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The Stand-In

I was shoved to the ground.  My hands stung from the impact, but I hardly noticed.  My mind was focused on the whip in the thick hands behind me.

“Please,” I begged, “please don’t…”

“Don’t what?” snarled my tormentor, “Don’t give you what you deserve?”

“I don’t deserve…”

“What did you say?”  My tormentor planted his foot in the middle of my back, making me sprawl flat on the ground.  “Did you just tell me you don’t deserve this?”  His voice took on a patronizing tone.  “Tell me again who it was who broke the law? Who was it who refused to obey the rules?  It wasn’t I.”

“I didn’t mean to….”  I rasped, finding it hard to speak while a heavy foot was pressed into my back. I tried again.  “I didn’t ‘refuse to obey.’ I just ….”  The foot left my back then came back with a hard jab to my side.

“Are you mocking me?  You didn’t follow the law, and last time I checked, not following the law is not obeying the law.  You. Refused. To. Obey.”   I pulled myself to my knees, holding my side.   Surly I wouldn’t really be given the punishment.  It was unreasonable.

“Alright, I know I broke the law, but isn’t the punishment a bit harsh?”

A fist slammed into the back of my head and I saw small sparks of light.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Was that a bit harsh for you?” he sneered.   I blinked a few times to get the stars out of my vision.  I reached my hand up to hold my head, but my tormentor beat me to it.  His meaty hands grabbed a handful of hair and jerked my head back so that I was facing him.  His face was only inches from mine, and I could smell rancid breath coming from his mouthful of yellowed teeth.

“Listen to me,” he said lowly. “When you broke the law, you gave yourself to me.  Nothing I decide to do is too harsh.  I own you.”  His hand released my head, and I heard his heavy foot falls make their way behind me.

I licked my dry lips and said, “You don’t have to do this.”  There was no response.  Somehow that was more frightening than all his menacing words.

“Get up,” he finally said.   I stood up, relieved. “Walk,” he told me.  Was I free to go?  I started to turn around.  “Forward idiot! Walk forward,” he yelled at me.  I nervously began to walk forward.  If I wasn’t free to go, then where was I going?

Then I saw it: a pole.  Lying next to the pole was a rope.  I swallowed and my palms began to sweat.  My tormentor shoved me to my knees.  He took my arms and tied my wrists to the pole in front of me.

“I won’t do it again, alright.  I swear I won’t.  I won’t even think of doing it again. Just let me off this once,” I pleaded.  He didn’t answer.  “Please give me a break.  Have some mercy.”

The back of his hand smacked my jaw.  “There’s your mercy,” he said cooly.  Then he walked away, leaving me kneeling with my hands tied above me.  My mind refused to believe this was happening.

A whistling sound cut the air and, with a crack, something came down on the ground behind me.

“Are you ready?” asked my tormentor.  There was another whistling sound and another crack on the ground as the whip hit.   My heart sped up.

“Are you ready to get what you deserve?”  The whip smacked the ground beside me, only inches away.  My breath became shallow and fast.  I closed my eyes.

“Stop.” It wasn’t the voice of my tormentor.  I opened my eyes, but I couldn’t see who the voice belonged to.

“What is the meaning of this!?” demanded my tormentor, “I have every right to give what is deserved.  You can’t stop me from bringing about justice.”

I heard footsteps, and a  knife filled my view.  It cut through the ropes that held my wrists.

“What are you doing?!” called my tormentor.

Gentle hands helped me to my feet.    My rescuer was a plain man—neither tall nor short, strong nor thin.  His eyes were the only thing I noticed.  They were different than most eyes I’d seen.  They held compassion.

The tormentor glared at my rescuer.  “This person,” he jabbed a finger in my direction, “broke the law.  There must be punishment!”

“There will be,” said the man.  I cringed inside.  I thought this man was going to let me go.

“Oh really?” said the tormentor snidely, “Then I suppose you would like to explain to me why you have just freed the person who is to be punished? “

“I will stand in.”

“What?” The tormentor looked genuinely confused.

“I will stand in and take the punishment for them.”

The tormentor’s eyes gleamed greedily.  “Well, if that is what you want to do…”

“Wait! You can’t take my place,” I told him, “You don’t know what my sentence is.”

The man held up his hand.  “It’s alright.  I will stand in for you.”

“But….”

“Shut up!” The tormentor glowered at me. “It isn’t up to you.  It’s too late.  He’s made his decision.”

