I was a dog. He became a worm- A short story inspired by the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15

Short almost-true tales

I watched all night. My daughter’s body thrashing. Her mouth yelling vile words. Words she should not know. Her young body was evidently being abused by evil. Something foul was possessing her. Oppressing her. Perverting the beauty I could see in her. I looked away. I needed a break from the visage of my precious daughter’s torture. I looked outside, up at the dark sky pierced with tiny lights. So many, like the light might just rip right through the blanket of darkness.

My mind wandered back to one night as a child when a section of the southern sky did tear open. The brightest light I had ever seen shone down on the area where the people of Israel lived. I asked my mom what was happening. Was the world ending? Were we going to die? She pulled me up onto her lap, looking to see if anyone was listening, and then whispered, “It’s the prophecy of the coming King of Israel, the Son of David.”

My people, the Canaanites, have a long history with the Israelites. They were supposed to drive us out of this land. But they didn’t. Some of them married us. Some of them used our prostitutes. Some of them made us slaves. Some of them worshipped our gods. And through the years we Canaanites have heard the prophecies of their coming King. We wondered if when their king came he would finally do what his people had failed to do and drive us out.

A buzz had been circling that this Son of David was in Israel. People were saying he rebukes his people’s priests and eats with prostitutes and tax collectors. They said he heals the blind, touches lepers and even drives demons out of their victims. I wondered if he would free my daughter.

A racket of breaking jars shook me back from fantasy. I ran to my daughter, blood everywhere. She was cutting herself with the jagged shards. I scurried to her, pulled the shattered ware from her hand and scooped her into my arms. She thrashed, pulled a fist-full of hair from my head and scratched my face. I dropped her on the ground as she gave a shout of violent anger. She curled up in the shadows. I cleaned her wounds while she screeched. My heart ached. How could my daughter live like this? I picked up the bloody, broken mess. We were a broken mess. I laid down, closed my eyes and pictured that bright light I had seen as a girl in the southern sky. “Maybe he’ll come here,” I whispered and succumbed to the exhaustion of trying to keep my daughter alive.

“Get up! Get up! He’s coming!” My sister and aunt looked excited. “Gather her up! Let’s go. The one they call Israel’s Messiah is coming our way.”

“He is? How do you know?” They talked over each other in excitement explaining that a traveler had seen him walking towards the border of Tyre and Sidon where we lived. “Come on! Let’s go! What are you standing there for?” I was in a daze. Part of me thought there was no way a Jewish man, much less a Jewish King would give me a second glance. But why would he come our way? Maybe he was coming to drive us out like his people were supposed to. But maybe, just maybe he would have mercy on me and my daughter and heal her as he had others.

I saw him in the distance, a band of Jewish men around him. No horse. No pomp. No guards. Just a simple-looking man with a bunch of simple-looking men kicking up a cloud of dust as they walked. Maybe it was a hoax. A rumor. I shrunk back behind some desert shrubs as he and his men approached. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was a light piercing through my dark world. I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t know why, but I knew, this was the prophesied Son of David. I knew I was nothing. But I knew he was something.

I ran out to the road. “Have mercy on me O Lord! Son of David. My daughter…” I pointed to the shrieking girl under the shrubs, “My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.” He kept walking. He didn’t say a word. Why should he? I was a Canaanite dog. I pleaded again for mercy and again I got silence. “I’m not going to give up! I can’t give up!” I thought. I ran to catch up and continued to cry for mercy. I’d follow him until I could walk no more. The men around him looked at me with disgust. “I know, I’m a dog. I know. But I’m not going to run away with my tail between my legs.” I argued with them in my head.

It was just his voice, but it sounded like water to my parched soul. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Though his words were not for my benefit I was drawn in by them. I wanted to hear him more. I wanted to get close. He said he came for lost sheep, maybe he would have compassion on two dogs. What could he do, kill me? What did I have to loose, our life was a living death. I ran to him and fell at his feet, “Lord! Please help me!”

“It’s not right to take the children’s food and throw it to the puppies.” He responded with a tenderness that captivated me. He didn’t call me a dog like the Israelites. He called me a puppy. A scandalous thought occurred to me, “He walked all the way out here for my daughter and me…” I dared to look up. I looked in his eyes. I knew it was true. I knew it was him! I knew he was the promised Messiah the light had torn through the darkness to shine on all those years ago. I would be a puppy at his feet for eternity if he would let me. There was no place more full of hope in my life than right there in the dust at his feet.

“Yes, Lord, but even the puppies eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” I reasoned. His eyes glowed. A warm smile lifted his olive cheeks. He beamed. For a second I thought the light that ripped through the sky when he was born might rip right through his gaze at me. He looked at the cautious Jewish men around him and then to me as though I was the most important person in his presence, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be as you desire.” I trembled. He called me a woman as though it was a title of great honor. As though I was royalty. I looked the direction he motioned. There was my beautiful daughter. Not thrashing. Not cursing. Not cutting herself. Just slowly walking towards me with light in her eyes.

They say he died bludgeoned and bloodied on a Roman cross, bearing the sins of all who believe in him. They say after three days he overcame the perverted schemes of hell’s demons and walked right out of that dark tomb. His light ripped through the darkness. I had thought he was coming our way because he was going to drive us out. But he came our way to draw us in and drive the darkness out.

My daughter and I were brute beasts before him. I was a dog, returning, time and time again to the vomit of my ways. There was no hope to be found in the Baals, or temple prostitutes or abusive men, but I kept running to them. I turned away from all that and took my chances on him that day. And he brought me and my daughter up from under his table and stood us in a place of honor. He had come for me- a dog, and his people- lost sheep, and walked away to become for us a worm, not a man, though he is a King.

 


This historical-fiction tale was written in response to a writing contest from Fathom Mag. I was inspired by Francine Rivers historical fiction novels and John Bloom’s Not By Sight.

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