Before the strange sickness came upon her, she was the most radiantly beautiful person on the earth. Her eyes were Sunshine, filled with the joy which came from within her heart. Her cheeks were the essence of roses; indeed, the flowers’ color could have been painted from the very palette of her smile’s complexion. Her skin was purer than snow, without a single flaw to taint her flesh. Her lips were pink like a baby’s, filled with the newness of life, rebirthed with color every time she uttered a word. Her nose had the slightest flare with every laugh, revealing the happy life she lived, no matter the circumstance. The dimples on her face were the most precious, simple signal of her unwavering love that she shared with everyone around her. And she said it came from a Man who had created her, who had known her in her most vulnerable state: the time when she was still unformed. He knew her intimately before the beginning of time. He was her Creator. And He had revealed His love to her, and He had breathed life into her previously unformed being. Yes. He was her Daddy, raising her. He was her Friend, consoling her. He was her Lover, loving her with a love like no one else, she said, had ever, could ever, love her.
But like I previously mentioned, that was before the sickness came.
The first week she showed signs of illness was the most frightening, if for no other reason simply than we had no clue as to what had changed our angel’s countenance. The eyes which had once lit up the room with their light became confused rainbows—an odd mixture of blood red, ice blue, forest green, and ravenous grey confused her lenses to the world. The cheeks which used to hold the romance of nature became the most horrid shade of pale green, shrunken, sucked in to where we could see the curvature of her teeth, in such a way that she seemed to believe if she released her tight clench she would puke. Her once snowy complexion lost its gentle tone and became a sickly shade—no sign of life demonstrated through the pale hue. Her full, child’s lips pursued thin and faded with color every time they frowned deeper in chagrin. Her nose remained thin and long and insecure. And, most depressingly, there was no sign of the sweet dimples in which once abided all the love the world could carry; they had disappeared altogether. The state of disorientation in which we found our angel afflicted our own hearts and caused us to ponder what suddenly changed her visage.
The following week, our friend no longer appeared confused; however, this was of no delight to us, for in place of the confused rainbow eyes, her irises were Fire itself. They burned with flickering anger, they enlarged with flames of rage, they consumed whoever dared look into them with a hatred like no one had ever hated before. The red returned to her cheeks, indeed, but it was not the essence of a rose; instead, the blood of men pooled into her cheeks as her eyes pierced them until their hearts died. In fact, all the veins of her face were red—the trails of blood which scattered odiously about her face until reaching the deep, full cheeks. She bit her scabbed lips as if biting back words of vengeance, and when she dared open her mouth, the angry opening revealed teeth stained pink with the blood she had swallowed. Stressed wrinkles replaced dimples, and her whole face was disfigured with wrath. Our angel became our demon, our worry became our fear, and our life began to feel like death as we watched our friend digress into a strange slavery we could not identify.
After two weeks of watching our friend progressively worsen (and keeping one eye open lest our life be taken from the vampire with whom we now seemed to abide), we observed her appearance change once again and began to wonder if she was only an apparition or whether some demon had possessed her soul. Even more frightening than the disturbing rainbow or the Fire, our acquaintance killed our souls slowly with eyes of Ice. Freezing, captivating, slowly and painfully murdering ice. A blue that never wavers, that makes you shiver just looking at it. Death. There was no vigor left in her cheeks; no room for fervor in her flesh at all. Her lips were camouflaged with her skin—they absorbed no warmth for pigment like the rest of her face. No breath seemed to be breathed from her nostrils; no thought impassioned her mouth to speak. Death lingered on her eyelids, her nose, her cheeks. We began to cry out to the God she had once claimed as her own. We prayed His forgiveness if this was some punishment for faults of our own. And we cried. And we bowed. And we hoped that some form of redemption would come.
There are no words for what happened after the third week; but it would be unfair to lead on whoever reads the account of our dear friend. So I shall attempt to convey the story of our angel. The fourth week, the wash of our friend’s eyes was worse than ever before—yes, worse than death. Because this week, the dying was over, the murder was unthreatening, for our friend’s soul was dead. A hideous grey consumed her irises; her pupils were eaten by the wolves that enshrouded them. Inhuman darkness filled the once lush garden of her cheeks. Lifeless air flowed from her once laughing nostrils. No sign of life glowed in her eyes; what was once Sunshine was now Darkness. We mourned. We begged her, and now our, God to help us. “Mercy, Abba!” we pleaded, as our friend lay motionless on a patch of dirt, seemingly as dead in body as she was in spirit. We fasted and we prayed for weeks with no response, and we wondered if God really heard us at all.