I stood looking from the tormentor to the man who was about to take my place, unsure of what to do.

“You might not want to stand so close. This thing doesn’t have the best aim,” the tormentor told me with a sly grin.

The man gave me a reassuring nod.  As much as I didn’t want this man to take my punishment, I also didn’t want to have the pain inflicted on me.  It didn’t seem like I had much choice anyway.  I stepped back.

The tormentor started to pick up one of the longer pieces of the cut rope to tie the man’s hands.

“Didn’t I come willingly?” asked the man without turning to look at him.  The tormentor left the rope and walked behind the man.   My rescuer looked calmly forward, waiting.  His eyes looked directly into mine.

The tormentor didn’t taunt the man as he did me.  Instead, he launched into the man with a maniac pleasure.  The man’s eyes steadily held mine as the first blow hit with a sickening sound.  The man flinched but didn’t cry out.  The next blow came.  I wondered if I would have been as composed as he was.  I doubted it.

The whip fell on his back again, then again.  I flinched with each blow.  He was hit a fifth time, and that time, he groan escaped his lips.  I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his.  His gaze was locked on mine.   His whole face grimaced in pain as the whip came down on him again.  It should have been my back.

The tormentor’s face was contorted in hatred as he brought the whip down harder than before.  The man cried out.  I wanted to yell for him to stop, but my lungs seemed to have run out of air, and my mouth wouldn’t move.  In the corner of my eye, I saw the whip fly back, strike, fly back, strike. Over and over again until I lost count.  Sprinkles of blood flew through the air.  The man looked into my eyes with steely resolve.

It went on forever.  I thought it must be a dream—a nightmare.  It was a long nightmare filled with compassionate, pain filled eyes and the sound of a whip hitting flesh.  It was the worst nightmare I’d ever had.

The man collapsed.  He fell to his hands and knees with a cry.  His shirt was completely torn off his back and his skin was a crisscross of cuts.  Blood was everywhere.  My back should have looked like that.  My blood should be everywhere.

The tormentor whipped him again.

“Stop,” I said in a hoarse voice.

He was whipped again.

“Stop,” I said more forcefully.

The whip came down again.

“Stop!” I screamed, “Stop it! Stop it!”

The tormentor looked coldly into my eyes and brought the whip sizzling through the air.  The man moaned.

“You can’t do this,” I insisted, “This man didn’t do anything.  He didn’t do what I did.  He doesn’t deserve this.”

“There is…”

Smack.

“Nothing…”

Smack.

“You can…”

Smack.

“Do about it.”

My stomach turned.  This man shouldn’t be suffering this pain.  It was mine.  It was my fault; the pain belonged to me.  I sank to my knees, no longer able to stand. Tears filled my eyes.  I watched in horror as the man who took my place was whipped again, and again, and again.

When his back became so mangled it resembled chewed meat, I could no longer watch.   I closed my eyes and hung my head.  I put a hand over each ear, but I could still hear the whip.  I could still hear the innocent man’s groans.

Finally, all was silent.  The man was finished standing in my place.  It was over.  He took my sentence for me.

My sentence: to be whipped to death.

————————————————–

There are few people who are willing to take a punishment for something they didn’t do, and even fewer people who would give their life for someone else.  Thankfully, someone stood in for me and took my punishment. I never feel truly alone because even if I’m surrounded by people who don’t value my life, I know that Jesus does enough to give his own.

What about you?  Is there someone in your life who would die for you?  Is there someone  for whom you would die?

Criminal (Part 3)

The burning in my lungs chased away thoughts of miracles and prophets. My breaths in were difficult, but breathing out was impossible with my arms stretched out and over my head. I needed to pull myself up, but I couldn’t move. My muscles weren’t responding to the command. Up. I need to breathe.

Did I need to breathe? Why not stop breathing and end this misery now? Cramps assaulted me. The muscles around my chest and shoulders angrily squeezed themselves into tight balls of fire.

Instinct took over, and even though my mind told me not to prolong this agony, my body began to rise. Fiery swords twisted into the holes in my wrists and feet. I was sure I could hear bones grinding against the iron spike. The assent rubbed my back against the rough timber, scraping it until there was blood running down my legs.

I reached the top, and my lungs moved up and down. The cramps subsided. Then my arms began to shake and I let my knees buckle beneath me. The movement jolted the spikes in my hands sending searing pain through my fingers and arms. I would have to go down more slowly.

