Jack and Melinda sat huddled underneath the old wooden bridge, their breath showing in wispy tendrils against the darkness. Jack stared at Melinda as a tear etched a soft line on her dirt spattered cheek. “I love you,” he mouthed. “I love you, too,” she whispered softly.
It was hard to believe that just ten short years ago they were normal high school kids. Melinda was in honor choir and Jack was the star quarterback. Their dream was to go to Bible College, get married and be missionaries on foreign soil.
If someone had told them that in ten years they would be running for their lives, fugitives from the law, they would have laughed their heads off! The worse thing these two had ever done was stay out a bit past their curfew!
But here they were. Sitting in the mud, under an old bridge, shivering in the cold November evening. It had been four days since their escape and they hadn’t stopped running or hiding since. They were not simply running from some minor infraction. Their crime would bring a sentence of death.
They suddenly heard the sound of people running on top of the old bridge. It sounded like what could only be many sets of military boots. They held their breaths and each other as they waited expectantly. It should be any moment now, they were sure of it. But soon the sounds faded into the distance and they were still safe.
In unison they breathed a sigh of relief. Melinda’s tired head fell into Jack’s warm chest as she allowed the flood of emotions to be released. Jack simply held her. He was tired.
Through her tears she asked, “Jack, did you ever think it would come to this? I mean, I knew things were changing. But I really didn’t believe that it would come to this.”
Jack thought back to how it all began. It was so simple to begin with, just honest people trying to fix honest injustices in the world. They cried ‘tolerance!’ from every courtroom, every platform, every school. Soon some were screaming it from the pulpit. Then there were the fanatics that always spewed unrelenting hatred in the name of the Lord. These were the ones the media focused on, the ones making headlines, and the ones that received attention in the courtrooms. You never saw the norm, the true Christians speaking. You never heard the words of love that were preached in the little churches or on the street corners of every small town in America. No one wrote an article saying, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,”
Instead, before anyone knew what was happening, it was illegal to preach about anything that might ‘offend’ anyone. The winds of change. Who could have known that they would try to blow out the light? It was now illegal to be called a ‘Christian’.
Jack sighed. “It’s almost daylight, Mel. What do you want to do?”
Melanie peeked out from under the old bridge. She could hear the sweet song of a mocking bird welcoming the new day with a compilation of sounds. The morning mist lay on the soft grass, glistening like diamonds in the cool November sunrise. She gazed longingly at the beauty surrounding her.
“I’m tired of running, Jack. I feel ashamed. We should not be running as if we really are criminals. I want to take a walk. I want to hold your hand and walk in the sun.”
Jack held her face in his hands. He needed to be sure that she understood what she was saying. “But Melanie, you know what that will mean, don’t you? Are you sure about this?”
Melanie nodded, peace finally wrapping itself around her mind. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” She smiled. For the first time in her life, she fully understood what that meant.
Jack kissed her beautiful, dirty cheek. “Okay. Let’s do it.”
With a prayer and a heart filled with faith, Jack and Melanie climbed out from underneath the bridge and took a long, leisurely stroll, breathing deeply to catch all the morning sweetness that their lungs could hold.
They knew that this morning, this day that was as sweet as any that they had ever known, this final day, would not compare to the day that lies ahead. The day when they walk hand in hand with the One whom their souls love.
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