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  • Writer's pictureTight Spine

Tell Us a Story

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

“Miss Miriam! Miss Miriam!” Several tiny hands clutched Miriam’s skirts as she was putting the last loaf of bread near the coals of the fire. Surprised by all of the commotion, she held her flour-dusted hands over their heads and laughed! A group of bright-eyed little ones gathered around her waist in her kitchen, all chattering at once.

“Tell us a story, please! Please tell us. It’s time! It’s time!” One little boy put his chin on Miriam’s stomach and looked up to her with puppy eyes, pleading.

Feigning exasperation, she frowned, “Alright, alright. Go find a seat outside. I’ll be right there.” The children squealed, turned, and ran out of her tent door. Miriam grinned to Aaron sitting in the corner. Each day the children would come for a story or a song. As the years went by, she had cherished thousands of moments just like this one.

Aaron chuckled, shook his head, and stood. He had come for a cup of tea and was just leaving. His eyes danced as he gave Miriam a quick hug. While she wiped her hands she watched him exit the tent. Aaron growled loudly toward the children with fingers spread like lion paws and the children screamed with laughter.

But what to tell? Miriam quickly grabbed her story-telling stool and paused for a moment, considering. She then picked up her tambourine. She knew exactly which one to share. In the shade of the tent, children were still gathering to sit in the soft grass. A few of the parents lingered at a distance, smiling. There were always a few that came to listen, remembering this time from their own childhoods. Miriam gave them a quick wink and sat solemnly with an exaggerated serious face toward the cherubic crowd. A long moment passed. The children stifled giggles behind chubby fingers in anticipation.

Miriam gave her best suspicious, serious gaze upon the rabble before her, “Are you ready?”

“Yes, Miss Miriam!” They chimed in chorus.

Miriam leaned conspiratorially toward her crowd and with sparkling eyes said, “Very well. Let’s go to the seashore, in the cool of night. With a large moon hanging over our heads to light the way, shall we?” The children turned toward each other, excitedly murmuring. A moment later many big eyes studied her carefully, ready to receive.

“I could feel the grit of sand in my sandals and between my toes as I scrambled up from the shore. My hair whipped around my face in the wind as I helped others get up and out. I briefly held babies, packs, dough bowls, and the softly crinkled hands of several old women as we gathered on the shore. The shine of our eyes shimmered in the moonlight, wide with wonder. We were silent. I, along with a million others, watched as the sea of people passed through and out of the dry sea bed.” The bangles on Miriam’s wrists jingled as her tan, delicate, but strong hands told the story. They became a serpentine line of people going down into a valley, then up and over a small rise.

Lowering her face and shoulders toward the children in a slow ark, Miriam made eye contact with many in the group, “It really did happen.”

“In that very moment I had remembered another memory of another shoreline in the moonlight that night. I had just been handed another baby.” Miriam’s hands rose from her lap into an infant being cradled. “I had held and handed off so many, but this one was about the same weight as Moses had been when I carried him to the Nile that day in a basket. I had sand between my toes that day, too.”

The children murmured amongst themselves, marveling over the concept of Moses as a baby. Miriam heard several children say, “Moses? A baby, no way!” and laugh.

Miriam then cupped her hands, curving her face and thin shoulders over an unseen baby. “That morning my mother and father had sobbed over that basket, not knowing what would happen to him. I carried the weight of the world that day on my tiny little shoulders in that tiny little basket.” Peeking over her imaginary basket, Miriam saw worried eyes in the faces of the children. She tried hard not to smile. Sitting up suddenly and clapping her hands together, she startled several children in the front row who then laughed nervously.

“But back to the night next to the Red Sea! There are so many things I remember about that night. It was so windy, yet oddly quiet and the glow from the fire within the cloudy pillar showed the way. This cloud that had been leading us had moved behind us, and it was all that separated us from Pharaoh and his men as we journeyed to the sea. We couldn’t see them, but we could hear the chariots and the horses.” Leaning forward, Miriam’s hands held invisible reins and her storytelling stool became an Egyptian war horse.

“They were being driven hard and though we had witnessed so many miracles, including the blazing cloudy pillar that was our rear guard, we were petrified of being overtaken by Pharaoh. Our small children, our elderly, our pregnant women, all of God’s people were gathering on that shore. And we waited.”

“When the last person came up onto the shore where we stood, we saw Pharaoh’s men reach the opposite shore. Their battle gear and chariots were shining in the rising sun’s light. I heard Pharaoh’s command to his men and they charged down the hill into the dry sea bed. While our men and women screamed and turned to run, I stayed.” Here Miriam bravely stood, hands clutched to her chest, eyes focused far away from the crowd into the past. She sharply inhaled, because in her mind’s eye, she saw Pharaoh’s army once again. Her heart raced.

Taking a deep breath, she willed her anxious heart back to the present. Beyond the audience of children, the parents that had once stood near their tents had moved. They were now sitting behind all of the children. Their knowing faces reminded Miriam that these were the children that had passed through the sea, the ones who heard Pharaoh’s army, the wee little ones who had already seen so much before leaving Egypt. Of course, she thought, they would remember. You can’t forget when you were so small and scared.

“I was paralyzed, and saw the last soldier enter the sea bed. I had to watch, just like I did the day Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses. The wind that had pushed the water apart suddenly stopped and the water rushed over all of those horses, chariots, and men.” Miriam’s arms became a towering wave that crashed, then spread into a calm ocean surface. “The silence of the army and wind was… deafening. We had heard them all night and then, no more.” Miriam saw a woman in the back row wipe tears from her face.

“My heart full of joy and relief, I reached into the pack at my feet and felt the familiar frame of my tambourine.” Here, Miriam reached under her stool and lifted her tambourine so those in the back row could see it. A little girl near her made eye contact with her and beamed. Miriam's left hand made small movements with the tambourine, creating a slow heart-beat of rhythm, “My heart welled up with song because in my very presence, God had done it again! I had stood on another shore and watch Him provide deliverance. AGAIN!” Here, the children and their parents cheered! “Except, instead of Pharaoh’s daughter’s hands, it was God’s very hands. Leading the women around me, we sang our hearts out the King!”

Miriam’s aged voice began low and strong, and a few moments later the group joined in with the now familiar song.

Exodus 13-15 Leaving Egypt, path through the Red Sea, and Miriam's song

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1 Comment

Jun 24, 2023

Just loved this story. I felt like I was there.

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