“Father.” The zealot carpenter from Nazareth was talking. “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

The angry mob paid little attention to the man’s words—they continued to hurl insults—but I wondered why he would say such a thing. Was he trying to play the crowd? Pretending to be the merciful messiah to the end, hoping that someone would believe his act and get him down?

No. I felt my body pulling apart just as he, and pain like this didn’t leave room for acting. It stripped a person of all pretending and exposed who they truly were. He meant it.

I looked to the soldiers who gambled over his clothes. Did he mean them too? The ones who held him down and drove spikes into his flesh? What person would forgive that? Unless, he wasn’t just a person.

I’d seen a miracle once. I don’t even know why I went that day. I think part of me hoped that there was a prophet among us again. There was a mob there to hear the man preach. Such a vast crowd—it was like one I’d never been a part of. If that many people believed in him, then maybe not all the rumors were false. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember the taste of the fish and bread. It looked ordinary, but it had a taste like no other fish or bread I’d ever eaten before or since. Maybe because it wasn’t the food of this earth.

I saw what the man had to feed the massive crowd—five barley loaves and two fish. It was hardly a meal enough for one man but somehow, as his followers broke the food into pieces and handed them out, the food didn’t run out. The entire crowd was feed on such a meager portion. It was food coming out of nowhere, like the manna my forefathers received in the desert. There was a prophet amongst us again.

My taste buds remembered the meal as I thought of that day—a small pleasure in the middle of my torment. I glanced at the bloody face of the man next to me. The misshapen face didn’t look like the man that spoke that day, but how many carpenters from Nazareth could there be claiming to be the Messiah?

“Your name is Yeshua? Isn’t it?” I gasped.

The man nodded.

A soldier heard my question. “You’ve heard of him, huh? What is it like to be put to death beside a king?” He gave a roaring laugh, then turned to Yeshua. “That’s what you are, isn’t it? It’s what your sign says. Well, if you are really king of the Jews, then why don’t you save yourself?”

“Come off your cross,” said another soldier, “Aren’t you their messiah? Don’t you have the power to help yourself?”

“Where is your power?” called someone from the crowd, “Where is your army of angels? Can’t you call them to save you?”

“Why don’t you call them?” I recognized that voice. It was Jesse, hanging on the other side of Yeshua. He would join our tormentors in berating this man? He had no decency, to turn on a man dying in the same way we were. Would he start yelling insults at me too?

Jesse continued his mocking. “If you are God, then save yourself. While you’re at it, save us.”

The solders laughed and one said, “Your fellow criminals want you to help them. Are you going to disappoint them?”

“We’ll be your most devoted subjects. Won’t we Johan? All hail the King of the Jews,” Jesse gave a laugh that sounded more like a cough, “What’s wrong oh king? Come, we don’t have all day.”

Let him mouth off to the Romans if he wanted to. They deserved it. But what did he know of Yeshua? I balanced shakily on the spikes so I could breath. “Don’t you have any respect?” I asked him. “We are under the same sentence. At least we deserve it.” I hung my head and took a breath. “We are punished justly. But this man isn’t like us. He has done nothing wrong.”

“He’s still dying ain’t he? Just like us.” He snorted. “He’s no different than we are. Even if he does have a fancy crown.” He gave a hollow laugh. “Death. The great equalizer.”

Death wasn’t an equalizer. Yeshua wouldn’t be going to the same place as Jesse. Or me.

This man was a king. Not just King of the Jews, but king of an other-worldly realm. If anyone could help me, if anyone could change my destination after death, it would be him.

I let my head roll in his direction.

“Yeshua.” The man looked at me. “Lord. Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The soldiers laughed. “He wants the king to remember him.”

One of the soldier nudged another. “He believes the carpenter has the power to come off the cross and hopes he’ll get him down as well.”

I paid them no attention. Yeshua was pushing himself up, grimacing as the wood peeled away the flesh of his back. Once he caught his breath, he would give me an answer.

Suddenly, I dreaded his response. What chance did I actually have? It was too late to go back and live my life in a way that would ready me for death. Did I spend time reading the Torah? Had I prayed twice every day with the scriptures tied on my arm and head? Did I recite the Shema every morning and night?

But he was a man of compassion. Even if he wouldn’t do what I requested, he would respond with an indulging answer simply to comfort me in his time of death. Perhaps a kind lie was more than I deserved.

