Rachel stood, trembling in the small room. It was the first time she had deliberately disobeyed her father's orders. She was 14 years old.
Reaching out for the white dress slung over the back of the old wooden chair, she hesitated. Her mind was questioning her again – did she really want to do this? Was she prepared for the consequences? Her body shuddered involuntarily as it recalled her dad's raised voice, the blows that rained down on her constantly...
Holding the dress and bringing it closer, her fingers caressed the smooth material. So soft – so pure. She smiled grimly as she examined the item – at least these long sleeves would cover the bruises on her arms.
Pulling the garment over her head she breathed deeply – trying to inhale the courage she so desperately needed to go through with this act. Praying softly to the one she had met recently and was determined to follow, she gripped the brass door handle and it turned.
There is front of her in the small church were the faithful – the small congregation of believers she had gradually begun to know over the past weeks. Rachel's lips formed a wavering smile at old Mrs Verity – the friendly persistent soul who, with Jesus' love had patiently taught her about His love and sacrifice over the last weeks. Mrs Verity was already crying – shining with happiness. Rachel felt her heart rise with courage, she could do this.
Stepping down into the submerged pool at the side of the church, Rachel carefully walked down the steps until the cold water nearly reached her waist.
Pastor Brown's warm eyes creased into a smile as she looked up to his face. Her whole body was shaking. She was terrified.
Head bowed, she listened to his soft voice in prayer, joined in amen by the faithful around the pool. When asked about her decision she nodded mutely and her trembling increased. It was time. Slowly Rachel lowered to her knees, hands across her chest, heart thumping.
The cold water filled her ears with a rushing sound and a moment of divine calm enveloped her. It seemed that her fear was dissolved, left behind in the water of her baptism. Soaked, Pastor Brown helped her to her feet as the congregation started to sing. Tears of joy washed down her face as she joined them in their praises to God.
The rest of Rachel's actions seemed to be blurred – Mrs Verity weeping, holding out her largest towel, the murmurs of encouragement from the faithful, the smile that would not leave Rachel's face.
Still shaking, Rachel entered the little room to change by herself. Overcome with gratefulness she knelt, tipping her head upwards in praise. There was a flash of white in the corner and she saw a mirror there, behind the old chair. Reflected in the dusty glass was an image of a beautiful girl in white – with a face shining in joy, transformed somehow. In that moment it seemed God spoke to her – showing her an image of how he saw her, covered in His glory.
That image was burned into Rachel's mind. God brought it back vividly over the next few months, strongest during and after the beatings she endured by her father's hand. The shame she felt before, the worthlessness was not there anymore. Her father knew she had changed – a sense of self worth he could not alter.
One night, sobbing in her bed, the image of how God saw her – as white, pure came again. She was loved – priceless. Surely worth more than just enduring this. Heart thumping with excitement, Rachel devised a plan. She would tell. She would ask for help. The terror she had felt for so many years was truly shattered in that instant as she resolved to step out into the worth she knew she had.
Scrambling to pack a few belongings with her mother's photograph, Rachel crept to her window. Mrs Verity's porch light was still on – visible from Rachel's window. Quickly and quietly she stepped onto the veranda roof, down onto the rail and was free.
Rachel's father went to jail for a short time – and was only allowed visits to Mrs Verity's house occasionally after. He still held his anger for a while, but it was in that homely kitchen, with the tears of his daughter and her friend that he let go of the hurt of his wife's betrayal and kneeling, finally accepted the gift of eternal life.
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