His jeans caught on the remnants of a barbed wire fence and tore. Justin kept running. He pushed past brambles and ripe blackberry bushes, cutting himself on thorns. His arms stung from the wounds, his legs ached from running, and his chest burned from exhaustion. But he continued on, tearing through the forest with reckless abandon until, at last, he felt his legs give out on him. Falling to his face on the mushy, moss laden ground he cried hoarsely.
Tink, his ever-faithful childhood companion, whined in sympathy as she pushed at his bloodied hand with her nose. He shoved her away.
He rolled over. The back of his head sunk into the cool wet moss as he looked up at the sky. Tree filtered sunlight cast dappled patterns over the ground. “Not my dad,” he said, his voice now no more than a whisper. Please God, not my dad.”
Sitting up, he wiped his arm across his face in attempt to dry his tears; instead all he managed to do was smear blood over his cheeks. Tink stepped up to him cautiously, licked his hand. When he didn’t push her away, the little Jack Russell Terrier climbed into his lap, her smooth head against his shoulder. She whined again, seemed to feel every ounce of his pain, his anguish, his longing and fear.
“Why?” he asked again. The dog wagged her tail, but he wasn’t talking to her. Justin wrapped his arms around the animal anyway, his heart softening just a little by her presence.
“It should’ve been me,” the twelve year old continued. “It should’ve been . . . someone else.” He swallowed thickly. “Don’t you know I can’t live without him? Daddy . . . We can’t . . . What will we do?”
Justin stood, as if getting a few feet closer to heaven might help God hear him. His legs still burned from running, his arms stung. But none of the physical pain would ever be enough to counter the pain in his heart.
His father was gone.
He’d been abandon.
By his dad. And by God.
No loving Creator would do this to a boy; take a parent from him before he was ready. He didn’t know how to be the man of the house. How was he supposed to take care of his mother and his little sister?
He didn’t know how to be a man. He hadn’t been taught yet.
“How could you leave me!” he screamed into the sky. “God, how could you stop loving me, you promised. You . . . promised . . . you never fail.” He slumped to his knees, his heart pounding so loud it drowned out the rest of the universe. Gut-wrenching sobs over took him as he prayed for mercy, for love, for grace.
Tink lay next to him, one white paw on his leg, like an angel ready to guide him home.
Many minutes passed. His breathing slowed, and his heart began to quiet. Justin’s throat hurt when he swallowed and his eyes felt swollen and tender. He pulled the dog back into his arms, now realizing he hadn’t been abandon. He still had God’s love. Even Tink did not abandon him in his time of need. Why should he believe that God had?
He forced himself to his feet. Justin had no idea what he would do now, or how he would go about doing it. He still didn’t know how to be a man. But he knew one thing clearly. He was not alone. Never alone.
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