There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)
In a moment of youthful impetuosity – his actions those of the impulsive young man he had once been, and forever will be – he had challenged Aro to take his hand, and search his thoughts and his heart for himself. Let me show you what goodness my Jesus has brought me, let me show you how lovely He is, can't you see Him, can't you feel Him, please let me show you, please.
Surely, he had thought to himself, this will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Surely this will be enough to prove – even to Aro, the most convinced and disinterested of skeptics – that the reality of God’s love must be true. Carlisle is not an eloquent man, and his words fall short far more often than not, but his heart cannot lie, his soul cannot bear false witness against its Savior. If Aro would only take his hand, he would understand.
But Aro had only looked at him dourly before launching into a long, meandering story about a time he had met with a Numidian man who had studied under Ambrose. It had only been later in the evening, once he had been released from the compelling magnetism of Aro’s sibilant tones, that it came to Carlisle's mind that Aro had shaken his hand on the occasion of their first meeting.
All these years later, he has come to realize that perhaps it was for the best. It should not have come as a surprise to learn that Aro has met men and women of far greater faith and piety than Carlisle. It had been nothing short of arrogance – pride, that most wicked and evil of sins, to dare set oneself up in the place of the Almighty, to presume that one might speak to Him as an equal – to think that he might be the one to succeed where so many others have failed.
And what in his heart – his sinful heart, his ruined heart, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked – could even hope to bear witness to a holy God like this God?
His father was strict, but Carlisle has always known that the Law is a gift to help him understand what a precious gift is grace: without the fear of punishment should one transgress, how else are we to appreciate mercy? And his father was demanding, but Carlisle has always known that his body is a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, and he can think of no more reasonable service, in the light of God’s mercy, than to give his all for the one who gave His all. And his father was a hard taskmaster, but when the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, it was a gift, for what higher calling, what nobler purpose could there have been for Adam, but to work at the task the Lord had given him?
He cannot remember the man’s face – not the color of his hair, nor the shape of his nose or the shade of his skin – but if the clouds are dull enough that he can attend Church without fear of giving himself away, and if he concentrates hard enough when the pastor is reaching his passionate denouement of rhetoric, he can still hear his father’s voice thundering out: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
He had once asked Marcus – in a shameful moment of doubt – whether the other man could sense his relationship with the Father. But, of course, what he had really been asking was: is there a Father for me to know?
Marcus had stared at him for several unbearably uncomfortable moments before simply nodding his head. Without the tell-tale jump of a heartbeat to give him away, he hadn’t been able to tell whether Marcus had been lying to him, and he thinks Marcus was well aware of that fact. Carlisle has outlived eight generations since that day, and he still cannot honestly say that he has truly forgiven him for it.
Why the hospital, Carlisle? Caius had asked, once. He is hardly a man given to excitement or passion, but his eyes had glittered with genuine curiosity as he tilted his head in anticipation of Carlisle’s reply. Why do you torment yourself so?
Carlisle had not known how to answer him. He torments himself because – because – because what other cross can he bear? What other penance can he make, he who cheered for Barabbas’ release, he who nailed his Savior to that tree, he whose sins held him there? How else can he ever apologize, how else but through his torment?
And it is torment, make no mistake: it is nothing but suffering, choking on venom, the blood both sweetest apple and sharpest agony. There are times when it takes everything within him not to fall to his knees like a broken penitent – or to dive for the body, be they alive or dead. On more than one occasion, he has to shut himself in the janitor’s closet and splash his face with bleach in order to break its siren call on his flesh.
These awful moments of madness bring with them a new and fresh compassion for the men with ‘the shakes’; those who lie limply in their beds, sweat and vomit soaking through their sheets. On more than one occasion, Carlisle has wondered whether he is more like these poor souls than he cares to admit – how would he fare if the hospital director ever followed through on his threat to make Doctor Cullen take that mandatory leave? Would he wander the streets with a vacant expression in his eyes and a twitching in his fingers, reduced to looking for a splinter or a sprained ankle to tend, desperate for something, anything, that could serve as a work of mercy?
He must hold firm. He must stand fast. It is the only way he knows of confessing his faith. The grave must be empty, his Lord must be risen, for why else would he live as he does? He has to work, and to work heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; all he does, he does for Him, who saved him and raised him up from death to life.
Who raised him up from death to life.