“I answer you truthfully,” said Yeshua, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

My muscles where shaking. I slunk down the wooden stake and let my weight again hang from my arms. I was too out of breath to say anything.

“You’ve earned a place in a paradise with the gods!” bellowed a soldier.

Another looked at Jesse and said, “What about you? Are you going to join them in their kingdom?”

“Fool.” Jesse spoke to me, not the soldiers. “Fear of death has addled your mind.”

I closed my eyes. My muscles tightened, then teased me by slowly releasing before squeezing even harder in a jerking movement. I fixed the word “paradise” in my mind so that it blocked out all other words. It soothed me. Soon it would all be over, and a new life would begin.

Now, all that was left to do was die.

—-

Time was my enemy. It moved slower and slower, stretching infinitely. I pushed myself up, and eased back down. I breathed. I bled. This went on for days. No, not days. It was only hours. Sometimes consciousness would slip away. I was always disappointed that it came back.

Why was I still breathing? My back scraped up and down along the wood so many times I wondered if my ribcage showed.

Finally, relief came. A club smashed against my legs until my bones broke. My tongue was swollen and my mouth so dry, screaming was difficult.

Now I wouldn’t be able to lift myself to breath. I would suffocate.

This small mercy was only given to me because whoever was responsible for our burial was impatient to finish his job before nightfall when Shabbat began and work wasn’t allowed. Any other day, and I could have hung for days before drawing my last breath.

My arms were out of their sockets, but the ache of their stretching was overshadowed by pressure in my chest. I could inhale, but couldn’t exhale. My lungs were going to explode.

My head was floating. The people still gathered meshed and wavered like a candle.

This was it. What would happen after the end? My panicked mind fought to hang on. Me in paradise? It would take a miracle to get me there.

Something filled my mouth. It was a taste that I’d only savored once before. Bread and fish. Miracles did happen. And I’d met the one who did them.

Then, everything was still. My muscles were free of cramping. My body wasn’t being torn apart.

A circle of light appeared in front of me, and out of the light walked two men.

It was him! The man from Nazareth was standing free of blood or bruise wearing a white and purple robe. There were no thorns on his head, but a crown that glimmered with more jewels then even Solomon himself could have had.

Behind him was a man I hadn’t seen in years. My father. A huge grin lit his face.

Yeshua stretched out a hand. “Come Johan. Let me lead you to the kingdom.”

———————————————————————————————————————

(Don’t know what’s going on in this story?  Read the beginning of Criminal.)


Hi everyone! I hope you enjoyed this three-part story that tells an age-old tale from a perspective not often seen. The two criminals hanging side-by-side with Jesus is a powerful visual for the options each person is given. Both men were beside Jesus in the darkest moment in their lives, and both would have been given the comfort of everlasting life, but while one dared to ask the unthinkable, the other could only spew insults. Even at death, all he could think of was temporal things that wouldn’t count as soon as he breathed his last. By joining in the catcalling, he put the views of the people gathered that day ahead of his soul.

Interesting facts:

Johan means “God is gracious.”  I chose this name because God was gracious enough to give him everlasting life in spite of anything he did.

Jesse means “God’s gift.”  The greatest gift was pinned to a tree, bleeding before his eyes, but he chose to refuse it.

Rescued: The Visitor

This is a continuation from Rescued: The Gun

————————————–

You should have died.  No one wants you here. No one loves you.  No one would miss you if you were dead.  Do what your mother failed to do.  End your life.

Carrie pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.  She didn’t die.

The gun must have jammed.  She was about to check it when there was a knock on the door.  She stared at the door, then the gun.  Why answer the door?  She was about to die.  The knocking continued.  She tossed the gun aside, slightly annoyed.  She wasn’t sure she would be able to build up the courage to pull the trigger a second time.  She stood shakily to her feet, and wiped her watery eyes on the back of her hand.

Don’t answer the door! Don’t get up.  Pick up the gun!  The spirit was frantic. Her hand twisted the doorknob.  Don’t! Don’t do it!  Carrie opened the door.

The first thing she noticed about the man at the door was his suit.  Men in suits never came to her trailer.

“Umm…I’m sorry. My mother isn’t here,” Carrie told him.  The man looked too nice to be her mother’s boy friend, but who else could he be?  He looked her mother’s age.

