Branches ripped and slashed at my bare arms as I sprinted down the trail. I was breathing heavy now, weeks of inactivity stealing from me the youthful energy that was once mine. I quickly glanced down at my arm as another thorn slashed at my upper arm, drawing blood and leaving behind evidence of my passage. I did not want to leave such proof of my escape route, but there was no helping it now. I heard in the distance barking and shouting.
Down the trail I ran, silently thanking the deer who had tread here before me. Although it was narrow, the path was sure for my feet, only having an occasional branch or trench that required a leap. And wasn’t this all a leap of faith?
The dream that I woke from this morning had left me breathless and wondering if its message had been prophetic. In it, my captors had approached me with knives of all shapes and sizes. Even though I could not understand their words, my heart knew their intent. They had stopped before me and spewed a series of words; sentences. All which I could not decipher. Then one word caught my attention: Jesus.
Who were these men? What did they want from me?
When I was taken three weeks before, I had been on my way to meet with friends. I had carried my source of strength in the pack upon my back. That had been the first thing they took from me, followed closely by my freedom. I didn’t remember much after that, only waking inside the cabin that would be my prison, hands bound, and the pack a fading memory. Now, my strength lived only within my heart, but the light from it glowed with an intensity only my soul understood.
Three weeks they had come to me, shouting. Daily their intelligible interrogation assaulted my senses, not to say anything of the physical assault upon my person. I did not know how to respond beyond weeping and the wide eyed fear obvious upon my face. But yesterday a camera was set in front of me. The armed man who set it there glared at me with obvious malicious intent, saying nothing, only an evil smirk upon his lips.
That night I dreamt.
As I awakened, the desperate need to escape embodied every fiber of my being. I had been working at the bonds at my wrist for several days, and this morning, my desperation loosed them enough to free my bloodied hands. As I stepped toward the door, I heard the fading voices of my captors, walking away, and I held my breath. I knew this would be my last opportunity.
Pressing my weakened body through the smallest crack I could manage, I crept toward the woods only twenty steps away. Once in the cover of trees, I sprinted for my life, down trails and through closely growing underbrush I ran, not knowing where I was going, only that the light within me was lighting an obvious path for my feet.
Now, as I ran down the deer trail, I began to smell the wet scent of decaying foliage and moving water. As I burst through the thicket of blackberry branches that ripped and tore through me, I saw the river, and hope bloomed in my speeding heart. Could I swim its racing current to the other side, putting an obstacle between me and those that pursued?
I quickly looked back. I did not see them, but my ears heard the sounds of their rushing pursuit through the leaves, closing in with every step. My eyes scanned the edge of the water looking for anything that could aid my crossing. And then I saw it. Just beyond some branches forming a canopy over the rushing water, I saw a boat.
It was old and weathered, and looked like the current had lodged it tentatively against a root that grew beneath the water from one of the trees along the bank. The boat had missing planks and holes from age and disuse, but it floated. I ran to the river’s edge and launched myself into my rescuers seat. A paddle lay beneath it, and with its help, I pushed myself free from the root’s embrace.
Paddling into the current, the boat caught and twisted me mercilessly. My head spun from the lack of nourishment that my captivity had exacted, but I held on and let the river push me where it would. Then the sound of shouting reached my ears, and I dropped to the floor of the old boat, effectively avoiding their searching eyes and the bullets that soared above its bough.
As I lay there with the sun upon my face, warming my trembling body, I saw something lodged under the seat that I had perched upon, and retrieved it. It was bound in leather, old and worn like the boat itself. I opened the pages of the small book and read the words that greeted my anxious heart:
“If I rise on the wings of dawn, even there Your hand will guide my way.” Psalm 42:8
And I knew I was home.