“A way?” Límíng prompted when he fell silent.
Yosha cleared his throat. “Yes. My apologies; the greatness of it still gets to me. God is everywhere, and He can’t tolerate impurity, but He wants imperfect people to be like His children, so He can love them and care for them. Well, those who do wrong things have to be punished for it; we have laws and crimes and gaols and executions, so we understand that. Just like yeast, the tiniest bit of imperfection inside us grows and grows. In order to be with the perfect God, we can’t have any imperfection whatsoever.”
“Your god requires what is not possible.”
“It isn’t possible for us; you’re right. We can’t get rid of our wrongness any more than a loaf of bread can get rid of the yeast inside it. It’s become part of who we are. You’d have to burn the loaf to ash to get rid of the yeast. God does not want to destroy us, so He created a way to change us, to make us perfect.”
Límíng fixed her wide eyes on his face. “A change … this is what happened on the Dark Night of the Soul Conference.”
“Exactly. It began then. God gave me the wisdom to understand that I needed to change and that He had that way ready for me. When I accepted His gift, I became brand new on the inside.”
“What is this method of change?” She tried to sit up, winced, stifled a cry, and leaned back. Her eyes remained bright with eager curiosity. “Tell me, I ask of you.”
Yosha rubbed his face. “Well, we agreed that there are laws and consequences for breaking them. The eternal consequence of doing something wrong, even the tiniest thing, is destruction. In the past, we would try to appease God by offering sacrifices to show we were sorry. We would offer livestock or vegetables or money or service, but none of that ever made all the guilt go away. So God made a perfect sacrifice that could cover everything for everybody.”
“And this perfect sacrifice was what? What manner of creature would appease the wrath of a god?”
“God Himself.” When she stared blankly at him, Yosha chuckled. “Yes, that’s right. God is perfect, so God is the only one Who could possibly be the perfect sacrifice. It is well within His power to make Himself into a man and yet remain perfect. He lived as we do, yet He never did wrong. He was arrested and judged, not because of any wrong that He did, but because of the wrongs we did. He was tortured and executed in our place. Because of the Man’s perfection, God accepted the sacrifice on our behalf. And then, God did not leave Himself in the grave but resurrected the Man. That’s how He unmade the power of wrongness, that yeast inside us, and overturned even death.
“When I hung in Luvaris’ chains, I finally understood all of that. I believed that God could and would change me, free me. And the moment I accepted the sacrifice and gift, God changed me and unmade all of Luvaris’ work. Well, most of it.” He glanced at his withered hands. “Now that I think about it, it’s not so bad that I have the physical evidence of what happened. I’ll never forget what God did, and I won’t forget what would have happened if I hadn’t called on Him. And everyone who sees me will know it, too.”
Límíng reflected for several moments. “Therefore … the change with the depths of your soul remade you from Son of Sorrow into Bright Heart of Pure Soul, and this freed you from the evil one? Leeoo-vah-rihs?”
Yosha nodded. “He hadn’t perfected his technique, so any change in me would throw off what he was doing. He wanted to make me dependent on himself, but all he was able to do was pull my soul mostly out of my body.”
“Ah, a question I would pose to you.”
“You say that your god wished to heal your soul. Yet when I arrived, you were still injured. What is this contradiction?”
Yosha leaned his elbows on his knees. “Well, think about what you said earlier, about how healing me would take a long time, especially to do it right. Why should God rush a healing, when doing so might hurt me more?”
“I don’t claim to know everything that God’s thinking, but what I do know about Him tells me that anything He does is ultimately to benefit those of us who’ve stepped into His forgiveness. Sometimes He gives quick fixes, and sometimes He gives slow fixes. But He always comes through, no matter how He chooses to do it.
“Getting back to your first question, about why that woman ‘looked’ like me. I didn’t try to see her soul, and I’ve never seen my own, so I can’t be exactly sure how we resemble each other. But I’d guess that she’s made the same choice I did, to call on God.”
Límíng’s pupils shrank as she glanced around the room. “I see hundreds of hundreds of souls here. While they are all unique, so many of them contain that brilliance. It is very beautiful.”
Yosha cleared his throat. “Um, well, that’s good to know. And now you know what makes that happen.”
“Indeed. I must consider this carefully.”
Yosha nodded. When Límíng closed her eyes, he followed suit. For a time, he let his mind wander. She was right; the healing hadn’t been total. But he was right, too, in that God sometimes took things in stages. The big change had happened that night, but it had taken almost another year for him to forgive himself. It had taken the intervention of a stranger to help him see that portion of his “landscape” differently.
He opened one eye and peeked at Límíng. She lay still, her expression holding far more concentration than before. He smiled.