Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Valentine (05/16/05)
By Jan Ackerson
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After high school, Jessica starts her freshman year at a Christian college. There is a rule there—unwritten, but acknowledged by all—that a primary goal for most of the girls is to catch a godly husband. Jessica seems to be well on her way; future pastors and missionaries-in-training take numbers for the privilege of spending time with her. Clear blue eyes and a laughing countenance reflect Jessica’s inner beauty.
<b>Michael spends the weeks after high school graduation in Marine basic training. He is looking for an escape from his perpetually angry mother and his abusive stepfather. The barking of the drill instructor is relentless, but those demands and the constant orders of the officers keep Michael from having to think about his loveless childhood. He further numbs his mind by drinking beer after beer in his off-duty hours.</b>
In late October, Jessica goes horseback riding with a group of friends. About half a mile down the trail, Jessica’s horse startles and bolts. She is not prepared for this wild ride, and after several terrifying minutes, she is thrown to the ground—her backbone shattered.
<b>When he hears of Jessica’s accident, Michael is stationed in North Carolina. He begs for leave to come to visit her, but he is refused. In a phone call to Jessica’s mother, he says, “I don’t care if she never walks again. I’ll carry her anywhere she needs to go.” In his sorrow for his friend, Michael feels God nudging at his heart—but he ignores the feeling, and drinks another beer.</b>
After a year of rehabilitation, Jessica returns to college with her wheelchair. Tragically, she discovers that her disability has rendered her invisible. For the next three years, the young men who had previously pursued Jessica now avert their eyes in her presence. Lonely and sad, Jessica draws closer to her Heavenly Father. She continues to pray for her good friend, whose letters arrive from all over the world.
<b>Michael is hounded by God, but he continues to flee. He avoids God as his battalion travels to Africa, hardens his heart in eastern Europe, and denies the Spirit’s urgings in the Persian Gulf. On September 11, 2001, Michael is stationed in Washington, D. C., when he is awakened by a tremendous explosion. Looking out of his apartment, he watches the Pentagon burn. <i>This changes everything, he thinks.</i> He opens another beer.</b>
Jessica grows stronger in body and spirit. Knowing that Michael is soon to leave for Iraq, she increases her prayers on his behalf. She is terrified that he will die without a Savior.
<b>Days before they leave for the middle East, a friend pulls Michael away from his six-pack and drags him to church. His resistance weakened by his friend’s ceaseless prayers, Michael finally embraces his Redeemer.</b>
Jessica sends Michael, now in Iraq, the words to her favorite song. <i>God of wonders beyond our galaxy—You are holy!</i>
<b>Michael tapes the song inside his helmet. Several times, his life is in grave peril, but he always feels God’s hand of protection. He begins to pray that God will spare him—for Jessica.</b>
Once again, Jessica finds herself pursued, this time by her friend of many years. Now it is her turn to resist; she has always imagined herself with a man just like her—a lifelong Christian from a “good” family.
<b>Michael leaves Iraq for his new station in Okinawa. He woos Jessica with phone calls and flowers.</b>
Jessica is falling in love with him, but she reigns in her heart. <i>Why would he want me, with my disability?</i> she thinks.
<b>Now strong in his new-found faith, Michael prays for Jessica. He gets his discharge; finally he is coming home.</b>
Jessica agrees to meet Michael at the airport on February 14th. As the plane lands, she can feel the pounding of her heart in her throat. Feeling slightly dizzy, she scans the exiting passengers for Michael’s familiar face.
<b>Throwing down his duffel bag, Michael runs to Jessica. They embrace in the airport concourse, the handsome Marine and the girl with braces and canes. On this Valentine’s Day, God has seen fit both to heal and entwine the hearts of two of His broken children.</b>
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