by Susan Sage
Annika’s body shook as she rocked back and forth on the church bench. Why would someone die for her? It didn’t make sense. She searched through her purse rustling its contents. Used, crumpled remnants of tissues flooded her lap. She drew in a ragged breath. Her sobs turned to whimpers.
I am here.
With a head jerk, she looked around the room. She saw nothing but an open Bible on a table—a red ribbon glistening with the overhead light. “Who’s here? Who said that?”
A door to the right of the large platform opened. With the edge of her jacket, she wiped her eyes and nose. She watched the woman who came in the room and placed a lily at the table, then knelt on the worn steps. Annika tried to wrangle all her used tissues into her pocket though some escaped. When she began to stand; the other person stood as well, turned, and made eye contact.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were here. I hope I didn’t disrupt your prayers.” The voice came like hope-filled cotton. Soft. Gentle.
“I … I’m sorry I got water on the seat here.” Annika nodded behind her, sat again, and turned her head toward the nearest window. Moisture followed the etched marks down the pane.
“Don’t worry. Is there anything I can help you with? My name is Grace.” The woman moved almost in slow-motion up the center of the room.
“I’m Annika. Is there someone in here besides you and me?” She looked around the large space again. Banners hung from the walls—a circle of … were those thorns? Another had a cross embroidered on it, one with lilies, and the last a crown. The pattern repeated itself. At the front, a cross hung—flowing purple draped from its arms.
“No. It’s just you and me.” Grace’s steps continued moving and stopped. She knelt and picked up a rumpled tissue, glanced up, raised her eyebrows, and cocked her head to the side.
“I’m sorry.” Annika’s voice quivered. “I think one got away from me.” She held out her hand and Grace handed over what she’d picked up as if it was a rare jewel. Slow. Tender.
“You know, God keeps all of our tears stored in a bottle.”
“Why would He do that, and are you sure no one else is here?”
Grace turned in a full circle. “It’s just you and me. Did you see someone?”
“I thought I heard … oh, it doesn’t matter.” Annika lowered her head for fear the tears would start again. “Why would God care about my tears?”
“He knows when you hurt and cares about what touches your heart … “
“If He cares so much, why hasn’t He helped me?”
Grace took a step and sat causing Annika to scoot over. “He has offered to ease your burden.”
A snort echoed through the space. “I’ve never had anyone help me.”
Grace’s eyebrows drew together. “And, what did you hear?”
“A whisper. Almost like breath or the breeze through the trees.”
“I am here.”
Grace reached her arm around Annika’s shoulder. “I believe God spoke into your heart telling you He’s waiting for you. Do you know Him and what He’s done for you?”
Her eyes darted around the room again. The thorns, the cross, the lilies, the crown. She drew her brows together. “I heard He died. Why would He do that?”
“Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, had thorns like those pushed into His head.” She pointed at the banner with the circle of spikes. “He hung on the cross to take the punishment for your sin and mine.” She indicated the cross hanging. “The lilies represent His purity and the new life He offers because He rose from the grave after defeating death.” Grace gestured at another streamer. Then she stood and moved under the crown flag. Now He is at God’s side waiting for you and me.”
“But why? No one’s ever … why?” Annika dropped her head; the sobs began again. Tissues pushed into her hands, then an arm placed around her again.
“Because He loves you so much, He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for your and my sin so we could have a relationship with God if we choose to accept His gift of forgiveness and new life.”
Annika looked up at the white lily on the honey-brown table. “Will my life get better if I do what you said?”
“I can’t guarantee about your circumstances, but His Spirit will live inside you and give you strength and wisdom as you trust Him. And I am glad to help if you’ll allow.”
“Do I have to be perfect?”
“No, God loves us as we are and helps us grow to know Him.” Grace took Annika’s hand. “Would you like to pray and accept the gift God is offering you?”
Light illuminated the cross banner. A simple nod and the two women bowed their heads. Someone to give help. She would not be alone anymore. Stillness washed over her like a soft blanket. New life. Annika would never forget this day.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV
About the Author
New to north Idaho, Susan Sage and her husband are enjoying getting to know the new area. She continues to work on her craft writing about God’s purpose and sovereignty in all aspects of life.
She enjoys writing devotionals and flash fiction. She enjoys mentoring other writers who are new to the craft.
You can read Susan’s “Flash Fiction” column on the 2nd Thursday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.