Promises is a very personal book. It came from the monologue “Onnua, wife of Zaccheus.” All my monologues on Biblical women come both from the scriptures and from deep within myself as a woman. Granted, Zaccheus’ wife is not mentioned in the scriptures but we know a few things about the times that give us the ability to make up characters. First, all men were encouraged/expected to marry and all men had mothers. So even if there are not huge numbers of women to write about, we can add women to the men we meet in the Bible.
Where the Story Comes From
When writing the monologue and later the book, I drew on my feelings about being too tall in a shorter world, and how it would be to be married to man who was first shorter and secondly not well liked in his village. (Remember that Zaccheus was a tax collector.) I also made choices about his character that adds to why Onnua loves him. In the world of the village, he is an exacting tax collector for Rome. In his home he cares deeply about his wife, his mother and even his cat and the servants. He is a man who takes a decision and a promise very seriously. Zaccheus is based loosely on my first husband who passed away many years ago. He was a farmer and both a good man and a good neighbor.
When thinking about life in relation to Promises, all of our decisions impact who we are and who we become. Onnua knew that marrying Zaccheus would change her relationship to her dear friend Eunice. But Onnua also knew that to be an unmarried woman in that time and place left her very few options. But during the course of the story the more important choice is when Jesus comes to their home. How will His words and following Him change the course of their lives? And that question is as important today as it was 2000 years ago.
Like Onnua, my life changed drastically when I became not just a “church-goer” but a true believer.
The Role of Jesus
The story of Jesus coming to lunch at the home of Zaccheus and Onnua is a metaphor of His coming to our lives. Truly Jesus wants to sup with all of us. Each character in Promises reacts to Him differently in much the way that each of us reacts to Him differently. Zaccheus welcomes Him gladly to his home and eventually into his heart. Onnua sees His arrival as changing her status quo. If this good man could come and eat in her home – “Look, He has gone to eat with a man who is a sinner” – then she is not as despised as she thinks the village thinks she is.
The Pharisee is upset that Jesus eats with a sinner and not with him, the more religious man. But Jesus sees that the Pharisee, who keeps the Law religiously, has no real faith. It is the Pharisee’s wife Eunice who steps out of the box built for her by the Law. If Jesus can be in Onnua’s home, she can be there too.
In the larger scheme of things, we must all decide if Jesus is the Messiah and if He is Lord of our lives. Religious practices are one thing. But faith in His abiding love is another. In the end Christ is ALL that matters.