I stood with my back to the ravine. The tears wanted to come, but I held them back. They would only serve to admit the pain that my heart was feeling. I didn’t want to show that. I didn’t want anyone to know that what I felt was more than the anger that blazed in my eyes.
I fingered the box of matches in my hand, my skin running lightly over the rough sides. My eyes were glued to the ground at my feet. My friendship…this relationship…it was over.
I could hear the calls of my friend from the other side. She wanted me to come back. She wanted me to turn around and accept her apology. But I couldn’t. Things had gone too far. It wasn’t fair anymore, and I had forgiven enough.
Finally I held up the box of matches. “Up in Smoke” was the brand. How appropriate. Not that I cared. It didn’t matter what brand of matches I had. Whether they lit quickly and easily or not didn’t matter. I would stand here all day until that flame came if that’s what it took.
I turned my head once more to see my friend’s beckoning wave. The chasm that separated us was wide. It had started out as nothing but a small crack. But somehow the anger, selfishness and pride had wedged themselves in further and further until the ground had given way.
The bridge swayed a little in the wind. It was dry. It would disintegrate quickly. The ropes creaked, and the boards rattled. I didn’t remember it being so far to the other side. The trip over here had seemed so short. Yet looking back now, it seemed so long.
I opened the box of matches and took one out. The stiff wood felt cold somehow. I’d never paid much attention to matches. They had always seemed rather insignificant. But today…one single match was a weapon of mass destruction.
I positioned myself near the edge of the ravine. I looked down…down…down. Once the bridge was gone, there was no going back. One could not cross on their own. The sides were too steep, and at the bottom there were sharp rocks that would kill with a single blow.
My friend called once more. It was hard to understand her now. The wind was carrying her voice away. But I didn’t need to understand the words. I could hear the pain in her voice. I could hear the tears that she had allowed to fall. Unlike me…I was the strong one. I was the determined one. I was fed up, and this was a battle I would win, once and for all.
I knelt by the bridge. I laid the match on the edge of the box and closed my eyes and I scratched it quickly away from me. The rush of the small flame caught my ear and I looked to see that deadly orange fire.
The match neared that dried rope. One small flame…that’s all it would take.
But as my hand reached forward, I noticed a shadow on the ground. My outstretched arm passed by the bridge’s post, forming the shape of a cross in the grass. My heart seemed to stop.
I’d revered the cross all my life. I’d accepted Christ as my Savior and had believed that He had died on a cross for me. I hadn’t deserved that love. I hadn’t deserved that mercy and grace. Yet He had given it to me. He had offered forgiveness before I’d even been born.
Suddenly the flame of the match reached my flesh. I cried out as I was burned, and I dropped the flaming stick onto the ground where it went out in the moist grass. A little wisp of smoke rose into the air and drifted away.
Life was so short. Like that smoke, it would come and go so quickly.
My head turned back to stare across at my friend. She was still waiting. Our lives were but smoke to be blown away in the wind. Was I really willing to destroy all that we had together? Was I really willing to turn my back on forgiveness, when One had forgiven me for my most despicable sins?
The bridge felt sturdier on my way back over. And the walk didn’t seem so long. Perhaps it was being without the weight of that matchbox that eased my way.
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