The Years Before…
Chapter 22 - Bible
Written by Michelle
It was late December. The wind was howling fiercely
as Lucas pulled his coat tighter and threw another log on the fire. “It
sure is cold,” Johnny grumbled from his place at the fire. “Sure wish I
could be home right now.” Johnny shivered. “What do you suppose your
family’s doing right about now?”
Lucas turned and saw Reef Jackson sitting on the
other side of him. “Ohhhh…It’s Christmas Eve. I’m sure they have different
traditions now, but I bet Tiffany and Emily have a tree up and decorated.
Presents for the children are under the tree. Knowing Peter, he probably
has some sort of romantic gift for his wife…”
“And Margaret?” Johnny asked as he took a puff from
“Margaret…” Lucas mumbled. “Ah yes. Margaret has
the Gibbs’ house decorated from top to bottom.” A strong wind suddenly blew
through the camp. Lucas huddled a bit closer to the fire and shivered. His
teeth chattered something awful as he continued to remember. “Aunt Jenny
has her famous egg nog out in the cold staying cool. Margaret is smiling as
she wraps those fancy bows around the presents. Tomorrow, Margaret will
light those candles she insists on putting on the tree. Around noonish, the
McCain family will start showing up after celebrating Christmas at their own
home. Margaret always goes all out and…” Suddenly, Lucas stopped when
another gust of icy wind blew right through him. “I’d settle for almost
anything right now!”
“Who’s Margaret?” Reef asked from beside Lucas. “She
part of your family?”
“Not yet,” Johnny answered with a wink. “But I
expect he’ll change that as soon as he gets back.”
“Ohhhhh…” Reef nodded in understanding. “She your
Lucas glared at Johnny as he stood up. “I think I’m
going to bed. Goodnight.”
The next day, Lucas woke with a depressed feeling.
Today was Christmas, and he had a deep desire to go home and be with his
family. He heard someone talking outside his tent. Slowly, he stood and
walked out. “And there were in the same country shepherds watching their
flock by night when behold…”
Lucas was suddenly transformed back in time. He saw
his Father sitting at the chair near the Christmas tree with his Bible on
his lap. Ruth sat just beside him and the McCain children all sat on the
floor. Julie sat between her husband’s legs as she leaned her head against
his chest. They were mesmerized as Marcus read the Christmas story. Lucas
remembered that was the highlight of his day. He had forgotten all about
Lucas turned and hurried away. But his heart felt as
icy that morning as his body had felt the night before. There were no
drills that day, and the day was long. In fact, the remainder of that week
seemed long. There was something missing…something different in him. Lucas
remembered the incredible joy he felt as he walked into Gettysburg a few
weeks ago. He remembered even singing the words to that song, and singing
wasn’t something he engaged in often – at least not since joining the war.
January crept onto the camp. Still, Lucas felt
something was missing. He went through the drills and training exercises.
He fought alongside his fellow enlisted men when skirmishes came up. But
still…he felt like there was something missing.
Then one night, Lucas walked past a tent. His eye
caught the Private sitting on his cot with a Bible in his hand. His face
was baptized with understanding and reverence and….peace.
Lucas remembered the Bible he had with him earlier in
the war. He had been much like that Private. Every night before going to
bed, he spent time in the Bible. He read the words that brought him closer
to wisdom and helped him cope with the day to day losses. And he
wondered…when was the last time he had picked up his Bible and read the
words? He stood outside that Private’s tent as his mind thought back to
that day. He saw himself sitting on the bed two weeks before Gettysburg as
he read the words in the Bible. He couldn’t even remember what he had read,
or even why he had sat the Bible down that evening never to pick it up.
The words echoed in his mind.
In the beauty
of the lilies
was born across the sea,
With a glory
in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to
make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is
Lucas remembered now what had made him feel so
confident and free that day. He had sung the words without thinking.
Lucas’ eyes widened as he realized he no longer had a Bible. The Private
looked up. They locked eyes with each other before Lucas nodded stiffly and
Lucas went to his own tent. He sat down on the side
of his cot and stared at his bedside table. It was missing. Lucas stared
at the rifle still in his hand. He sat it down next to his cot, but he knew
that the weapon he really needed he’d foolishly left behind. He had
honestly believed that leaving it behind would make him a better soldier,
but he knew now that it wasn’t the Bible that made him hurt that day – it
was his putting the Bible down. How it had happened…and why…he didn’t
know. But he suddenly felt a longing…a deep thirst to get it back.
