my inner life, and experience the flashbacks.”
Yuri was intrigued by what this Paul guy was saying.
“Mind you, you were into some dark stuff before that,” Timothy pitched in, still crouched over the soup.
“Yeah, it’s true. Hence the very extreme flashbacks.”
“What did you do?” asked Yuri. He had crept closer until he was next to Paul.
“I was extremely religious; trying to be the most zealous Jew that ever lived. I was absolutely disgusted with the idea that the one true God, the God of Israel, had become a human in Jesus of Nazareth. I was hunting down anyone of his followers; anyone who believed it I thought of them as vermin, blasphemous rats who were polluting the sacred faith of the Jewish people.”
“I understand,” said Yuri, plainly.
“Well, things got a bit lively when we found them… put it this way… I didn’t exactly stop anyone from hurting them. Some got lynched, some had rocks thrown at them until they were dead. I stirred up the trouble and watched zeal and bloodlust do the rest.”
“You had to do what you had to do,” said Yuri, forgetting for a moment that Paul wasn’t telling his story in a positive way.
“Thing is, I didn’t have to do any of it,” said Paul, stony-faced. “I delighted in seeing Jesus’ followers get crushed by the mobs. It seemed right to me, the natural repercussions of blasphemous beliefs. One day we got hold of a guy called Stephen. The mob were riled up after I preached up a storm about keeping our faith pure. Some people said they knew where a Jesus-follower was staying, so they went and forced him out of his room and beat him. They threw rocks at him until…”
Paul stopped and hung his head and drew a quivering breath.
“It still hurts me now to think of it. Stephen didn’t once try to fight back or defend himself. He faced his death with peace that almost shone from his face.
After I met Jesus for myself, my eyes stopped seeing. That was when I had flashbacks and relived the lynchings I watched over, but from a new perspective. It was hell. I cried out to Jesus and his spirit came to me in such power. Once I accepted that I had been mistaken in my zeal, and that all my spiritual superiority complex was based on selfishness, my eyes began to work again. The flashbacks stopped.”
Yuri had been listening intently, with Gulag resting his head on Yuri’s right foot.
“Let me ask you again,” said Paul. “Do you have flashbacks?”
Yuri didn’t want to answer, but Paul continued.
“Think about what triggers them, if you do.”
Timothy served some soup in a bowl to Yuri and clicked his tongue at Gulag.
Yuri looked at the soup and at his dog and they reminded him of the time Jesus slid him that shot of vodka. What was it about these people that bothered him so much?
Yuri sipped his soup.
“The flashbacks have been very disturbing for him,” said Bull. “He is beginning to experience what he did in the Previous Age with understanding, and it is causing him much distress. The memories and flashbacks would come in swelling waves. The overwhelming power of them could leave Yuri unable to do much besides feed himself. There were days he wished himself dead. For years he had tried to master them and some days he could find enough distraction to keep them at bay.”
“This suffering will lead to empathy and a willingness to renounce all the destruction he wrought. Through this process he will seek forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Jesus.
“The process is the unveiling of truth, isn’t it?” said Sylvia. “And love is the basis of truth?”
“Agape Love is the reason why all this exists, and so is the truth in the centre of it all,” agreed Jesus. “The outermost twigs are still part of the tree. How are things with Fran?”
“Fran entered her third Jubilee in a new environment again, and, like Yuri, had decided early on to try and have a new attitude. She felt that she had failed with Chan and that she had no idea how to help people. Instead, she decided to be the one to organise rotas and schedules to take control and feel like she was being helpful,” reported Sylvia.
“Unfortunately, she soon alienated her new community because she was doing this for her own need to be in charge,” continued Carlos. “Other people in the community were also trying to find ways of controlling the environment and there were a great many arguments and upsets which caused resentment, grudges and suspicion. Fran’s biggest obstacle is her inability to humble herself and trust that she is likeable for who she is, and not what she owns, controls, or can do. She cannot understand Agape Love yet, because she still sees everything as a transaction. She relishes any opportunity to bare a grudge or slander other people.”
Jesus looked sad. “All this is coming from low self-esteem. Her community were people that only feel better about themselves by putting others down. True self-esteem grows when people choose to become loving and kind. A clean conscience is where the ‘self’ becomes confident in its true identity - as someone who is loved and cherished.”
“We saw some start to be kind to one another and friendship begin to blossom, but jealousy within others would destroy these green shoots,” said Sylvia. “And then some of them decided to form small, tight groups and spend nearly all their time together, away from others.”
“That’s good, that’s exactly what we see happen in these types of situations,” said Jesus. “Friendship is precious and needs protecting. People often need to start small and discover what love and kindness really looks like in those smaller groups.”
