Dear Friends, “The Blame-taker, a Christian short story,” is about self-sacrifice. I wrote it before I fully grasped its significance and what it may reveal to us about ourselves. It holds much for us to contemplate about Jesus as well. See you on the next page!—David Telbat
by D.I. Telbat
Joey realized at the young age of four that being a hero wasn’t easy. His older sister was only seven when she stole warm cookies from the kitchen and ate them. Their mother discovered the missing cookies later. When his sister failed to step forward, Joey did for her, and received the reprimand in her place.
When he started school, Joey found himself surrounded by little troublemakers. There was never a shortage of pranks, or missing hall passes, or defaced bathroom stalls, for which to take responsibility when others kept quiet about the mischief. His parents contemplated private school early on, but then found that Joey’s propensity for trouble would disqualify him from most good schools.
In junior high, a baggie of pharmaceutical pills was accidentally dropped by a student, and the teacher picked them up from the classroom floor. The teacher called security, and no one was allowed to leave. Someone was about to be expelled. Joey didn’t know whose drugs they were, but they belonged to someone in the room. Aware that this would be the heaviest blame he’d assumed yet, he raised his hand and confessed ownership.
In high school, during one of the months he wasn’t in juvenile hall, Joey witnessed a boy dressed in black place a shotgun in his locker. Before going to his first class, Joey broke into the locker and took out the shotgun. He wrapped the weapon in a jacket and headed outside to bury it, when school staff intercepted him. Joey was obviously carrying a suspicious item. He was arrested, then sentenced to several years in juvenile detention, then to a men’s prison.
Once released, Joey found work at a construction site whose foreman didn’t mind having ex-cons as employees. A few months later, three lots away from the building site, a burglar broke into a residence and beat a woman to death for her jewelry. Joey was brought in for questioning. In the interrogation room, he stared at the floor a long time as the detectives pried him for answers.
He didn’t want to be known as a murderer. His other visits to prison hadn’t been at all comfortable. But then he thought about the actual murderer, and lifted his head to the detectives.
“I’ll confess,” he said, and within months he was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the heinous crime.
In prison, he received death threats from other inmates, and the media railed against him as the most despicable human around.
Years later, after waiting on death row in solitary confinement, his date arrived. The day before his execution, his parents came to visit. The lieutenant had special mercy on the elderly couple and permitted a brief contact visit, but Joey was required to remain in ankle and waist restraints.
Joey was pleased to see his parents, though they appeared very grieved. His last memory of anyone in his family was in the courtroom when he’d been sentenced. He wished he could have spared them the horrors and consequences of being the parents of an accused criminal and killer, but his ability to rescue others from hardship was limited now.
“We tried to raise you right, Joey,” his father said. He was a simple man who had been a janitor for a bank his whole adult life. “From the very beginning, we took you to church with us. We taught you all about Jesus, and prayed with you every night.”
Joey’s mother reached out to him, her hand trembling. Then, she glanced at the two stern correctional officers hovering, and she withdrew her hand.
“We wanted you to be like Jesus, Joey.” His mother dabbed at her eyes with a hanky. Before retiring, she’d been a teller at the bank where she’d met Joey’s father. “The most a mother could ever want for her son is to see him follow in the footsteps of Jesus. But you chose the burden of sin at every turn. We hope you haven’t completely forgotten about your Savior now, in your last hours.”
“Oh, I haven’t forgotten.” Joey lifted his head, tears trailing down his cheeks. “And I am following after Him. It hasn’t been easy on either of you, or on me. It’s been a hard and lonely road. But the end is close. Don’t worry. I’ll finish strong, like you taught me.”
“Son,” his father said, “you’ve done nothing but get in trouble since you were young! Eternity may not be as pleasant for you as you think. Your name has become a curse and an embarrassment. We’re ashamed of you!”
The next day, without incident from Joey or protest from locals, he was executed. The state cremated his body, and his older sister arranged to receive his remains. She scheduled a small memorial service at her parents’ house in the back yard. However, hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects.
His sister didn’t recognize anyone in the crowd, so she was surprised to see such emotion from so many. They wept and held one another—complete strangers meeting for the first time that day. As his sister walked amongst them, she heard them quietly telling each other their stories of how they had known Joey. Joey’s mother pulled on her daughter’s arm.
“Who are all these people?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” his sister said. “I don’t remember Joey having any friends, not his whole life.”
When the service began, strangers by the dozens wanted to speak a few words. The service lasted three hours, and everyone had one common thing to say—they all claimed that Joey had changed their lives and made them better people.
One man, tattooed and weary-looking, embraced Joey’s mother, and told her, “If it wasn’t for Joey, I would never have gotten to know Jesus. I’m a changed man because of what Joey did for me a few years ago.”
That night, after everyone had left, Joey’s mother wept in her daughter’s arms.
“I never knew our Joey. He was such a troubled child. How could so many strangers know him better than any of us?”
“I’m not sure, Mom, but I have a guess. Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“Of course I want to hear! Just tell me.”
“Okay.” She took a deep breath and smiled sadly. “I think it all started when I was about seven. Joey was only four. You had just baked a sheet of cookies . . .”
The End of The Blame-taker, a Christian Short Story.
You can find many other Christian Short Adventure Stories here, and longer short stories here. Visit our Short Story Collections page here to find two of David’s story collections now available on retailer sites.
Prayer Prompt: Pray for Vision Beyond Borders as they send containers to the Middle East before winter. Their recent newsletter shared this: “We have continued to receive donations such as clothes, blankets, and hygiene supplies for the next refugee relief containers. At this time, we are planning to send out two containers towards the end of the summer to arrive in the Middle East before winter. One container will be shipped to Iraq and the other to Lebanon. As supplies come in, we now turn our attention to raising the funds necessary to ship the containers. Please pray that the Lord will provide so that we may bless the persecuted Christians in the Middle East before the cold weather arrives.” You can find several projects and ways you can donate here.
COMING UP: Join us next time for David’s Author Reflection, “Do You Know the D.I. Telbat Heroes?” Part I.