Exhausted and hopeless, I descended deep into the Sahara desert. As the mirage of freedom merged into the daunting desert night and mixed with the eerie screams of a jackal as he searched for his prey, I clutched grains of sand. Desperation turned into fear and defeat.
As the air grew colder it brought another disturbing cry from the hyena. I closed my eyes and waited for the inevitable. Either the brutal cold night or the menacing creature would find me and destroy whatever strength I had left. I sighed. ‘Why should I keep on fighting? Why should I keep on living?’ The only thing that kept me alive was my love for my American-born children. I fought the urge to close my eyes. The plight of my children was easier to face as I began to drift off to sleep. With each second that passed, the image of my children grew fainter and my fight for freedom began to fade. The only way to end this hellish nightmare was to surrender to slumber…
The ocean had been at war with itself. Each wave brought refuse and deposited its remains on the shore. A vile stench followed. A dense fog had just begun to lift when I noticed a man and a woman walking along the shore. The man walked humbled yet with grace, while the woman walked as if she was troubled and each step a burden. The two walked side by side. The man took small strides to stay in sync with the woman. The woman walked bent and twisted. She resembled an oak branch smothered in ice sagging in the wind. It appeared the woman was carrying a piece of driftwood across her back. The weight of the wood seemed unbearable. She stumbled and began to fall into the sand. The man stretched his hand to help catch her but she refused, steadied herself, and kept on walking. “I don’t need any help...I don’t need your help.”
The man withdrew his hand.
As I peered closer, I noticed that the wood was actually a cross and it was stained with blood and debris. The weight of the cross was tremendous. The woman’s steps became smaller and heavier with each painful stride. She was careful not to touch the man, even though he took each painful footstep with her. The two walked in silence. Each step became torture for the woman as her hands began to callous and her back turned crimson. She began to moan in agony. The man offered both his hands to help carry her cross but she scoffed and spat, “I don’t need you.”
The man withdrew his hands.
Suddenly the woman groaned a painful and primitive cry. She twisted her body and thrashed at the cross, but the more she lashed at the cross the deeper it entwined within her flesh. The man opened his arms to help steady the woman but she fought violently against him and the cross. Angrily she demanded, “Why now…where were you then…when I needed you most?”
The man hesitantly withdrew his arms.
A terrifying scream escaped her lips. Even the sea noticed, stopped its cleansing, and became silent. The man reached out both his arms to embrace the woman. But the more he appeared to help, the more tumultuous her screams became. “Get away from me…I don’t want you.”
The man sorrowfully removed his hands.
Once again the sea began to roar as the tide brought more refuse to the shore. The woman continued to stumble and scream. Eventually the woman’s screams turned to pitiful cries. “Please…please help me…Jesus…” With each whimpered request for mercy, the more majestic the man appeared. His mere presence seemed to illuminate the desert. Even the sea bowed in respect.
“Dear Jesus, have mercy…help me,” the woman begged as she stumbled to her knees. The weight of the cross broke her and she began to fall. I expected the man to reach out and catch her but instead he fell with her and threw himself under the cross. Although the cross was tangled and entwined upon the woman’s back, the ropes of shame, fear, and pain that had once held the cross securely upon her flesh began to unravel. Once the man’s hands touched the cross, he and the cross became one and the woman was freed from her burden. The imprint of the cross was still visible in the woman’s blood and sweat stained flesh, but the torturous weight had been lifted…she was free.
The man grabbed the cross with his hands. The evidence of nails was still imprinted deeply into his palms. He then lifted and embraced the cross with his arms. Within each muscle was the memory of a whip as flesh blended into scars and he flung the cross across his crimson tattered back. He blessed the woman with merciful words of tenderness and grace. The woman unashamedly wept as years of tears found liberation. As the woman prayed and confessed words of remorse to her Savior, shame, fear, defeat, and suffering were no more.
Embarrassed to be intruding on such a tender moment, I closed my eyes and bowed my head. Seconds turned to minutes as I sat there silently listening to the woman as she wept and conversed with her God. The more she spoke, the more familiar her words sounded. This woman spoke my words, my story. That woman was my mother...but how could it be, she was murdered over twenty years ago.
I felt a presence and lifted my tear-stained face. The man who carried the woman’s cross was standing next to me. It was evident that he carried many other crosses but he acted as though his burdens were of no consequence. I noticed that I too carried a cross. Terrified and ashamed, I bowed my head to my chest. I felt a gentle hand lift my face. The man never said a word, but his gaze said everything as he stared deeply into my face and heart. Even though the man had seen my darkest secrets and worst sins, he gently reached down and extended his hand to me. Hesitant yet trustful, I lifted my arms to this man as a child does to her father or her mother.
He lifted me gently with his hands.
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