Andre looked down at his freckled feet, mud and grass between his toes. They were tangled between two large oak tree branches, nearly 20 feet high. Any small movement could plunge him to the ground. Andre grasped a part of a broken tree limb above him and pulled. His limp muscles strained. He was too small to pull himself up, weakened by his chemotherapy treatment.
Most of his hair had fallen out with only strands of strawberry blond hair stippling his head; humiliated and ashamed to go outside. His Dad prayed over him for God to heal him, but with a brain tumor at 8, was it possible? Why did it happen to him?
Andre felt his feet begin to slip down the tree. The pain he still had from surgery throbbed through the scar on his scalp. He had regained part of his energy; it had been a month since chemo stopped. Again he pulled on the broken tree limb, his body inched upward and he readjusted for more stability. Fatigue set in and he let go of the limb, slapping his arms heavily against his hips.
Nothing was worse than having to stop climbing trees and playing outside. The treatments zapped energy from him, unable to sit up long enough to eat. He became locked inside his own house, his own body. His only freedom came from looking out his window, imagining he was climbing the oak tree again.
His mom brought him small gifts to encourage him, little cards with scripture and even a kid’s Bible. He tried to read it, but it strained his eyes and left him tired.
He looked toward the house in front of him with its two-story Victorian-style stature. Nobody was home. Mom had left to go grocery shopping and dad wouldn’t be home from work for at least an hour. He looked up at the gray clouds moving swiftly overhead. Drops of rain plunged down from the sky, hitting his thick glasses. Using his finger like a windshield wiper he swiped the water off every few minutes as the rain dumped over him.
We told you to stay inside. You know your immune system is compromised. Now you’re going to get sick again. Mom would say when she saw him. I just wanted to be free from my bed. I wanted to go outside.
The tree bark beneath him became wet and slick. He could feel his feet begin to slide down edging off the branches. Andre’s feet jerked downward, pulling his body towards the ground.
“Fear locks you out of your relationship with Christ,” she said to him, “It takes all your energy to battle it on you own, but remember you are not alone. Fear is not of God,” his mom said to him before he went into surgery.
Then again, she wasn’t stuck at the top of a tree entangled in its gangly limbs. Fear, he thought, was normal in this situation. How could it not be from God?
He plunged his hands upwards to grasp on the tree. He managed to grab once again on the broken tree limb above him. His elbows locked and he struggled, not able to pull himself up. His feet were unable to find a helpful position and he found himself dangling high above his impending doom.
He glanced down and noticed a glimmering piece of metal. What was that? He narrowed his eyes. A small metal cross peeked out of the ground.
His fingers began to slip from his weight and the slim covered bark.
“Jesus,” he called out.
He dug the tips of his fingers into the tree and pulled with what little strength he had left. At that moment peace came over him. He was neither scared nor fearful. His elbows unlocked and he pulled himself. He found a foothold on a branch and stabled himself. He artfully moved down the remainder of the tree and jumped down onto the ground. He bent over and picked up the metal cross he had seen.
“Thank you Jesus for freeing me,” he mumbled as he stared at the cross. He placed it in his pocket and ran back into the house.
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