“Please come and visit before you go to sleep.” Scrawled in old-style cursive on a torn-off strip of paper, the note lay in my cabin. On my bed.
Minutes ticked by as questions swirled around inside me. Should I go? What does he want? Surely he’s safe – isn’t he? What will he do if I don’t come?
The chill of the night seeped through my skin, setting me shivering, as my feet crunched slowly along the path to his abode. There, shrouded in darkness, strong arms wrapped around me. Warm lips pressed against my hair, my neck while words of affection were softly muttered.
“She was a black-eyed beauty, like you,” he said. “We were lovers,” he said. “I’ve missed her terribly all these years.” Long and slowly he spoke, weaving his tale of endless grief, while I sat silent, immobilised by confusion.
“You remind me so much of her.” He shifted in his seat. Horror surged through my muscles and carried me, breathless, back to my room. Alone.
He was fifty. Married. A father of four. I was fifteen.
“Come for a walk with me.” His strong, tanned hand tugged gently on my fingers. “It’s okay. I promise I won’t hurt you. I just want to talk.”
Hours earlier, his voice had beckoned. “You are beautiful. You are elegant.” Silky smooth, his words caressed me, quietly seeking to wrap themselves around my soul.
Caution snatched at my ankles as I followed him into the arching shadows of a garden. The moon stretched its glowing fingers between the branches, urging me to dash back into the light.
I stood in the shelter of the trees, tossing carefully-chosen phrases across the void I’d placed between us. Conversation meandered like a slow-flowing river. Philosophy and religion – our similarities, our differences.
Clouds drifted in front of the moon. Voices quieted. He opened his soul and spoke of desire.
My heart raged in fury, urging me away, back into the light.
He was thirty-five. My long-time teacher. I was seventeen . Fresh out of school.
“Come to me,” he whispered. I recognised this voice – had known it all my life. He was the one Who loved me, the preacher said. The one Who died for me.
When I was tiny, He kept me safe at night. As a teenager, He called me closer, stirring up longings to know Him more.
Then darkness had entered my soul, slowly building a wall between us.
Surely I was unfit for his presence. I was the fearful one, shrivelled up and tormented, straining endlessly to whitewash the blackness away.
Still the stains seeped through.
His eyes gazed at me with fiery intensity. “I know it all,” He said. “I love you still. I’m not like the others. My love for you is pure. Complete.”
His arms stretched wide across the span of my life, covering all of my history and every moment yet to spring to life. “I gave Myself for you.” His voice was soft. “Stop striving. Come and let Me heal you. Let go of your past, of those who’ve wounded you. Trust Me and I’ll wipe away your pain.”
I lifted my head and staggered to Him, desperate. Tears streamed as shame and longing flowed freely from within me. He gathered me tenderly into His arms and held me close to His beating heart. Weathered hands wiped away my tears.
“You are the delight of My heart,” He said. “I’ll never, ever let you go.” Grace flooded over me, washing me through, replacing despair with hope and peace.
I was twenty-one. Anorexic. He was the Good Shepherd. The restorer of my soul.
“My darling, I love you.” His gentle hands reached out to hold mine. “Will you marry me?”
I stared into his eyes, glistening pools of blue, my heart overflowing. This was the man I knew so well– the devoted, creative, handsome one who had my admiration from the moment we met. Far beyond my reach, I thought. Yet there he sat, smiling through the darkness while waves crashed on the beach below us.
The diamond ring sparkled in the moonlight as he slipped it on my finger. He held me close, his tenderness awakening the sleeping parts of my soul.
“You are so beautiful, inside and out. Let’s walk together through the rest of our days. Everything I have is yours.” His voice was soft with emotion. “I long to know you completely – with every part of my being. But I’ll wait…until the day. Be sure of this – already you have my heart. ”
He was twenty-eight. A lavish gift from God. I was twenty-seven. Blessed beyond words.
Healed and finally free to love.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.