A dirt road wound its way through the countryside. Trees lined either side of the well-worn path, offering shelter should it be needed. Autumn had worked its wonders, and the trees were now boasting bright orange and crimson leaves.
Although charmingly placed, this road was not used often; there were many potholes, which made the road unpleasant and impractical for travel. It would have made a wonderful
Lovers Lane, but
for the potholes. They resulted in many a twisted ankle, and so the road became
Well, almost deserted. Ever and anon, a young person would wander down this path, seeking refuge in its quiet. For although this road was not good for walking, it was good for sorting one’s thoughts.
On this cool autumn evening, a young girl - about sixteen - was walking down this road, deep in thought. She stared vacantly ahead as the question that had been torturing her for years presented itself again.
Who am I?
Her steps slowed, and she came to a standstill. Who am I? She longed to know the answer. All her life, she had been a nobody. She’d lived in the shadows, alone and unnoticed. There wasn’t anything about her to make her stand out. Her features were ordinary and she wasn’t good at conversation. No special talent had evinced itself in her life. She was just…normal.
Thunder again rolled across the sky, breaking open the clouds. Rain came down in torrents, soaking the ground in moments. The girl remained where she was, unmoved by the rain.
What was it like to be loved? Accepted? All she had ever known was the rejection of the world. What did I do wrong? She had wondered, time and again. Had she committed some terrible deed? All I want is for someone to accept me for who I am. Is that so much to ask?
She continued walking, and almost immediately stepped into a large rut full of water. Stepping back, she bent and looked at her reflection in the murky water. She gasped with horror at what she saw.
In the reflection of her face, she could clearly see every sinful thought she’d ever had. Her face itself remained immobile, but the images, her thoughts, raced by like a movie. She grimaced and looked away, ashamed and appalled by what she saw.
Surely…surely people don’t see that when they look at me. She ran further down the road and looked into another, smaller puddle. A chill swept over her.
Blood ran down her arms. Blood from the wounds she’d inflicted on herself. She could see every cut. The sight of her opened scars made her sick.
Do people really see that? Do they know what I’ve done? She hurried to another puddle and hesitated, afraid of what she might see. Tentatively, she peered into the muddy water.
Her face was…hideous. Grotesquely misshapen, smeared with mud. Her hair was knotted and caked with dirt. Never had she seen anything so ugly.
With a sob, she turned and ran. Ran from who she was. She constantly stumbled in potholes, getting covered in mud. A couple times, she glanced down at puddles as she ran past. They contained more images of her life; of her sins. Tears streamed down her face as words rang in her mind…
This is who I am. This is why no one loves me. I’m dirty, ugly, perverse... I am despicable.
Her legs gave way beneath her, and she landed in a crumpled pile on the side of the road. Sobs wracked her body. She hardly even felt the rain pelting her prone figure. All she could do was think…and remember…all the evil things she had said and done. They pressed on her spirit like a weight, dragging her down.
Dizzily, she raised her head. There was a puddle right in front of her, at the base of a tree. Only…this one was different. Was it just the mud…? She reached out and dipped a finger in the dark liquid. No – it was blood. Thick blood, a richer crimson then she’d ever seen. Curious, and somewhat apprehensive, she looked into the pool of blood.
Her face stared back at her, completely normal. And yet…there was something different. Her eyes. They held peace; they shone with a contentment that she’d never felt before. Her whole face was transformed by it.
The rain slowed, as did her pounding heart. She gazed at her reflection, longing for that peaceful face to be hers. Dared she hope? Her eyes ran up the length of the tree that the puddle lay beside. She stared at it, warmth suddenly flooding her cold and hungry soul.
It was a cross. Tall, cruel, roughly hewn, and yet so beautiful. She remembered the Man who had carried that cross…remembered the gift He offered. Could it really be? Could it be that He was truly willing to take all her sins upon Himself? No. She looked down. Why would He? No one has ever cared about me before.
She looked into the blood again. There it was; that peace. Contentment. Behind her reflection, she could catch a glimpse of something else. Someone else. A kind, loving face, with eyes immeasurably deep. Inviting; calling to her. She found herself drawn to Him.
Oh, God…do You really love me? Are You serious? Quiet began to settle on her. She scooted over and leaned her head against the cross, still gazing at His face. I’m willing, God. Whatever You want… Just let me feel like this forever. Love me.
A tear stole down her cheek. Now, as she sat looking at her reflection, she knew that this was her true appearance. All the other puddles…they were the past. All their ugliness, He had taken upon His shoulders. She no longer had to bear there weight.
This was what it felt like to be free.