She squinted as the icy wind howled through the alley, cutting through her threadbare shawl and spitting sand into her face. Unfriendly darkness concealed her from the unfriendly eyes, yet the harsh calling of her cruel master continued to echo her name off the cold stone walls. It was only a matter of time before she would be found cowering in the shadows, searching for a way of escape. She found no refuge. Footsteps sounded. She screamed.
Serene suddenly awoke, gasping with fear. The dream, as it had been for the past two nights, seemed far too real. Although that was not surprising, considering that she had lived through it all. She shivered to think of what could have – no –what would have happened if He had not come at that moment.
And yet what had His bravery accomplished. Yes, she was alive, but He was not. And why should He be dead in place of her? The question churned in her mind.
Born a slave, she was nothing important. Subject to her controlling master, she could achieve nothing. So why did He give up his valuable life for an insignificant slave? How could she repay the debt? The strangeness of being rescued by a now dead rescuer caused confusion. Why had He saved her? Why had He died?
The accumulating mysteries twirled at a dizzying speed and she lacked the answers to get off the merry- go-round, which had long ago lost its merriment. Round and round her thoughts whirled, still spinning as she finally fell asleep.
The sunlight spilled through the window onto her sleeping face and greeted a new morning, but Serene slept on. In the end, the creaking of a distant door awakened her. Then footsteps drew closer and the light knock of a maid summoned her. Hastening, Serene left her cozy bed and jumped to the ground, her feet enjoying the cleanness of the sun-warmed floor. The questions still crawled in her mind, but they had quieted in her sleep. She straightened her wrinkled dress and smoothed her tangled hair. Pulling open the door, she turned down the passageway towards the main room, wondering who wanted her.
A young man stood at the open window enjoying the garden that seemed to envelope the guest house with its thriving greenery and blossoming trees. He is not particularly good-looking, Serene thought from the doorway, but he looks good. As he turned towards her she noticed with surprise the deep scar across his forehead and above it a golden crown proclaiming His royalty. Although every instinct screamed at her to run from any man with power, she commanded them to be still as He smiled gently and spoke. “Serene, do not fear. Be at peace.” Still trembling, she dared to whisper, “Who are you?”
“I am He.”
Seeing the confusion on her face, He continued, “I know everything about you. I am He who took the blows for you and carried you to this place of rest while your accuser pursued, though the very act of rescuing you killed me.”
His words piled up in her mind, adding themselves to the millions of mysteries, asking for answers. Yet one seemed most important.
“Why?” she asked, mystified by His sacrifice for her small self.
“Why did I die? You are right to be amazed at my sacrifice. No one has greater love than this – that He lay down His life for His friends.” (John 15:13)
“Why did I die for you? You are right to be amazed at my love for you. You were a lowly slave to an evil master– now you are a child of the Most High King.” (1 John 3:1 and Galatians 3:26)
The Prince loved her. Serene heard it in His voice and in His words. When she looked into His eyes, they echoed, “I am love.”
He stepped closer to explain another mystery. “Why am I alive? You are right to be amazed at my life. I was dead. But I am stronger than death and am now alive. Death is defeated! Why am I here? You are right to be amazed at my presence. I have come to give you life beyond what you can imagine.” (John 10:10)
Serene’s brow furrowed in concentration. Her finite mind struggled to wrap around these infinite truths. The Prince’s large, strong hands grasped hers and she listened.
“My visit is an invitation. I have chosen to spend forever with you. Will you come to my Father’s house with me?”
Eyes widening with astonishment, Serene began to realize He meant it. She, a slave was being offered a position as bride of the Prince! Then worry seeped into her heart as she considered what it would require to earn and keep such a position.
“I am all you need,” He said, calming her fears. “If you come with me I am your freedom. Through Me you are not a slave, but a princess – a fellow child of my Father. With me you are completely protected from any who aim to accuse and harm you. In the end you will live forever with me. I have made known to you the path of life and in my presence there is fullness of joy.”
Serene’s doubts slowly melted as He comforted her. “Then I will come with you,” she answered softly.
Taking her by the hand, the Prince led her through the garden to the road that leads to His Father’s house.