Two months passed, and we finally began to carry on with our lives. We farmed. We cooked. We read our children bedtime stories before tucking them in for bed. People married. People birthed babies. People became ill, and some died while others were born. We resigned ourselves to the possibility that our friend may never return to us in spirit, but we would not leave her abandoned, so we took shifts to make sure she ate well, and we attempted to revive her with stories about our own lives—romances and battle victories and silly, random things that carried no lesson to be learned; anything to try to awaken her from her soul’s sleep.
Then, one day, our friend had a spark in her eye. She sat up on her own to eat her breakfast, and though no color returned to her cheek nor a sign of a dimple upon her face, that tiny hope of life in her eye excited us enough to celebrate. We were encouraged to continue sharing stories and bring her meals.
Day by day, her viability became more apparent, and we lifted our hands in worship to our God for responding to our prayers; we dance and we rejoiced. Faithfully, we continued as brothers and sisters in Christ to revive the spirit of our angel, and we thanked our Lord daily for His kindnesses.
Though at times we became weak in our turn to socialize with our half-alive friend, and at times we forgot to pray, and at times we honestly didn’t care to help at all, God was gracious to accredit us for our efforts to love well, and after ten weeks of consistent love and care, our friend did return to her cheerful state. Sunshine was in her eyes, her cheeks resembled roses, her nostrils flared with laughter, and the dimples once again were pitchers of warm, agape love, overflowing to all who were around her. After some time passed, we inquired what had ever changed her countenance.
She told us that she had tried so hard to show us what love and joy looked like that she had failed to be honest with herself, and having not recognized her sin when she performed it, when she did realize her faults, it all came upon her so suddenly and vehemently that she had allowed lies to slip in, as well. The breath of demons swam into her ears and told her she wasn’t ever going to love anyone well enough to change their minds, and they told her that it was her responsibility to save us. So intoxicated with the concentrated poison of her unrepented sins, she fell into the trap of devils that were whispering lies into her heart. She said that Jesus tried to tell her it was His job to save, and all He expected of her was to love Him and to love others the best she could; but she took on the responsibility of being Light to others, anyway, and when she realized she was incapable of being a Hero to the unsaved, disorientation fell upon her, and immediately following that, she became hateful—despising herself for never being good enough and despising everyone else for not repenting of their sins. The hatred became consuming, but the vehemence became too much to handle. So, fervor drained from her soul like blood drained from her body, and she became stoically depressed, desiring nothing, needing nothing. And with that loss of purpose in life, death became the only logical decision for her. So, she resigned herself to a lackluster bitterness, killing only with her glare and living only with the faint pulse of her heart. And with that resignation, her soul died, and she confined herself to the one grassless, lifeless area in the field and stared into the sky without a care for anyone or for anything. This is when her eyes dimmed like her soul.
But, she said, when she overheard us praying, and she heard our plans of fasting, and she listening to the mourning of our sincere despair for her, though she did not care at the time, the memories developed in her mind and collected into a mental novella of love and hope. She still believed in God, whether she could remember who He was to her or not. And with our personal love toward her, branching out from the love we were now experiencing from God, she began to remember what Love looks like, and why her life had once been worth living. When we fed her and talked to her and without ceasing poured out love on her the best way we could, sacrificing our own leisure time to care for her, even in her state of soul-death, she began to pray, herself. Without any ounce of emotion left to offer, she told us, she simply asked God to help her live again and to feel His love again. And, day by day, warmth filled her heart, and she remembered her purpose as she watched us dance in the joy of the Lord, and as she listened to us read the Bible to our children, she recalled times when she had read the same stories and pored over passages that spoke of Jesus’ care for her.
She warned us to never forget where our identity lies—in God alone—and to always be good to one another, honoring one another above ourselves. But, she reminded us, we will at times fail, we will at times not care, we will at times need to repent of our sin. But GOD is the one who saves; our job is simply to love one another the best we can.
And she ended her story with a prayer. She thanked our God for friends who became family through Him, and she praised Him for redeeming her, the first time when He saved her from spiritual death and the second time when He sought out His prodigal daughter. And she concluded the whole story of redemption by looking us each in the eyes with the suns gleaming in her own and said, “We shall all remember from this that our God will always take old, broken things and recreate them into something new and beautiful, because OUR God—He redeems.”