The unforgiving bench bit into the back of my thighs, causing them to tingle and silently beg me to relieve my sleeping limbs. Nevertheless, I pushed aside my discomfort, knowing full-well that it would be only minutes before I would be able to rise and stretch my aching muscles. It was then that I felt a hand slip into mine. A smile crept its way into my expression, and I gave the hand a gentle squeeze. Instantly, the squeeze was returned, making my smile grow all the more. My heart warmed at the thought of who was beside me. It was a miracle indeed! Someone who had returned from the brink of death was now full of such life. Someone who I had almost lost was now holding my hand, reassuring me that they were here at this moment in time.
Ever so slightly, I turned my head, catching a glimpse of my mother’s rosy cheeks and golden tresses. Indeed, a visage of an angel. Catching my gaze, my mom turned and gave a quick wink, then turned her attention back to the front of the auditorium. Not willing to risk losing my beloved mom again, I wrapped my hand more tightly about hers. Seeming to sense the reason behind my action, my mom draped her other hand atop mine and gave it a comforting pat.
Sighing in contentment, I snuggled further back into the pew between my parents. I turned my attention back to the gray-haired speaker standing behind the wooden podium. By now, tears glistened in the man’s fatherly eyes, as though he were pleading earnestly, trying to get one of his sermon points across to his congregation.
“My friend,” he spoke lowly, drawing in his peers, “Have you been downtrodden lately? Have you been weary beyond the line of wanting to continue?”
Inwardly, my heart called out in a whisper, Yes.
As if hearing my silent reply, the pastor took a step down the stairs leading from the platform. “Do you have a void in your heart? Have you faced the unknown and felt alone?”
My heart spoke as my mind flashed back to the night when my mom had been admitted to the hospital. My pulse skipped a beat as the scene vividly replayed itself in my mind.
I could hear the pastor saying, “Let the downtrodden renew their faith in the high King and take comfort in the precious name of Jesus! Let the weary lean upon His mighty arm and take safety beneath His sheltering wing! Let the Almighty come into your heart and fill the dark void within! Let the Son of God be your best and most trusted friend, and you shall never be alone again!”
My mind mulled over the pastor’s words. Just weeks ago, I had felt oh-so-weary and almost to the point of giving up. My heart had been empty and numb. I had felt alone and as if no one else could understand. But now that I had had time to reflect, I had realized that from the start, Ian had been a friend who remained true. My dad, though once miles away, still showed he cared for me. And lastly, my mom who loves me unconditionally had never abandoned my side. But I had batted away all their concern, lying that I was fine.
Tears started to prick the corners of my eyes as I looked up in time to see the pastor motioning with his hand at the congregation. “Come,” he whispered, “those who are needy and troubled. Come and find rest.”
My heart picked up rhythm. I licked my lips. I felt something pulling me toward the altar. My hands grasped the railing in front of me. “I’ve had it,” I whispered as I rose from my seat. Putting one foot in front of the other, I walked down the aisle, tears streaming down my face. I felt the shackles that bound my feet begin to loosen as I drew closer to the altar. Kneeling to the ground, I dropped my head in shame. Visions of an angered jury filled my head, condemning my ways as sinful. The judge condemned me to death. But I then whispered, “Forgive me.” Instantly, the jury and judge blurred into crimson red across my mind as Jesus washed my sins away. I finished my prayer, and the burden from my shoulders lifted! My heart sang in joy! The shackles that had once held me fast fell off. I lifted my eyes, and it was as though heaven had descended upon the room. For the first time, true peace filled my heart, and it was all due to God’s abundant grace.
Written by Hannah Scweinshaupt. This article was published in the Winter 2015 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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