The tip of my whip lashed her body again and again. The fury I felt toward this woman would not be abated. Screams filled the air; each one increasing my rage. Her face was a mask of pain, her lips speaking the name of Jesus. How could she, who aided the Christ-killers, speak His name? Throwing the whip aside I bent over the woman, wrapping my hands around her neck; squeezing hard. Her eyes bulged, her screams quieted to barely a whisper… how was it then, that I could still hear her screams?
“Stop it! Stop that screaming.”
I woke with a start. The screams had been my own. The nightmare had been my constant companion these many years. Always, a face from those dark days filled my dreams – each one pleading for mercy, and I, giving none.
Calming myself as best I could, I fell back into an uneasy sleep.
The grotesque face looked at me, eyes burning with hatred. A whip was raised over her head, ready to strike out at me… my eyes jerked open… the face had been my own. Is that the kind of monster I had become in the end?
In the beginning I was a puppet of the Party. The rage soon became my own; it became easier and easier to strike out at those who crossed my path for whatever minor offense they committed, even an untied shoelace.
Who would save me from these nightmares? From myself? From the shadow of guilt?
I remembered the woman, who called upon the name of Jesus, as I beat her to death, telling me in the end that she forgave me, as did He. How could I find out more about this Jesus?
I sat in the back row of the church, dressed in a cloak of ‘leave me alone.’ I squirmed in my seat as the congregation sang song after song of praise to Jesus.
What am I doing here? Do I really expect to find an answer to my dilemma, here, in this place? Nothing can fix the cold, stark reality of my days, the nightmares of my nights. I have to live forever with the consequences of my actions.
“God has loved you from the beginning and he is here, right now, to put an end to your suffering.”
I had been so lost in my thoughts I didn’t realize the singing had stopped, and the sermon began. I hadn’t been in church much, but enough to know what to expect…
I pulled my mind back to listen.
“No matter what you have done, Jesus is willing to forgive you, to wash away your sins and to make you as white as snow. He took the whip for you, taking the lashes upon His body for you. Already bleeding profusely, He then went to the cross, to die for you. He Himself said that He laid down His life willingly. (i) Whatever has been holding you back from surrendering your life to Him, let today be the end of holding yourself back and the beginning of a new life with Him.
“If you would like to make the choice to give your life to Christ – ”
Even before the words were out of the pastor’s mouth, I was running down the aisle, tears of remorse, regret and repentance streaming down my cheeks. I fell on my face at the altar, pouring out my heart to the God I had wounded so many times, overwhelmed with a love I had longed for, never knowing it existed.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. A young woman was praying for me. Peace settled over me. When she was finished, I prayed, too, giving my life to Christ. I then turned up and looked up into her face. My face paled. It couldn’t be. I had seen her die before my eyes. Of course, this many years later, it couldn’t be her.
I had learned her name when the war ended. I’m not sure why I wanted to know… I asked the young woman her name… this was the girl I had helped leave an orphan. Her father had died while in another concentration camp.
“I am so sorry. Oh, I am so sorry. Forgive me.” I leaned into her and sobbed out my anguish.
“I already have, years ago. I have prayed for you, these many years. What a privilege it is to pray for you now.”
(i) John 10:18
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