“I’m not here to see your mother.  I’m here to see you,” the man said.  Did she know him? He was tall—a little over six feet.  His shoulders were broad and Carrie guessed that under that suit was well toned muscle.  He looked like an athlete, but his face looked more like it belonged in an office than a football field.   His face was clean-shaven, his dark hair was closely cut to his scalp, and his chocolate colored skin was smooth and clear.

She didn’t recognize him, and she was sure she would remember if she’d seen him before.  It wasn’t everyday she saw a bodybuilder/lawyer walking around the trailer park.

“I’m sorry, who are you?”  Her tone was a little sharp.  It was a little unnerving to be alone while a guy that could be a line-backer stood at her door.  The gun in the room behind her didn’t even have bullets.

“You can call me Geff,” he said.  His voice was soft, but strong at the same time.  “I am here to bring you much needed peace.”

“Peace?  Are you some kind of preacher?”  Carrie asked.  She didn’t feel like listening to someone go on and on about how much God loved her.  No one loved her.

No one loves you, echoed the blackness hovering around her.

The man chuckled, “In some ways, I suppose I am a preacher.  A preacher delivers messages from God.  My job is the same.”   Carrie was confused.  Was he a preacher or wasn’t he?

“Look, I don’t have time right now to…” she started.

“Don’t have time?”  Geff looked confused, “But didn’t you call for help?”  Was this guy with the police? He could be from the FBI judging by his stature and immaculate suit.  All he needed were dark sunglasses.

“I didn’t call anyone.  You must have the wrong house,” she told him.

That’s right.  You don’t need his help.  He can’t help you anyway, whispered the voice. 

He can’t help me, thought Carrie, No one can.

“There is help for you Carrie,” the man said.  Carrie was startled.  How did he know her name? Maybe he did work for the FBI. That would explain why he knew her name, but even an FBI agent couldn’t read minds.  It must have been a coincidence.

He lies! said the voice. There is no help, not for you. 

“Look, I don’t know who told you to come over here, but I didn’t call anyone to come help me,” she told him feeling a little freaked out by his accurate guessing skills.

Tell him to leave.

“You should leave.”

“’God—if there is a god—help me now.’ Aren’t those your words?” asked Geff.  Carrie couldn’t answer.  She was astonished that this man knew her exact words.   She didn’t even say them out loud.  He couldn’t be from the FBI.

“Who are you?” her voice whispered.

“I am someone sent to help show you the truth.”

“What truth?”

“Come,” he held out his hand, “Come with me, and I will show you.”  Did this man really think that she would go with him?  She wasn’t five.  She wasn’t going anywhere with a strange man, no matter how expensive his suit was.

Shut the door! Shut the door! Howled the spirit.

She started to shut the door.

“You aren’t an accident,” said Geff looking into her eyes.  “No one was made by chance. You were made with a purpose.”

The words stopped her.  Could it be true? For some reason hearing the words from this man made her want to believe she was more than her mother’s mistake.  Could she have a purpose?

You don’t.  You have no purpose.  There is no purpose to a life like yours.

Maybe I am an accident, Carrie thought, Maybe there is no purpose to my existence, but maybe—just maybe—there is some reason to my life. 

But there isn’t, protested the ugly spirit, Don’t listen to his stupid lies!

“What purpose?” she asked. “What purpose could I have? You don’t know anything about me, or my life.”

“There is only one who truly knows the purpose of each individual’s life.  I can’t tell you what your purpose is, but I can assure you that you do have one.”

Carrie’s anger stirred at the words. This man was just playing with her.  He didn’t know the meaning of life anymore than she did.  If he couldn’t tell her straight out, then she was an accident, a mistake.

You are a mistake. Don’t let this man’s words deceive you.  Your whole life is a mistake.

“I have a purpose huh, but you can’t tell me what it is.  It sounds to me like there is no purpose.  There is no reason to life.”

The man’s deep brown eyes were compassionate as he spoke, “There are things that you can’t see, Carrie.  There are things that can only be revealed. Do you want your eyes to be opened?  Do you want to see what is unseen?”

No!  Don’t listen to his ridiculous ramblings.  There is nothing beyond what you can see.  Only the things seen by your eyes are real. There is nothing more than that.

“Do you want to see truth?”

“Yes.”

 

——————————————

The story continues:  The Boxes

Previously:  The Gun

This is the second part of a five part series called Rescued.

Forgiven

I hear the lowly spirits of the devil reminding me of my pitiful past.  Two of them flock around me, Deception and Guilt.  Both of them whisper delusions and untruths to my mind as I try to pray.

