Trust

An excerpt from a short story I am working on, currently titled “Through the Eyes of Mary Magdalene”

It was a spring day, warm and with a gentle breeze. Birds sang, flowers grew, and people laughed together as they worked.

I had not been working. The demons were restless that day. They took me and threw me against walls, made me rip at my hair, clothes, and skin. They screamed through my voice, tossed my head like a raging animal, shook me until saliva bubbled out of my mouth and trailed down my chin. People had thrown stones at me and cursed at me. I had fled wailing and crying.

I woke from the fit of the demons in an alley. Cuts and bruises littered my arms, legs, and face. My breath dragged through my throat like rough wood. So, I sat in the alley quietly to recover.

I heard voices and I shrank back in the darkness. A group of men passed following a Man.

I felt the demons stirring again. His love seeped out to touch me as He stopped at the entrance of the alley and looked at me. I stood - surely, this Man with mercy in His eyes would be able to help me. I limped toward Him, pulling my ripped clothes around me. He didn’t move until I was standing before Him.

I saw His companions. Twelve men. They drew back when they saw me.

I focused on His face; I didn’t trust what I’d see on their faces.

His face held mercy and forgiveness. The demons were raging inside, trying to get away. I lowered my head as I fought to keep control of my wits and my body. He held out His hand. “Look at me.”

I strained to lift my head, but the seven anchored my body.

“Be still.”

Muscles relaxed as the demons stilled. He lifted my head. A sea of kindness and love ran loose in His eyes.

“Daughter, do you want to be free?”

The demons strained, but they couldn’t move. I had come to Him from the back of the alley with just that request in my soul. Now, my mouth refused to budge. Tears trickled down my face. It seemed impossible to voice my request. My heart shrieked what my mouth could not. He rested His hand on my forehead.

“You are free.”

The demons screamed wildly through my voice, desperately trying to escape this Man.

“Peace, be still. You are forgiven.”

Light and peace pierced my soul. I slumped to the ground.

Strong hands caught me and drew a tunic over my ragged clothes. I raised my head slowly. He was walking away.

Wait! My heart cried. Take me with you!

He stopped and smiled at me.

The man kneeling beside me smiled, “Don’t worry. He told me to bring you with us.”

Tears washed blood from my cheeks as I faltered to my feet.

The man steadied me saying, “His name is Jesus.”

Jesus, what a beautiful name. The Man who looked at me with love and mercy not hatred and disgust.

I smiled and wiped away my tears. No tears of frustration, sadness, or anger would spread over my face again, I vowed. Not while I was with Him.

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Finished

Finished. The sound of the word soaks into my being and seeps into my soul

whispering comfort and encouragement

soon it will be done, have courage and to Me be faithful

 

Immortal God! How could You love us such that You became flesh and visible

taking on our anguish and hatred

to teach us love, joy, and peace - things to us invisible

 

Never - I must say it! - Never will I fear what is to come in my life and in this world

for it would dishonor and blaspheme

my Savior - Jesus - the Man with that sweet, sweet Name

 

Incredible His love, power, grace and peace permeating my heart and mind

that in the depths of despair

still I can say of my weary and wandering soul how well it Is

 

Saved by His compassionate love and patience, and continually thankful for

His leading me in His way

I can press on in His power and in His Service

 

Hopeful - O that the day will come -  till the day that I have been made complete

and am finished in His eyes

having been made by Him and for Him, Holy

 

Eternally bound to Him by His love and my trust will I continue in the Way

seeking His will in the world

until the day He calls me home and my journey Ends

 

“Deliverer, I’m home” I’ll cry having passed through the world to His presence

“in Your house let me dwell,

let me sing and dance and worship You forever, for it is Done.”

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Thirst

Darkness drags back painfully. Hard, crackled earth peeks into blurry vision. Clarity inches in and soon all that can be seen is pained land that goes on and on and on.

Wilted flowers, that should be full of color, slump against the dirt that had sustained them. With the last of their energy, they cling to their petals having already lost their leaves. Deserted, they slumber.

Tall, burdened trees stand their ground eeking out what little life is left in the earth. Branches hang from weakened joints until, with a shivering crackle, they are rent from their base to smack and burst on the dry, dry ground below.

Coarse flurries of air stagger over the land dragging persevering roots of flowers from their beds and sweeping the litterings of the trees away.

The land creeps into your eyes, your mind, your soul. Oppressive air invades your malfunctioning lungs and bits of dust cleave to your throat. A cough sends some racing out raking the tender skin inside.

The sun has made sucking all the moisture out of your aching skin its goal.

Your eyelids embrace your eyes every time you try to blink so you stare and stare and stare since you have been robbed of the ability to lubricate your eyes.

A haze wafts through the air causing the landscape to twist and wave as it waits for you to die. Fissured lips grind apart to ease the departure of a single, impotent word. “Thirsty.”

An image sways through the haze. Closer and closer it glides until it casts a meager shadow across your eyes. Scarred feet pause just before your face. Too faint and too pained to raise your eyes, you murmur that word again.

Defaced hands wriggle beneath your smarting body and grasp your raw skin securely. As you wheeze in pain, a sweet sweet voice coasts into your mind, “My child, come with Me for you are weary and your body is damaged. Trust in Me and I will replenish your soul. Let me give to you My living water. You will never thirst again, for this water will become in you a ‘spring a water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:14).”

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

 

 

 

Solitary

Solitary...it’s not a state of being that I like to think about. It implies that you are alone, isolated, without companions.

