Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: REFUGE (08/29/19)
TITLE: Space to Heal
By Karlene Jacobsen
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At first, she didn’t speak much, probably unsure whether any safe place to bare her soul existed, but once the door unlocked, I was stunned, listening to her unload years of pain. In truth, it hurt my heart. I wanted to throttle the people involved in breaking her spirit.
Knowing this wasn’t the answer, I turned to the One who could heal her wounds—inside and out.
Over the months, I would visit her home and invite her for a walk. To learn she lived a couple blocks from me was an answer to prayer. I’d longed for someone in my neighborhood to mentor. To say I rejoiced when she accepted my invitations would be an understatement.
Every now and then, I would notice her flinch at a raised voice or unexpected movement. My husband and I made it our mission to assure her that she was safe. Over time, she began to relax. She would stroll to our home and knock on the back door … until we finally convinced her to walk into the kitchen and holler from the dining-room door. “It’s a large old house. We don’t hear the back door,” we told every guest.
Like a tightly coiled spring, wound for action, she held her distance. A protective wall remained between her and my husband, until that day when his voice raised in anger over new traffic laws, and a tear slipped down her cheek, eyes wide with what looked like fear. We were running late for church. There wasn’t time for a stop sign, let alone the scene that unfolded before me.
He pulled the car to the graveled shoulder, shifted into park, unbuckled and stepped out and walked around to her door. In an attempt to be inconspicuous about my spectatorship, I pretended to check my makeup in the visor mirror. She trembled, tears cascading off her cheeks as he opened the door and held out a hand. When she hesitated to take it, he knelt in the gravel, hands on his knee. “Ann, I’m so sorry. My behavior has been inappropriate.”
A knot formed in my throat as I heard the emotion in his voice. He’d seen how his actions were affecting this young woman. She turned her face towards him, “It’s okay.” Her voice sounded choked.
“It’s not okay,” he answered, “but I hope you can forgive me. I never want you to feel unsafe with this family—with me.”
She reached out and took his hand. No words, only a slight nod, and an almost imperceptible smile.
We marveled to see her unwind and the coils loosen. One day, I looked out my kitchen window to see her on our garden swing. Her face turned toward the sky, the corners of her mouth turned up slightly, eyes closed. She was oblivious to the dog sniffing around her feet.
Curious, I headed for the front door and snuck around the house to peek in—spy—on her. It wasn’t like I thought she was in distress, but there was something so different that I had to be part of it.
Of course, it could just be the beauty of the early summer morning, but for a girl about to celebrate her 17th birthday, who’d been trapped in the mangled wreckage of her broken family’s pain and deceit, I wanted to know what was happening.
I closed the distance between us. While rehearsing excuses for my intrusion, a hand seized my arm. I turned. My husband had seen it too. He shook his head and pulled me back to the garden house. It was close enough to the swing to see that she was okay, but far enough away to allow her seclusion.
He told me later how he’d been caught in the little garden house, listening to her sing and pray. Her hiding place, she’d called it.
I think she’s going to be okay.
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