You’re a liar. A hypocrite. A prostitute. You’re filthy. You’re nothing.
And then, one day, He comes along. You weren’t expecting Him, but He’s there. He’s just a man; nothing special to look at. He doesn’t sparkle with jewels, doesn’t wear designer clothes, doesn’t have millions in the bank. But He looks at you, and He sees something you don’t. A soul. Beneath the grime and sin that weighs you down, He sees something beautiful. But He’s not just going to walk on by – He’s going to do something about it.
“That’s nice of you,” you say, your words tinged with bitterness and sarcasm. “But in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a slave. I can’t just ‘run off’ with you.” Your master is hard, he is cruel, he is merciless. This man has no idea what he’s in for.
“Yes, you can,” says the Man calmly. “I’ll go have a talk with your master.”
You sit in the dirt, your shoulders hunched. It begins to rain. “Well, that was nice,” you say as raindrops mingle with salty tears that leave trails down your face. You know you won’t see Him again, but it was nice. For a brief moment, you almost felt noticeable. Worth something.
Hours pass. The door opens, two men step out. One is your master. He looks at you with those black eyes; that mouth twisted into a sneer, full of utter contempt. Hatred. Any spark of happiness you felt is extinguished – again. As it always is. “Get up.” He motions to the man next to him; another slave, a soldier. You are lifted up, and – what? He is unchaining you. The cold, heavy chains that have bitten into your wrists and ankles since the moment you were born are being removed. You marvel at the whiteness of the skin beneath. You’ve never seen it before.
You raise your eyes to your master, questioning.
“It seems you’ve caught someone’s eye.” He laughs. A laugh full of not-laughter.
The Man? Had he done this? Had he really…? “Where is he?” you burst out. You need to see him again. You need to thank him. You need –
“You won’t be seeing him again.” Your master grins, a gash across his face. “He drives a hard bargain. I can’t imagine what he sees in you.”
“What do you mean, I won’t be seeing him again?” Your voice rises in panic. “Where is he?”
“You can come and see, if you want.” He shrugs and stalks inside, leaving behind a foul aroma. You know what it is. It’s the carrion of evil. But you follow, of your own free will. Your feet take you inside, through the darkness of the stone walls, out to the courtyard.
Your breath catches in your throat, you feel dizzy. It’s that man; in the pouring rain. His hands have been driven through with iron nails, so have his feet. He is hung, like a macabre decoration, in the courtyard. It’s raining. Raining blood underneath him, water all around.
You stare. You can’t rip your eyes away even though your heart is breaking. So this is life. Life is death. There is no happily ever after. You were right. Your master was right.
And then –
He looks at you. His eyes are no special color, but that isn’t what you see. You see behind them. The way He is looking at you is like no way you’ve ever been looked at before. You can see something in His eyes, something precious, something you hadn’t thought existed. Something from a fairy tale.
Lightning splits the sky above. A flash, a cry of pain – from you? Him? You can’t stand this, you run forward, into the courtyard, to stand beneath the cross. “Why?” you ask. Your voice is a wail.
He looks down at you with that expression again. That expression with no name. He opens his mouth, He struggles to get the words out – but when He does, they are sure. Confident. Peaceful.
“I love you.”
Your world shatters into illuminated peace and anguish and laughter and pain – those words, they reach something inside you because you know that He means them, that He isn’t saying that to use you, that He really loves you and is… dying for you.
This man on the cross is suffering, gasping for breath, dying because His love for you was so strong He had to save you. You don’t deserve it. Why? Why?
He is dead. You leave. The night is dark, the wind is cold. You have nowhere to go, no home. You wander, the hard pavement pressing into the bare soles of your feet. Everything is cold, dark, lonely. You are alone. But you hold something inside you. “I love you.” You don’t understand, but you know it was the truth. You know He wouldn’t lie. He does love you – He did love you.
You pass the night on a street corner, trying to sleep, haunted by screaming, whispering, giggling thoughts – “I don’t deserve this.” “Who are you?” “I’m nobody.” “He’s dead because of you.” “You.” “YOU!”
Morning comes, your eyes open to the sunlight. The day is warm; a spring day with a breeze. You climb tiredly to your feet. Where are you supposed to go?
“Come with me.”
You turn to see who is speaking. You freeze; this is impossible. A ghost. “You – you’re dead,” you swallow. Should you run? No, not from Him, not ever from Him.
“I’m very much alive.” He smiles, holds out His hand to you. You see it, the scar there – scar? It’s healed already? You reach out, you take his hand. It’s larger than yours; strong, gentle. You raise your eyes to His. “Where are we going?”
He smiles, clasps His fingers around yours.
“To tell you that,” He says, “would spoil the adventure.”