“They effectively ended up as groups within the community who had found the keys to moving forward. Sadly, Fran was not in one of those groups, and was instead on the other side of the community, with the more stubborn, embittered individuals.”
Carlos pursed his lips as he finished his reflection.
“Fran will be placed in a smaller community for the next jubilee,” said Jesus decisively. “She will benefit from closer proximity to others, though it will be harder at first. They will depend on each other in a more acute way, but it will lead to greater emphasis on individual contribution. This will boost each person’s self-esteem.”
“Johan has not progressed in this jubilee,” said Yvonne, sadly. “He was placed with no one that he knew and chose to withdraw into books rather than forge relationships.”
“Johan did so well at making friends when the stakes were high,” said Jesus. “But when he was placed with folk who weren’t formerly soldiers, he placed his identity in his study, and was irritated by interruptions. Knowledge can induce pride.”
“It’s like he doesn’t know who to be outside of his experiences in the Previous Age,” Yan remarked. “He read history books for a long time, we tried to interest him in some lighter material but he rejected it all.”
“Though it is helpful to understand the Previous Age, books don’t heal the heart,” commented Jesus.
“Only discovering who we are according to Agape can do that,” said Yan. “I know this because for a long time I saw myself as a martyr first and a son of our Papa second. My identity was in what I did and what happened to me, rather than in the present moment.”
“Learning to enjoy the present moment is a foundation to enjoying life,” said Jesus. “It is best to live in the ‘now’. The past and future can be used to guide our current actions but should not stop us showing Agape Love.”
“It’s the difference again between Chronos time and Kairos time, isn’t it?” said Carlos. “It’s what Fran is yet to discover as well.”
“It’s something of an irony that it takes time to awaken to the constant present moment,” said Jesus with a little chuckle. “The Previous Age was always going to end. Humanity knew this from the very birth of their consciousness. It will take most people several jubilees to develop an assurance in their immortality.”
“Adilah’s injury and healing was so helpful in this respect,” added Harmony.
“And Yuri has also matured in the same way, since all of the violence in his communities have proven that our resurrection bodies are built for ultimate durability,” said Bull.
“Many people are still overwhelmed by what is missing. I wish they considered what is present,” said Yan. “Johan misses his friends and family. He’s fixed his emotions on this rather than exploring who is around him.”
“This shows the limits to his Agape awareness at the moment,” said Thomas. “For us, we have come to see whoever we are with in the light of Agape, and we are therefore always more mindful of who we are with, than who is absent.”
“Just before I ascended to be with Papa, I made it clear Ruach was always available to teach my followers to Agape one another in such a way that it wove you together. This helped you face all the persecution and violence that came to you. When we see each other as loved and included and important, we realise that no one is less worthy or inadequate. We are able to appreciate all the unique qualities and attributes everyone brings to the big picture.”
“It’s funny,” laughed Harmony. “I would love to show my parents the diversity of this team. They would’ve been unable to compute the unity and strength we have together, despite coming from different cultures and moments in history. Here I am, a white American woman, working with y’all!”
“I never even met a white person before I met you, well, only on the internet,” said Yan to Harmony. “We were told you were all ‘devils’!”
“There is no short-cut to the fullness of Agape,” said Jesus. “The surest foundations are those that go deepest. Roots must push down far into the soil for the tree to withstand the storms. How are people doing in their meditation?”
“Yuri has taken to the practice and has made significant progress,” said Thomas. “He has given himself grace for when he gets distracted, and that is a healthy step in the right direction. He’s even meditated with us – increasingly throughout the jubilee. However, it’s sometimes when his flashbacks happen, which cause him a lot of distress.”
“Creating inner-space is where the soul will encounter the truth of what they’ve done, is such an important part of the work that must be undertaken,” said Jesus
“Yuri can be very emotional after such episodes,” said Thomas. “He can become violently angry, deeply depressed, impossibly defiant and broken with sorrow, sometimes all of these at once, it seems.”
“That’s healthy,” said Jesus. “He is in an environment where he can process emotion safely. His mind, body and soul are coming into alignment – slowly, but surely.”
“That’s true of Adilah, too,” said Anne. “Emotions are visceral with so many of our people.”
“That’s also one of the problems with ours,” said Carlos. “Fran and those who have remained isolated in their community are still painfully emotionless. Sometimes there is anger, but it’s not the fullness of what must be processed.”
“All will come into focus,” reminded Jesus to the team. “The process continues…”
Jesus and Thomas’ team continued to talk into the evening until it was time for them to retire to the dwellings they had in Zion for more rest before the start of the next jubilee.