The Zechariah Experiment-2

By Linda Porter Carlyle

What happened last week: Pastor Chuck told the class that sometimes it’s hard to remember that the famous people in Bible stories were really ordinary people, living day by day like people today. He asked the class to think of something they could do to make the Bible characters seem more real to them. Joseph decided he would not talk for a day so he could see how Zechariah felt when he lost his voice. Then Mac came over. And she did not say, “Hi!” She only waved.

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans laughed and laughed. And when she tried to stop, little giggles still bubbled out. She took the pencil from Joseph and began to write.

Joseph read as she wrote. It was amazing how long it took to put an idea down on paper compared to just opening your mouth and letting it out. Sure enough! Mac had decided she would stop talking for a while so she would understand more about how Zechariah had felt when he lost his voice because he didn’t believe what the angel told him. Exactly like Joseph had decided!

Mac hiccupped and giggled again. “Do you want to take a time out and talk?” she wrote.

Joseph nodded. They could get a few things cleared up. Then he could quit talking again.

“How long have you been not talking?” Mac began. “I just started. I just got the idea. Isn’t it great? I mean, it’s going to be so hard not to talk! But we’ll understand Zechariah really well! My mom says that’s called empathy. That means you know how somebody really, really feels because the same thing happened to you once.” The words flowed out of Mac. Like somebody had turned on a faucet of words.

Joseph grinned. Maybe he and Mac should have a contest to see who could be quiet for the longest time. He’d probably win after about an hour! “I can’t believe you got the same idea I did!” he exclaimed.

“Why not?” Mac asked. “We both have brilliant minds!”

There wasn’t any answer to that, Joseph decided. “Did you learn anything yet?” he asked. “I already learned it’s really frustrating when you can’t talk! Having to write everything down takes forever! Maybe it gets too hard, and after a while you don’t even want to take the trouble to tell people what you think.”

“Not me!” Mac interrupted. “I would always want to tell people what I think! Maybe Zechariah invented hand signals or something. You know, like deaf people talk with their hands nowadays. I wish I knew how to do that already!”

“Do you think Zechariah was deaf too?” Joseph asked. “When I read the story in the Bible, it said that Zechariahs’ friends made signs to him to ask him what he wanted to name his baby. Why would they make signs if Zechariah could hear?”

G.M. stopped what she was doing. A long piece of carrot skin dropped from the carrot she was peeling. “I never thought of that before!” she exclaimed. “Why would Zechariahs’ friends and neighbors make signs to him if he could hear? How interesting!”

Joseph grinned at Mac. It wasn’t often that he thought of something G.M. had never thought of before! He’d ask Pastor Chuck about it on Sabbath. Maybe Pastor Chuck had never thought that maybe Zechariah was deaf too.

“I think Elizabeth got pretty tired of it too,” Mac went on. “I mean, she probably had lots of things she wanted to talk to her husband about since she was going to have a baby and everything. If I were going to have a baby, I would want to talk about it a lot!”

A laugh sputtered from G.M. “Don’t mind me,” she said, waving a carrot at Mac.

“You could pretend to be Elizabeth,” Joseph suggested. “And I’ll not talk, like Zechariah. And then you’ll know how Elizabeth felt,” he said. He still did not like it that Mac had come up with the very same idea he had.

“Are you kidding?” Mac exclaimed. “I’m going to not talk. It’s a much more dramatic idea!” Mac threw her arms wide and twirled around. She stopped. “You know what else I thought of?” she asked. “I understand how glad Elizabeth must have been to have Mary come and visit her! Because Mary could talk to her and hear what she said. No wonder they made up poems, and songs, and stuff!”

“Do you think Zechariah was afraid when he couldn’t talk?” Joseph asked. “Maybe he got afraid he would never be able to talk again. I think I would be a little bit afraid,” he added.

“Well, I hope he wasn’t afraid about that!” Mac put in. “That’s how he got into trouble in the first place. I mean, the angel told him he wouldn’t be able to talk until his baby was born. And that happened. And the angel told him he would be able to talk again after the baby was born. I think he believed it.”

G.M. stirred the chopped onions and the garlic that were cooking on the stove.

Mac sniffed. “That smells so good!” she exclaimed. “Are you making minestrone soup? Can I eat here tonight?”

“Yes, I am making minestrone soup,” G.M. answered. “And yes, you may eat with us tonight. Go,” she went on, “and ask your parents if they’d like to have supper over here too. I don’t think Joseph’s mom and I want to eat alone with two people who are not talking. Or maybe we do! It might be peaceful,” she teased.

“I’ll ask!” Mac said, bouncing on her toes. “I know they’ll want to come too! Maybe my mom will let me make garlic bread to bring.” She looked at Joseph. “Do you want to come home with me to ask?”

“Wait a minute,” G.M. said, holding up the big spoon. “This would be a good time to restart your Zechariah experiment. If you’re really going to do it—not talk, I mean, instead of just talking about not talking—you might as well begin right now. Zechariah didn’t get a second chance, you know.”

Joseph looked at G.M. “How long did Zechariah not talk?” he asked.

G.M.’s eyes twinkled. “I don’t know for sure,” she said. “Months and months, I think.”

“I can be quiet longer than you can!” Joseph said to Mac.

“You cannot!” Mac retorted.

“I can too!” Joseph clapped a hand over his mouth.

Mac shut her mouth in a tight line.

G.M. laughed.

Mac grabbed the paper. Joseph grabbed the pencil. They dashed out the back door.

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