“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see
the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” – psalm 27:13
The iron chains rattled as the heavy links dangled from the gnarled, twisted old oak. My wrists were peeled, cracked and dripping blood down my forearms and in between my clenched fingers. Every bone in my body ached with agony.
I had been dragged for miles and miles by my captors; through dense forests, icy cold riverbeds and jagged cliff sides. I had not eaten in two days. I had barely drank even a cup of water. My tongue was beginning to cling to the roof of my mouth. I had begun to involuntarily shake many hours ago before dusk. I tried to weep but my body was so empty of water there was nothing left for tears.
I stared bleary eyed and numb at the nearby fire. I was just out of reach of it’s warmth. My captors were huddled around it, sneering and laughing, their dark cold eyes never once glancing in my direction. They knew the chains would hold and I was of no concern to them until morning.
I lowered my eyes in humiliation and then closed them, resigned to my reality. Surely I would die soon anyway. The coldness of night was rapidly seeping through my torn and ripped clothing. I would soon lose all feeling in my feet and hands like every other night I had spent chained to a tree.
In my mind I repeated over and over again the words that I heard a hundred times before. Words that made me believed I deserved this captivity and suffering.
Nameless. Worthless. Unwanted. Destitute. Forgotten. Beggar. Orphan.
I had disobeyed the laws of the land. And I hid and run from justice. I had committed many acts of desperate defiance and fearful hatred just clawing my way to survival. What other ending would I have but this? There was no others direction but a slow descent into despair.
I had no home. No one to rescue me. And no strength of my own to choose a better way. I was alone. Abandoned by the world I had been born into. Isolated it seemed from all that was good. Good was not meant for me.
I clenched my fists tighter and curled my knees into my chest as another frigid gust of night wind blew against my convulsing thin body. There was nothing to hope for.
But then the tiniest sound softly brushed against my ears. A deep voice whispering my name. I had completely forgotten I had a name. I painfully lifted my eyes to search the darkness. I knew with vivid clarity the voice was not one of my captors. I could see nothing though except the flickering flames and shadowy forms.
But there it was again. That long forgotten name, skittering through the darkness.
My eyes burned, still unable to form tears. I thought my mind was once again playing tricks on me.
But then, out of the forest, on the opposite side of the fire He came. Blue eyes blazing with their own fire, gripping a great gleaming sword. My captors barely had time to scramble, panicked to their feet.
It is hard to say what exactly happened in the chaos that followed. There were screams of agony, flying sparks from the fire and frenzied shadowy movement. The ground shook with heavy thudding as bodies hit the earth.
Then suddenly He was there, smelling of sweat and blood and breathing hard. He reached for locks on my chains as His sword clattered to the ground at our feet.
I blinked rapidly in disbelief. He had come for me! The One they called the Son. How did he know I had been taken? Why had He come? Surely He did not even know who I was. My lips moved to speak but nothing came out.
“Can you move?” He spoke kindly, as the chains fell from my wrists. He brushed back my wild, tangled hair from my eyes. The gesture unnerved me in its familiarity.
This was the One they all loved and adored. The beloved One, that all songs and ballads were written for. The great One who had won the war and every battle He had ever fought. The One who was heir to the kingdom.
I moved my lips again, still nothing would come out as I tried to reply to His question. I shook my head instead and leaned against the tree hiding my face in shame. I was too dirty and ugly for Him to touch or concern Himself with. Also my starving body could not move.
“Here, take some water,” I heard His deep voice say and then felt a water gourd pressed to my lips. He wasn’t leaving.
My trembling fingers reached up to receive it and I couldn’t help the greedy thirst that followed. My tongue rattled back and forth in my mouth as though it had forgotten what to do with water.
“Not too fast,” He cautioned, carefully touching my legs and arms as though searching for broken bones. I’m sure with the blood and cuts it was hard to tell.
My eyes darted away from His, feeling both relief and confusion, as well as overwhelming longing. I had not been touched kindly by another in a very long time.
Seemingly convinced I had nothing broken, He leaned back on His knees. In the dark and inconsistent light I could mostly just see His bright eyes and broad shoulders.
His breathing had now slowed to steady even breaths. He reached down and wiped His sword before sheathing it.
