The sun was hot on Emily's back as she hiked along the foothills trail. Twigs broke under her boots in an urgent cadence. She picked her way around the bigger rocks in the path pulling the hair off her neck to let the breeze cool her. She hadn't seen anyone else on the trail and was thankful for the time alone. She could see St. Theresa's Medical Center in the distance. The cross on the hospital tower blazed with golden light.
Why? she cried out as she thought of the boy. He had looked so still and small in the ambulance this morning as she and the other paramedics tried in vain to save him. Why take such a beautiful little boy?
As Emily left the hospital a woman had stumbled past her, rushing to the reception desk. "They brought my boy in here," she said. "They told me he was hit by a car."
Emily's breath caught now as she remembered the mother's grief. Dear God, life is so hard. Please give strength to that boy's mother.
A shadow crossed the trail in front of her as the sun moved behind a cloud on the western horizon. She looked up. Gray, pulsing clouds were rolling in quickly. The top of the trees swayed and the temperature was noticeably cooler.
When did it get so late?
She had walked much farther than she'd intended. She turned back toward home, keeping an anxious eye on the brewing storm.
Emily thought again of the boy's mother. I don't know what I'd do. Would my faith hold up? Could I trust God?
Suddenly, lightning blazed across the darkening sky. It was followed instantly by a crash of thunder directly overhead. She ducked under a tree without thinking. Rain began to fall in a frantic, thrumming cascade. There was another bolt of lightning. The thunder sounded like it was right on top of her. Before she could move, a large branch cracked and fell, throwing her facedown on the ground. She felt a stabbing pain in her leg as she tried to pull herself up. Her vision blurred and nausea assaulted her. She broke out in a cold sweat.
Relax. Look around. See where you are. Figure out what to do.
The last bit of fading light was on the horizon straight ahead. She stretched out her right arm. Her fingertips dug into the smooth dirt of the trail. She felt around with her left hand and was alarmed to feel the ground fall away sharply.
Okay, don't panic, but you're on the edge of the hillside. Just see if you can move.
She used her arms to try to drag herself forward but gasped as the tree branch moved with her leg. She reached back with her left hand and felt the branch where it pierced her thigh. She didn't know if the wetness she felt was blood or rain.
Oh dear God, Oh my God, she prayed as she started to black out. She took several deep breaths knowing that she had to stay conscious.
The storm gradually moved to the east and the rain stopped. Taking care not to move her leg, she lifted her head but could see nothing in the pervasive darkness. Panicking now she yelled for help, over and over, until she finally broke down crying.
What am I doing? There's no one here. I'm all alone.
She laid her head down on the wet ground and fought the urge to sleep.
Lord, I can't move. I have no strength left. Please help me.
She lost track of time as she watched the clouds slowly lift. Muted light covered the area. She heard rustling in the underbrush. Her head shot up.
"Hello? Is anyone there?" No one answered.
She was gripped by fear. Helpless, she lay trembling, the pain in her leg resurrected. Staring toward the city, she saw the cross of St. Theresa's bright against the night sky and she focused on it like a lifeline. The woods around her were quiet and still. Peace suffused her soul.
Lord, forgive my unbelief. I've been so afraid, but You, Lord, light my path.1 My pain is nothing compared to what you endured on the cross for me. You are my strength, my help when I'm in trouble.2
A calm came over her as she kept her eyes on the cross.
1 Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)
2 Psalm 46:1 (NKJV)
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