This state of being - solitary, alone, isolated - is like a dark cloud to me. It weighs on my soul causing me to drag my feet and grasp for love. It reminds me how hard it was moving to a school where I knew no one and was nowhere near my family. I hadn’t even visited Anderson before I moved on campus.

I felt alone in a crowd of people. Isolated. Forsaken by what I knew…

It was a rough year. But in my time of need I dreamed of the cross and Christ’s suffering. He cried, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46)

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)

Sometimes, we feel that way. We cry out in anguish “Why have You forsaken me, God!!?”

Why do we say such things? Why do we confront God with our state of being solitary?

The more I think about the years that I felt alone and forsaken (even though I had a loving family and church) the more I think that my soul was begging for God’s presence.

It’s gotten me thinking...

If we were made to glorify God, what happens when we don’t fulfill our calling?

It creates an emptiness inside. An emptiness that, I believe, can only be filled by God’s presence.

There was a book I read (a Christian-fantasy novel) that put forth this idea that without God’s presence, without His breath, we would not be able to function. We would cease to live. We would be solitary.

What would it be like to be forsaken by your Creator? Would there be physical pain? Or just spiritual pain, I wonder?

But, then again, I don’t actually want to know. Even beginning to imagine being forsaken by God makes my soul curl into a fetal position whimpering and begging Him to never let me be without His presence.

See, all that time when I felt alone taught me that I’m never truly alone for He is always with me. And when I feel solitary I am to follow in the Psalmists’ footsteps and glorify Him despite my being or feeling alone.

Psalm 22 doesn’t stop with the questions. It goes on to give glory to God:

“You are holy.” (vs. 3)

“I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when he cried to Him, He heard.” (vs. 22-24)

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Mother

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)

I’ve often thought that this verse meant so much more than just respecting your parents.

To me, respecting your parents entails obeying them, listening to their advice, caring for them as they grow old...things of that sort.

But to honor someone just feels heftier to me. It means that you are taking it upon yourself to consider that person as deserving the absolute highest respect and admiration and sometimes even love.

Honor implies not only the greatest respect you can muster but also a mindfulness of that person’s importance in your life.

The other thing in this verse that stands out to me is the promise that comes along with honoring your parents - “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”

As is often the case, God doesn’t urge us to do something without reason.

In other words, honoring your father and mother is good for you.

Jesus, made sure to honor His mother. Though He was dying, He thought of her.

“Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19:27)

What strikes me about this is that, even at the worst time, Jesus was mindful of His mother, her needs, and her love for Him.

How often do you call to mind the woman who nurtured you, taught you, laughed and cried with you, maybe knew you better than you knew yourself? Do you think of her in the good times and the bad times?

Do you honor her in your thoughts? The lessons you learned from her, the love she poured into you...Or do you let it all go to waste?

What would you have done in Jesus’ situation? Mary had no one left (that we know of) and she most likely wouldn’t have been able to take care of herself. So Jesus made sure that sure would be looked after and supported.

If Jesus can do that from the cross (in extreme pain, I’m sure), then surely we can make the time and mental space to honor our own mothers to the best of our abilities.

 

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

 

 

Paradise

Paradise...I don’t often think on this concept. I’ve heard some people say that paradise is another word for heaven or is the ultimate place to live. That all things will be good there. That maybe it was like the Garden of Eden before sin entered.

Can you imagine Paradise? Is it something that we’ll be able to see and care for, I wonder...or is it more of a state of being?

I haven’t decided myself if Paradise is a place, an idea, or a state of being. Perhaps it’s something so big that we can’t comprehend it. As I said, it’s not something I think about often.

When I do start pondering about paradise, I wonder if it is more than just a place, a physical place...perhaps it’s more of a spiritual place. Though for some reason, I can’t shake the hope that paradise is both.

Perhaps, if it is a physical place, we’ll get a sense like Frodo did upon nearing the Undying Lands.

“Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing...it seemed to him that...the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” (Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien)

It just sounds so beautiful and calming. It sounds like a place where there are no worries, no tears, no death, no pain...just beauty and the freedom to glorify God.

When I do think of paradise, I hope that it is something like that....in that it is a place that you can just sense that there is no evil there because you are in the presence of God.

I guess that’s what it is to me...finally being in the presence of God and being at peace knowing that His word has accomplished what He pleased and that it prospered in you as He sent it to do. (Isaiah 55:11)

Jesus said, “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Perhaps that’s why I think of Paradise in the two ways I’ve mentioned.

  1. Paradise means being able to be with God, completely.

  2. Paradise is a specific place where we can be in God’s presence.

It reminds me of a hymn we used to sing at my Southern Baptist church where I grew up.

“No more crying there, We are going to see the King (verse 2)...No more dying there, We are going to see the King (verse 3)” - Soon and Very Soon by Andrae Crouch (#247 in Park Place Hymnals)

I loved that song when I was younger. I loved the idea of a place where I wouldn’t cry anymore because that meant there wouldn’t be a reason for tears - no hurts, no anger, no jealousy, no death...I wanted a place like that because I shed tears for everyone that was hurting. I knew that when I reached that place, my heart wouldn’t be breaking because of the pain and evil in the world.

That is my hope still. So I sing with the saints:

“What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,

And I look upon His face - the One who saved me by His grace;

When He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day, that will be.”

—What a Day That Will Be, Jim Hill (#243 in Park Place Hymnal)

 

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.

Faith Sayles is an Anderson University junior from North Carolina. She is a creative writing major.