Then He leaned forward once more as He saw my darting and disbelieving eyes.
“You are now safe. I am here to take You home.”
I glanced down at my free wrists and gingerly moved my numb ankles. I still could not speak so I splashed more water down parched throat.
“Whoa…not too much,” He cautioned again, grabbing the water container out of my hands.
He slung the strap over His shoulder and then reached one hand out in invitation.
“Take my hand and I will help you.”
I slid my bleeding palm into His, hanging onto His strength as I tried to pull my weak body upright.
I crumpled into into Him without even taking a step. He caught me easily around the waist and lifted me up into His arms as though I was a small child. Compared to Him I indeed felt small.
“I’ll carry you,” He whispered.
I cling to Him, still afraid my mind was playing tricks. Surely this could not be real? Surely He had not really come? Was I really being saved?
He ducked under the trees and I leaned my face into His shoulder, eyes staring at the ground by the campfire as we passed.
All my captors lay dead. I squeezed my eyes shut as I felt Him hold me tighter.
“You will never fear them again,” He spoke as the campfire disappeared and entered the trees on the other side. I could barely see but I knew we were on a narrow path headed down the mountain.
It seemed that we had only taken a few steps, when a pale shape came into view. I quickly recognized it as a horse. A big stallion, saddled and still breathing heavily.
I turned to stare up at my rescuer as He set me gently on my feet beside the magnificent animal. He still held me steady with one hand, but with the other He dug into the saddlebags. He withdrew a heavy green cloak which He quickly wrapped around my shivering body. Then He lifted me onto the saddle. The leather creaked as He mounted behind me. I gripped the saddle horn, but He wrapped one arm securely around my waist to keep me steady before urging the horse forward.
I drifted in and out of sleep during that long ride through dark night and across the misty mountains. Inside the thick wool cloak I was warmer than I had been in weeks. The saddle was surprisingly comfortable compared to being dragged constantly behind a horse as my captors had done.
The Son continued to hold me firmly and I felt no fear of falling. I did not know where we were headed, but matter very little. The strangest peace settled over my body calming the shaking, fear and hunger. It felt like snow blanketing the soft earth one snowflake at a time. I leaned into the corner of His arm and slept.
When I awoke the first sensation I felt was a tickling warmth rushing across the side of my cheek. I squinted, slightly opening my eyes and catching a glimpse of flittering sunlight across a wooden beamed ceiling. I opened my eyes and realized I was laying on a great big oaken bed, covered in soft furs and draped in ivory silk curtains that fluttered from a sweet scented breeze coming from somewhere behind me.
I sat up, immediately glancing down at my clothing. I was wearing clean white robes. All my cuts and bruises had vanished. The blood had been wiped away. I slid out of the bed, noticing that the room I had been sleeping in was large and spacious, with many open windows. The late afternoon sun was beaming through. Dust particles spiraled up off the smooth wooden planked floor.
I hurried to the closest window to gaze out. There was an apple orchard in full bloom, pink and fluffy like cotton. The sweet smell that was in the air came from these blossoms. The orchard was so vast I could not see past it. The trees were twisted and tall, almost covering my view of the blue sky. But the walls of the room I was in were made of massive white stone and I could at least see I was several dozen feet up off the ground floor and part of a large castle if I peered through the thick blossoming tree branches.
A bell began to ring loudly in the air. I drew back from the window as I heard many voices and feet loudly moving about. I quickly saw the door to my room and hurried across the room opened it. There was a big hallway, outside with many people moving about, all headed in one direction. Towards stairs that led downward.
I joined the smiling stream of people. The laughter and joy felt so strange to my ears. Everywhere light poured in from more open windows. There was no cold and there was no fear. What was this place?
At the bottom of the stairs was a great vaulted courtyard. The floor was marble and giant white pillars held up thick oaken beams that stretched across the ceiling, huge panels of crystal clear glass fitted between each one. Sunlight sparkled down onto a trickling blue fountain in the center of the courtyard.
I turned as a familiar voice shouted my name through the crowd. It was the Son. In the light of day He was even more splendid. Wearing white robes similar to mine and feet bare, He quickly ran through a crowd of giggling young women towards me. I still could not believe He knew my name. A thin circulate of gold gleamed around His noble head and His smile made those nearest to Him stop and stare.