Lucas laid down on the cot as his eyes filled with
tears. He forced them back, but his chest hurt at the pressure. All these
years the faith his parents had taught him wasn’t enough; because it was a
faith he’d have to find on his own – when he was ready. And now…he was
The next morning – Tuesday – Lucas was quiet while he
ate his breakfast. He tried to think on a way to ask the Captain what he
needed to ask. How does a rough and tough Lieutenant such as himself ask
the Captain such a personal question? Lucas stood from the fire, tightened
his coat as again a familiar coldness came over him, and walked toward the
Captain Benton looked up from his desk where he was
eating. “Lieutenant, what brings you here?”
“I…” Lucas felt his mouth go dry. He closed his
eyes. “I must ask your permission to go into town, sir.”
“Town?” Captain Benton sat down his fork. “What’s
“I…I…” Lucas looked down at the ground.
Captain Benton saw the strain on the Lieutenant’s
face and stood up. “Sit down, Lieutenant.” Lucas obeyed and stared at his
hands. “Now, why do you need to go into town?”
“Well sir…you see…” Lucas swallowed. “It’s sort of
“Personal?” Captain Benton asked. He put a hand on
Lucas’s shoulder and felt it’s shaking. “What is it?”
“Well sir, I…I need to go to church and it can’t wait
until Sunday.” Lucas lifted his eyes to stare into the Captain’s.
Silently, he begged the Captain to understand without more questions.
Captain Benton nodded. “I think sergeant Drako can
handle the drills today, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, sir.” Lucas stood and saluted him. He
turned and walked toward the door.
“Lieutenant…” Lucas turned around. “I…hope you find
what you’re looking for.”
“Thank you, sir.” Lucas hurried out.
As he rode his horse into town, Lucas allowed tears
to fill his eyes. A few tears managed to squeeze out, but he tried to keep
them at bay.
Lucas dismounted in front of the church. He looked
at the cross at the top of the steeple as his heart swelled. He put his
foot on the bottom step and forced himself to climb the rest of the way up.
Pausing at the door, he put his hand on the knob and started to turn it.
Then he paused, wondering if he was worthy of entering after what he had
His hand shook as he opened the door. The squeaking
of the rusted hinges echoed in the empty church. Lucas stood in the back
and stared up at the altar. So many times, he’d watched his mother walk the
aisle and kneel in front of the altar. He’d never done it himself and
wondered if he could now. Lucas felt his knees shake as he made his way to
the front. He took off his hat and looked down at the giant Bible opened on
the communion table. God must have been with him with his hand on his
shoulder because as Lucas looked down at the open Bible, he read these
“Come Ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will
give you rest.”
He read the words several times as the familiar
pressure again pressed on his chest. From behind him, Lucas heard, “Can I
Lucas spun around at the sudden presence of another.
He wondered who would dare interrupt his reunion with God. “Reverend…”
Lucas swallowed, his adam’s apple bobbed up and down.
The Reverend stepped forward. “Lieutenant, forgive
me. I’m sorry if I interrupted your prayer.”
“I wasn’t…” Lucas felt sweat break out on his face.
His mouth went dry and he tried desperately to form the words. “I wasn’t
praying…I was just…thinking.”
“Oh. Would you like to tell me your thoughts? Or
should I leave?”
Lucas turned around and again looked at the altar.
“I grew up in church. No matter…matter what was happening my folks always
took us to church. My mother would weep at this altar. Sometimes, my
father would join her. I guess it always scared me because…because I guess
I didn’t understand why they were crying.”
“I see.” The reverend sat down. “It sounds like you
need to talk. My name’s Reverend Warren. I’d like to be your friend.”
Lucas sat down and toyed with his hat as he nervously
organized his thoughts. “My uh…” Lucas swallowed. “I guess you could call
her my unofficial fiancée…She sent me a Bible shortly after I joined the
war. I read from it every night. It brought me comfort and peace, even
after my friend’s… her brother’s death. I was able to find peace in the
The revered allowed a few moments of silence before
he encouraged Lucas to continue by saying, “But?”
“I don’t know what happened exactly.” Lucas lifted
his head. “I was in Gettysburg.”
Reverend Warren nodded his head. “I heard the
regiments camped around here went there. It was a hard time.”
“Yes…” Lucas swallowed. “I don’t know how it
happened, but the last time I read my Bible was a couple weeks before
Gettysburg. I usually prayed before going into a battle, like my mother
always taught me but this time…” Lucas shook his head.
“You wonder why you stopped, son?” Reverend Warren
put a comforting hand on Lucas’s shoulder. Lucas nodded. “We all go
through hills and valleys in life. Sometimes we put the Bible down without
realizing it. Small things that happen…and before we know it…”
“I faced…the biggest challenge of my life at
Gettysburg. It broke me like…” Lucas shook his head. “I had to take a
leave of absence. I refused to pray or go to church. I got to the point
of…” Lucas lowered his head, not wanting to admit where his boycott against
God had taken him.
