I sat on the end of a fire truck, huddled in a thick blanket, staring blankly into space.  The ruins of my uncle’s home smouldered as neighbours, police and firefighters bustled about.  Some thoughtful soul had given me a thermos full of tea, which now sat idly in my hand.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them I never drank the stuff.

            Eventually the sheriff took me home, still in a dazed silence.  My parents hovered over me with worry, and somehow I ended up in my bed, staring at the ceiling.  I thought about the ashes that had once been my uncle’s home, and felt like my life had been burned down around me the same way. 

            Every time I thought I was getting any better, my life got worse.  I lost Faith, my school went on strike, I was isolated from my friends, the church had been attacked by an arsonist, Lil had tried to manipulate me, Dan had cheated on Teri, my uncle was dead…  I felt closed in by darkness, chilled by despair.  I couldn’t sleep.

            I got up and showered, washing away ashes and dust, bloody from the factory, leaning against the tiles of the shower.  I let the water trickle over my skin and tried to stop thinking.  I felt hollow.

            I had made a promise, and no matter how bad life was, I intended to keep it.

            I dressed and ate toast before walking to church in my thick black coat.  I sat in the back row, slumped in my seat.  The choir led the congregation through the hymns and I felt hollow.  The minister prayed, and I didn’t care.  It all seemed completely meaningless.

            The preacher, Reverend Craig, began a sermon on Genesis, of Adam and Eve in the garden.  I only half-listened, knowing the story of how the serpent tempted them, and then they hid from God after eating the fruit.

            “God is all knowing,” the preacher said, “Adam and Eve could not truly conceal themselves.  Yet God looks for them in the garden, calling out to see where they are.  Why does He do this?”

            Reverend Craig paused.  “I believe God was waiting for Adam and Eve to reveal themselves.  To feel ashamed of their own disobedience and then own up to what they had done.  This story is about how all of us, at one time or another, hide from God.  And God wants us to know that He will always come looking for us, no matter what we’ve done.

            “We are never lost in God’s eyes.”

            I felt it.  I felt the stirring inside me that came from really feeling God’s presence, something I could never articulate to anyone else.  It was almost as if every cell of my body had been struck like a guitar chord, humming in the air.  I held still, fighting my feelings.  I just waited, as the minister and choir exited.  I sat while the congregation dispersed.  I waited until I had the sanctuary to myself.

            I walked up the red carpet to the steps leading up to the worship area.  I knelt there, in the same place I had been baptized.  I shook with fear.  I hated my life, yet could still find a way to believe in God.  So I asked Him to find me where I was hiding, and rescue me from the darkness that had invaded my life.

            My freshman year had been one of loneliness and depression.  I was so confused.  I wanted it to make sense, or for everything to end.

            “I give up!”  I cried out.  “I don’t care anymore!  I don’t want this life!  You need to take it and make it yours, or end it, because I’m done with trying.  Show me what I’m supposed to do, or make it all stop.  Please.”

            I felt the stirring, a wind inside me, and it pushed me to the ground.  The burden on my shoulders had become crushing, all my terror and depression suddenly made physical.  It was as if an invisible hand was holding me down and I began to panic.  I could hardly breathe.  My fingers pressed against the red carpet, and I became supremely aware of every bristle against my skin.  I struggled and got nowhere.  My own strength was insignificant.

            And then I remembered. 

            “Wind” and “Spirit” and “Breath” are the same in Hebrew.  The Holy Spirit is God’s Breath.  I could not breathe because I was fighting the spirit moving within me.

            “Sometimes friends hold the keys to the doors in our souls.”  Angelica had told me in the dream.  Named for an angel, the messengers of God.

            “You have to let go or you will never feel safe,” a message from Hope, the wish for the future.  Safety, or salvation, which is offered by God.

            I let my hands relax and stopped fighting.  I lay on the floor of the sanctuary and felt the spirit soar through me like a wind, and it took with it my fear, my sense of burden.  I remembered my baptism and the sheer joy of knowing God.  The weight had lifted, and I was sure of something.

            God gave me the breath of life.  It was a gift, not a burden.  And that meant all these dark days had not been to destroy me, but to help me find my way.  I could almost feel it, like a river’s current pulling me forward; I could sense my future.  I knew my purpose.  I sat up, feeling refreshed, cleansed.

            I turned as I stood and saw two young women in the doorway of the sanctuary.  They were dressed in identical black suits and ties.  One was a blonde with a serious expression, with short hair that was about even with her chin.  The second had long black hair and a soft smile.

            “How did you know where to find me?” I asked.

            The brunette blinked, surprised.  The blonde simply shrugged.

            “If you were ready, you’d be here.”

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