He was staring only at me though, with those blazing eyes. Were they blue or green? Maybe brown. It was hard to know.
I realized I was holding my breath as He came to an abrupt stop right in front of me. He gripped my hand and exclaimed, “ You are finally awake! Just in time. We are about to sit at the table. Come!”
He tugged me forward and I felt like a small child once again as I followed Him. I noticed people made way for us as we went. The room quieted as we approached the intricately carved doors. I immediately saw the golden roaring lions’ heads on each door handle. The crest of the King.
I caught my breath. As it all made sense. We were in the palace.
The doors swung open at His touch. And we entered a second great hall, filled with a dining table so long I could barely see the end of it. Overhead twisting and tangled candelabras swung with hundreds of brightly lit candles. A great fire roared on either side of the room. Food of every variety and color filled the table from end to end. Everyone was dressed in white. The smell of frankincense and myrrh filled the air. Glass tinkled and sparkled as people began to sit.
I pulled back on the Son’s hand.
“Wait…” I said, breathless, “ wait.”
He drew near and He must of have seen the undisguised confusion in my eyes, because He gently smiled and leaned even closer, lowering His voice.
“All is well. You are home.”
A tear slid down my cheek, “ I do not have a home,” I shook my head, “ I do not belong here.”
A softness fell over His face and I knew what I was seeing was compassion, though it felt strange being directed at me. Me, who had only every known scorn and hatred. I saw my clean hand still held between His, remembering how dirty and broken I had been. How many hours or days ago was it that I had been chained to tree? I still did not know why He had come for me.
“My Father says you are belong here. It is enough,” the Son gazed at me the compassion in His eyes slowly strengthening into a steely resolve as though He dared me to contradict this truth.
I opened mouth to speak, but He silenced me with these words as a deep penetrating warmth entered my soul, “We saved a place for you at the table, right beside me. This is your family. This is your home. And today we feast in your honor.”
He then gently pulled me forward once more walking the length of the table. We reached the end much quicker than I thought we would. And as we drew close to the head of the table a hush fell across the great room. I felt my heart begin to pound as the Father came into view. His eyes both ancient and powerful, yet full of laughter and joy.
The Son and I stopped to the right of Him at the end of the table. The Son touched the empty seat in front of me and smiled at the Father. Then He turned me just slightly so the entire room could see us and raised my hand still clasped in His above our heads. I felt my face flush hot at the attention. He needed to say no words.
A roar of applause exploded across the room. The table shook and I lowered my eyes unable to look at all these people in the eyes. I did not deserve this. And yet even as shame tugged on all the corners of my heart, a deeper fullness also began to edge its way into the center of my being. Is this what belonging felt like?
I turned back to the Son, to see Him beaming with so much joy I could not help a tiny smile in return. The Father was raising His glass of wine now and the noise quieted.
“ Let us rejoice, for this one that was lost has now been found. “
From somewhere in the room music began to play and suddenly spontaneous dancing broke out among the crowd. I stood speechless once more as the voices and noise and laughter returned. More wine was being poured out. Small children ran in circles around the hall, their voices light and trilling.
The Son threw back His head in deep boisterous laughter. I clung to His hand, a deep well of tears beginning to stream down my face. Still smiling widely, like He might never stop, He pulled out my chair seated me beside Him before He also sat.
“All this is for you, “ He whispered, “The best music, the best food. You are with your family once more.”
I stared down at the plate of food in front of me, brimming with more delicious food than I had seen in months.
“How did you know?” I asked Him, “ How did you know where to find me? How did you know what my name was? How did you know?”
The Father replied before the Son could reply, “ I have always known you. It was I who sent Him.”
And then I wept, deeply and long. The most perfect and righteous Being in all of the kingdom had sent His Son into the darkest wilderness for me. I had been dirty, starving, abandoned, consumed by shame and headed towards death. It was the most unbelievable goodness I could ever imagine.
The Son pulled me close and held me until all my tears were finally dried.
“Now I am yours a former captive free
Adopted, called your own, your family “ – SongLab
Natasha is a short story writer who has been blogging for the past decade. She is currently raising four kids in the midwest United States and married to her wonderful husband of 10 years. They both work with YWAM and media missions.