“You don’t have to tell me, son. I think I know.
And I know God knows.”
Lucas swallowed. “Well…somewhere along the way, I
realized I’ve been living my parent’s faith. I understand now that I can’t
live their faith. I have to find my own.”
“That’s right, son.”
Lucas allowed tears to fall down his cheeks
unbidden. “I left my Bible at home. I thought that…that I could be a
better soldier without it. “
“A better soldier?” Reverend Warren asked.
Lucas nodded. “Tougher…not feeling guilty for the
“You know your Bible, I’m sure. Look at the heroes
of the Old Testament and those who fought. They had something much more
important go before them in every battle. They had God.” Reverend Warren
placed his other hand on Lucas’s shoulder as he lowered his voice. “Do you
really want to go into a battle without Him?”
Lucas started weeping. He put his face in his hands
and shook his head. “Gettysburg was so hard for me…I thought it was because
of the Bible but now I realize that…”
“It was because you didn’t bring God with you?”
Lucas nodded. “Son, do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins?”
Lucas nodded again. “And He’ll forgive you if you ask him to.” Lucas
nodded again. “Would you like me to pray with you?”
Reverend Warren stood and walked to the altar.
Together he kneeled down with Lucas. Placing his hands on Lucas’s
shoulders, he leaned his head against Lucas as together they prayed. Lucas
found his own faith in those moments. After Reverend Warren finished, he
stood and went to the back of the church to allow Lucas time alone with
God. Lucas wept. His body shook as he allowed God’s peace to pour over
him. The unforgiveness and guilt he had felt fell away that day.
In time, Lucas wiped his eyes and stood up. Reverend
Warren came forward with a Bible. He held it out to him. “I’d be honored
if you would take this, Lieutenant.”
Lucas stared at the Bible, then slowly took it from
his hands. He ran his hand over the black leather and slowly shook his
head. “This is a fine Bible, Reverend. I can’t…”
“You must.” Reverend Warren smiled into Lucas’s
face. “You cannot go into a battle without the most important weapon. I
pray that you make this the most important thing in your life. Not only
during war, but when you return to civilian life. When you have a
family…use it before any important decisions. Use it when you discipline
your children and when you have a decision to make. Read it to your family
like your parents did so your children will also grow up to find their own
faith and not just live off of your faith.”
Lucas opened the Bible and stared at the words. He
suddenly had a longing to read it like he’d never felt before. And he felt
a peace like a peace he’d never felt before. “Reverend…I feel like I’ve
just been washed in a cleansing stream.”
“You’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus,” Reverend
Warren declared. “You are now His son and He will bless you. I pray that
someday you can have a son to love so you can experience the love the Father
has for you. Go in peace.”
Lucas smiled. He felt like a new man as they shook
hands. But as he shook Reverend Warren’s hand, he suddenly wanted to do
something he hadn’t done in a long time. He allowed his arms to go around
the Reverend in a great big bear hug. When they parted, Lucas laughed as
his face reddened. “A Lieutenant hugging a man…I hope God doesn’t reveal
this to anybody!”
“I’m sure Jesus hugged those who hurt. If he were
here right now, he would have done the same. It’s been a pleasure meeting
“Just call me Lucas…Lucas McCain.” Lucas smiled as
he walked from the church.
My Dearest Margaret,
I have a confession to
make. When I left to return to the war, I left the most important thing
behind – my Bible. But Margaret, today I found something. It was something
so incredible and brought me such peace. I found faith. I know I’ve been
living off the faith of my mother and father; but I didn’t understand what
they had – not until today when I found my own. My sweet Margaret, I am now
at peace. I’ve found forgiveness and I no longer feel guilt.
The Reverend’s name was
Reverend Warren. He gave me a Bible to read and I have already spent a
great deal of time in reading the pages of this new Bible. Margaret, he
gave me a piece of advice, and I’ve written it on a blank page on the back
of the Bible. He told me to read this before I make a big decision or
before I discipline my children. He gave me a blessing that I might have a
son someday so I can experience the love God has for me.
I pray someday I have that
son. And when I do, I want to name him after the Reverend. As I rode home
tonight, I talked to God a lot. And I thought that the only other man who’s
had such an impact on my life is my father. So with that said, I want to
name my…our son…Mark Warren McCain.
I love you, my sweet
Margaret. I can’t wait to get home and hold you in my arms again. Oh, I
feel so wonderful! I wish I could share what I’m feeling with you right
now! I can’t exactly share it with the boys here at camp…
I’ll write to you again
very soon, my love.
Lucas Mark McCain
(Your future husband)
The Years Before
A Time to Live