“Give it up Christian,” mocks the ugly spirit named Deception, “If you really were a follower of God you wouldn’t have done the things you did.”

“But God forgives. The Bible says so,” I say.

I realize how pitiful my words sound.  The Bible says so? I sound like I am trying to sing a Sunday School song.  I try to continue praying.

Guilt cackles and says, “You may as well stop your useless mutterings. Don’t you know that your measly little prayer is a foul smell in God’s nostrils?”

It probable is, I think, my face burning in shame. How can a God so completely flawless even consider listening to my inadequate appealing?   I am only a human dressed in the putrid rages of iniquity. He is high and lifted up on a throne of rapturous glory.

Deception whispers, God doesn’t really love you.  He is up there laughing at you for thinking you could ever be his child.  You are unworthy.”

Unworthy, unworthy, unworthy.  The word echoes through the core of my heart.

I let the mocking spirits take hold of my mind and blow their spiritual bombs in my soul.  I am unworthy—unworthy of God’s love—unworthy of his forgiving power and healing grace.

Bright light fills the room, blinding me for a few seconds.

My eyes fall on a cross.  Jesus hangs limp, almost lifeless on its cruel, splintered boards.  They are so covered with red, dripping blood that I think he must have no more blood to give.

Salty tears run freely down my face.  All I can do at the horrific sight is fall to my knees and stare in awe.  I think of all the things I did wrong.  The list seems endless.

I look at all the people as they scorn and jeer  him.  They laugh and point at the mock crown made of painful thorns.  Don’t they see what they are doing? He doesn’t deserve to die, they do.

I do.

You do deserve to die,” Guilt chuckles, “Christian.”

I ignore him and began to scream at the people, “Stop!  Leave him alone. Don’t you know who he is? Don’t you see?  Are you so blind, so deaf that you can’t see that you are killing an innocent man?  He did nothing wrong, and you’re killing him!”

“You’re the one who’s killing him!”says Guilt, “You are the blind one. You sit there, so righteous, accusing others when you are just as filthy with sin as they are. Your precious savior is dying because of you.  Murderer!”

No! No. I didn’t want this to happen, I tell myself.  I bury my face in the ground and weep.

It’s true; I am a sinner, a killer.

Jesus starts to speak, than coughs, sputtering blood.  I raise my head.

Oh God I’m sorry—sorry for what I did.  Sorry…just sorry for everything…unworthy… I’m unworthy.   I stumble over my thoughts, hardly thinking straight from my guilty despair.

His lungs heaving, working overtime to take a simple breath,  Jesus lifts himself up using the nails as a crude pedestal.   With drops of blood and perspiration running down his face, he gasps, “Father,” he grimaces and he pulls his head up, his face heavenward, “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

My throat constricts, and I close my eyes.  He forgives them?  Forgives me? I open my eyes. The cross is gone.

“He didn’t forgive you, child of sin,” says one of my tormentors.

“But he did! I heard him.”

“You heard wrong. He said, ‘For they know not what they do.’  You knew what you were doing,” says Deception, “You knew you were sinning.  You have no excuse iniquitous human.”

“Your sin is too great for God to forgive,”Guilt gruffly adds.

“No!”  I clench my hands into fists.  “You’re wrong. I won’t listen to you anymore! Leave!”

You can’t make us leave,” Deception’s voice is smug.

“You have no control over us!” snaps Guilt. I stand up, knees weak. My lips tremble as I whisper, “Jesus, help me.”

“Stop! Don’t say that name!”  Fear creeps into Deception’s voice.

“You are not worthy to even say that name,” says Guilt.   I look up and scream the name, “Jesus!”  Strength comes into my knees and I stand straighter.

The demons try to keep control over there trembling voices.

“You cannot say that!  You will stop!”

“You have no control over me,” I say. I raise my hands above my head and close my water filled eyes, “Jesus!”  The two demons suddenly disappear and all is quiet.  The strength leaves my body, and I fall to the ground and cry with thankfulness.

An overwhelming peace washes over me.  I let my famished soul soak it up.  Then a sweet joy spreads through my veins.  I jump up and spin in a circle, arms stretched out, laughing. I am free!  No more will they spin their black, ensnaring web in my mind.  The fog I was lost in is now lifted. I am  unworthy, but that’s no longer how I see myself.  I am set free.

I am forgiven.

Man-at-cross