Why are you running?
The question sounded absurd in the midst of my flight, a whisper tossed in with the raging winds that whipped my hair around my sweat-streaked face. Fear pressed in close, perpetuated by the violent debris that I barely had time to dodge with each step. My muscles were strained and on fire, a stark contrast against the cold fog that seeped into my pores and chilled my heart. Why am I running? I couldn’t even process the question, so outrageous was its implication. As if I had nothing to run from.
I sprinted through a forest of bare trees. The storm had come suddenly even though it followed a time of eerie stillness and foreboding gray skies. The winds were now so fierce that I didn’t know if the forest would hold up, let alone my small form. I’d come to the woods for safe haven, a hiding place if you will. I needed to find peace, find myself, get away from the taunting and distracting voices of the things I always knew—my home.
Maybe the forest could become my new home.
Oh, but it wasn’t long before my refuge raged against the hopes I had for it. I realized as I ran for my life that I would never be safe. I was insignificant. So insignificant that the wind, at will, could just decide to pick me off of the face of the earth. And neither my fear nor my pumping limbs could combat the inevitable.
I was running towards nothing in particular, and yet I had to get away unless I wanted to surrender to the storm’s wrath. I couldn’t do that just yet. Not while I still had breath left in me. I cried out as a thick branch slashed my face. I didn’t have time to stop and evaluate the wound, but it felt as if it cut to the bone. Fear oozed out of me with the blood that ran from my cheek. I was done for.
Blackness crowded my vision, and I was sure I was dying. My limbs kept striving for escape, but my eyes grew weak. I squeezed them shut, something knocked into my ribs, and then I hit a wall and fell to my face…
Wait. I let out a breath that echoed inside me as if my body were a cave. My face never hit the ground, only my knees. I blinked my eyes open, slowly, wondering where all the sound had gone. Only soft breezes caused loose strands of hair to kiss my jaw and temples. When my sight came into focus, a man knelt before me. His eyes were vibrant and kind. It was as if they had swallowed up the storm and now held it at bay though it yet longed to rage. Before I could react at all, the man reached up a hand to touch my face. He gently swept his thumb over my wound, and I flinched at the pain it triggered. But instead of removing his hand, he pressed it closer until its warmth engulfed my entire face. I caught my breath. The relief was staggering.
“Dear child, what is it that you think will harm you?”
His was the voice—the whisper. He was the one who asked questions that didn’t make sense. But this time, his words held weight in my heart. And I knew there was deep purpose in the asking.
I knelt there for several moments, breathing, looking at his eyes but at times averting my gaze. I searched myself for the answer to that question. What would harm me? Because right now, I felt safer than I’d ever felt before. It didn’t matter that my face was bleeding or that this forest had been attacked by a violent storm that seemed intent on my elimination.
“Look,” the man finally said. “You belong to my heart. Do you understand?”
I felt the skin at the bridge of my nose bunch up. I still couldn’t respond, but I think somewhere in the depths of who I am, I was beginning to understand.
“Nothing can harm you, child,” he whispered and planted a kiss on my sweaty forehead. I closed my eyes to receive the warm kindness of his lips. When I opened my eyes again, I stared straight into his. Colors swirled within them. And I knew. I knew that the storm was subject to his power. And that love would always have the final word.
“I don’t know what I’m running from,” I answered his first question, which seemed to echo from ages ago, at last.
“Then come home.” He drew me into his arms, and for the first time I felt what it was like to have a home. I didn’t care if the forest around me gave way or if I could never go back to the place I came from. I was right where I belonged. I inhaled a deep breath with my face pressed into his neck, and the sweetest oxygen filled my lungs and sent strength coursing through my weary muscles.